The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 22: Jamie DeWolf
On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
For several years, a man named Jamie DeWolf has been getting noticed for his slam poetry. But now, it looks like he's really about to break out. Why? Well, we posted this video recently, and the response was pretty huge. Just watch and you'll probably understand why:
Several friends of Runnin' Scared sent me copies of that video seemingly all at the same time recently, and after I posted it here on July 21, it spread quickly, showing up at the Washington Post and getting DeWolf and radio show Snap Judgment a lot of exposure. In Boston this week to compete in a national slam poetry competition with his regular troupe, Tourettes Without Regrets, DeWolf spoke to me on the telephone about his growing celebrity as a Hubbard descendent.
"Some people think I'm just coming out of the gate, the start of my anti-Scientology career," he says. But it was more than a decade ago, in 2000, that he first dramatized his family background. Today, however, he has a hard time looking back at that performance, saying that it was "an incoherent mess." He had a lot more to learn about his famous great-grandfather and about Scientology. He's been apt pupil ever since. But he's rarely talked openly about it. (He also had a different name then. Born Jamie Kennedy, he has taken his mother's maiden name, DeWolf, to avoid confusion with another comic named Jamie Kennedy.)
"I think it's funny when people think I'm trying to cash in on the Scientology aspect, because I've actually kept away from it a long time because of the hassle," he says.
After that first performance, his mother was visited by a couple of men claiming to be poets who were interested in his material. She got them to admit they were Scientologists. They subsequently branded him an "anti-religious slam poet" in a flier.
That same year, 2000, DeWolf was invited to Clearwater, Florida to host a benefit concert for the Lisa McPherson Trust, and was stunned by what he saw.
"It's absolutely crazy. Like an alternate universe. These little bus lines, with people getting on and off in their Sea Org outfits," he says. "It's a city they bullied their way into and devoured. I went out there to host the Lisa McPherson benefit concert. I was meeting a lot of ex-Scientologists, like Vaughn Young and Jesse Prince."
But for DeWolf, the experience was almost too much. "I realized that if I continued down that path, it could consume me," he says. "I didn't want it to take over my life."
Since then, he says he hadn't been using Hubbard in his act. But recently, he was asked to do so by Snap Judgment's Glynn Washington.
"I had a really difficult time. How could I put this into one monologue?" he says. There's a lot about Hubbard and Scientology to talk about: "Anytime anyone asks me about it, I tell them, are you ready to sit down and listen to me for an hour? There's so much to it."
He thought about multiple bits that he could do in a full one-man show -- and he may still do that in the future. But for the Snap Judgment gig, he needed one short piece. Then, he says, he realized that the trick was just to concentrate on the father and son story of L. Ron Hubbard Senior and Junior.
"That to me was kind of a big moment, figuring out that trick, and then turning it into a performance. Just a poetic, storytelling thing," he says. "I wrote it just two days before the show."
It was a mad dash of writing and rehearsing, but it wasn't something he did lightly, he adds. "My mom was in the audience. It was very important to her," he says. "All my family is more than well aware of how dangerous it is to talk about him."
DeWolf asked me if I'd been to the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition in Hollywood. (I did go once, but with Tory Christman, and she was recognized as an ex-church member and "apostate" so quickly by employees there, we were kicked out before we could get past the lobby.) "I've been there three times. I go in and I don't fuck with them. I take a friend. But the ending is something. You go through this whole tour of this fictionalized life, and then you get to the end and this huge operatic music starts and there's a bust of L. Ron. And you see all these diplomas and certificates on the wall and then the wall folds out and there's even more certificates, and then the wall folds again and even more certificates! and the music goes Waaaaaahhhh!"
For DeWolf, it was less than impressive. "The main problem with L. Ron was the motherfucker couldn't stop lying. He couldn't find just one lie and stick with it," he says.
So why, I asked him, does he have a tattoo of the Scientology symbol on his right arm, which is clearly visible in the video? "I am a huge fan of irony," he says. "Also, on my left arm is the symbol for the Zodiac killer. I knew I had the power in me to be a killer or a god. And they are reminders to me that artists have the potential to go wrong."
Besides, he says, he's branded by Hubbard in a different way. "It's my DNA. It's my flesh. I'm pretty much wearing L. Ron all up in me, when I look at the mirror. And when I look at my brother, who looks just like him. It's freaky."
There's no mistaking the red hair on Jamie's head, and he says L. Ron also passed on his manic creativity. But it can't be very good for Scientology that a direct descendent of its founder is so openly calling him a liar and a con man.
In fact, Scientology has always had an uneasy relationship with Hubbard's far-flung bloodline.
Jamie DeWolf's maternal grandfather, Ron DeWolf, was born L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. -- but was called "Nibs" by the family. He was the son of L. Ron Hubbard, Sr. and his first wife, Margaret Grubb. (Hubbard's first two wives, Margaret Grubb and Sara Hollister, have essentially been written out of existence by Scientology, perhaps in part because Hubbard was married to both of them at the same time at one point. Oops.)
Hubbard groomed Nibs as his successor, but by the late 1950s L. Ron Jr. had had enough of Scientology and bolted. His father then turned his back on him.
In 1982, convinced that his father was dead (Hubbard had gone into hiding), he sued for control of his father's estate. By then he'd dropped his father's name and had become "Ron DeWolf."
Marty Rathbun recently told me that Ron DeWolf's probate case was the second-worst publicity nightmare in Scientology's history, only behind the fallout from the 1977 FBI raids that busted up "Operation Snow White" -- the church's widespread infiltration of government offices.
In 1983, DeWolf gave what is still an interview worth reading, to Penthouse magazine. It contains gems like this: "99% of anything my father ever wrote or said about himself is untrue."
DeWolf's suit was dismissed when Hubbard proved to the court's satisfaction that he was still alive and in control of his faculties. Well, at least for the moment. Hubbard died a few years later, in 1986. DeWolf died in 1991 of diabetes. But not before making quite an impression on his grandson Jamie.
That memory results in a powerful line in the video:
One day my grandfather led me to a bookshelf and showed me volumes of his father's works. He said, "Your mom says you want to be a writer. Well, don't believe everything you read. But believe everything you say."
It's been many years since Ron DeWolf had any kind of presence in the media, and it's remarkable to see his grandson bring him so vividly to life.
After Nibs disappointed him, Hubbard tried to groom another successor in Quentin, the first son of his third wife, Mary Sue Whipp. But young Quentin also struggled with the role his father was trying to impose on him. He may have been gay, a sexual identity that Hubbard considered "1.1" on the "tone scale," which equates to "covertly hostile." (Don't get me started about tone scales and dynamics. The point is, L. Ron considered homosexuals to be perverts, which would have made it tough to be his gay son.) Quentin apparently killed himself in 1976 with carbon monoxide poisoning in Las Vegas at the age of 22.
If you consider Hubbard's bigamy, his failed relationships with his sons, and having his third wife Mary Sue take the fall for Operation Snow White -- she did prison time while he was only an "unindicted co-conspirator" in an infiltration of government offices that had his fingerprints all over it -- L. Ron Hubbard has not shown the sort of mastery over his own family that he promised his technology would do for the rest of the world.
For that reason, we're ranking L. Ron's descendants fairly high on this list. Jamie DeWolf has the opportunity, with his talent for writing and even more talent for delivery, to become a major embarrassment to Scientology, and it sounds like he's just beginning to tap that potential.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]