Tom Cruise Denies Paying for Indian Extras to Cheer Him, And More Thursday Scientology Stats!
Each Thursday at 2 pm, Scientology staffers rush to turn in their weekly statistics. We like to do our part by rounding up the week's stories around the world and tallying up how the church fared.
This week, we have items from India to Australia, but first, friendly correspondent Angry Gay Pope sends us this priceless promotional video from what was Scientology's Melrose Mission in Los Angeles.
AGP has watched as Scientology opened the boutique org on one of LA's fanciest shopping arteries. He speculates that the micro-location (Scientology already has plenty of bigger facilities around the LA basin) was the result of a celebrity donation. Well, whatever prompted the new branch, it's now closed.
Its legacy: this video of sexy Scientology lady superheroes saving the planet. Hey, where do I sign up for a stress test?
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? In the category of promotional Scientology videos, this one isn't as embarrassing as others that we've seen. It's overly long and badly edited, and it doesn't make us cringe as much as, say, the Dede from Phoenix classic. It's really more interesting to see another mission close its doors. Church leader David Miscavige, in October at the big annual meeting of the International Association of Scientologists, was bragging yet again about Scientology's international expansion. But closed doors and dark buildings tell another story. Have to give call this a solid downstat for the church.
Story #2: Tom Cruise and his Mumbai "Fans"
The Hollywood Reporter has a good story explaining the humorous flap over the premiere of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which occurred in Mumbia, India. Some local newspapers there of indefinable repute had caused a stir by claiming that Tom Cruise was somewhat unknown in the country, and so the actor (or his studio) took no chances and hired extras to cheer him. One story had him renting fans for his airport arrival, another claimed that he'd paid extras about $3 each to cheer him at the premiere.
Both stories are untrue, say the company arranging Tom's tour there, as well as Paramount Pictures. Tom is plenty famous in India, and doesn't need to pay fans to show up and cheer him.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? The church itself never came up in these stories, but since Cruise became Mr. Scientology, anything that makes him look bad also reflects on the organization. Even with the denials, this one left behind a whiff of plausibility, which reflects either on Tom's current reputation, or our cynicism, not sure which. Let's just call this one a wash for the church.
Story #3, Clearwater Credence Revival
So apparently there's a nice music venue in Clearwater, Florida which goes by the name Ruth Eckerd Hall. (I think I saw somewhere that it's the largest capacity venue in town -- readers, let me know if that's correct in the comments.) Anyway, the Hall, a non-profit organization, scheduled a benefit concert for January that would raise money to help restore the Capitol Theater, another local venue. Performing at that concert would be singer David Pomeranz.
The trouble started when announcements of the show were sent to the Hall's entire subscriber list, some of whom immediately recognized that Pomeranz is a Scientologist, and the show in January was being sponsored by the church.
Some subscribers were alarmed not just that they had been invited to a Scientology event, but that perhaps their information was now on a Scientology mailing list (and we all know what it means to be on a Scientology mailing list).
Those complaints were so vocal, the Hall's CEO had to send out another message, assuring subscribers that "the Church does not have access to any of your personal information." A few hours after that, the show was cancelled entirely.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Following just several weeks after the city of Clearwater itself hit Scientology with a $400,000 fine for dragging its feet on its "Super Power Building" construction, here again is another sign of just how much Scientology is loved in its own spiritual home. Even in this case, when the church was just trying to pitch in and help with a local civic project, the resentment of local non-church residents was loud and clear. Talk about a downstat!
Story #4: Stacy Francis Still Sailing De Nile
After getting booted from X Factor, Stacy Francis finally gave an interview and addressed all of the criticism she was hearing from folks who didn't buy the backstory she told on national television. The 42-year-old presented herself as someone who had never really had a shot at show business, had been pushed around by a husband who told her she'd never amount to anything, and for years had just sung in the shower while holding on to her dream.
Almost immediately, that story unraveled. Francis had actually been in show business almost continuously for more than a decade. She'd sung in Broadway productions, she'd sung backup to stars like Madonna and Chaka Khan. She'd even been in a reality television production before. But what caught our interest was her extensive background in Scientology, another thing she left out of her biography. For years, our sources told us, she'd been a regular at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, hanging out with Chaka Khan, or being photographed with Louis Farrakhan. And then there was the videotape of Francis performing at the infamous 2004 birthday gala for Tom Cruise about Scientology's cruise ship, the Freewinds. This woman had a long and involved history with the church.
In the interview, however, this is how she responded when asked about what we had written:
TVLINE: Probably the most negative attention of all was focused on you singing at Tom Cruise's birthday party.
STACY FRANCIS: All of the sudden I was a Scientologist. Or she sang for Tom Cruise, therefore she's a celebrity and she knows everybody. And then I sang in a choir on a one-shot deal for Madonna. And the reason I was getting these sort of celebrity gigs is because a lady at my church has those relationships, and she was filtering me in on some of those things. But the Madonna thing I didn't get paid for. It was one-shot. And the Tom Cruse thing I think I got paid for, but I didn't know where I was going and I didn't know Tom and I don't know him now.
Tsk. Tsk. What is it about Scientologists that they feel too ashamed to admit the extent of their involvement? Doesn't this pain church leader David Miscavige that a woman who has spent years at his Celebrity Centre, performing at various events, now tries to make it sound like she was just some hired warbler flown out for a party with a guest of honor she doesn't even know? My, my.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? While this seems to reflect badly on Scientology -- that one of its more talented adherents continues to kick it to the curb -- we have to conclude once again that Stacy Francis is yesterday's news and really doesn't matter one way or the other. Another wash.
Story #5: Even Conservatives Down Under are Piling On
We've been reporting for some time what a difficult environment Australia is becoming for Scientology. The president of its anti-psychiatry front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, is facing trial there, accused of trying to cover up child molestation. The government continues to prod and probe the organization, looking into allegations of abuse. And just lately some Australian ex-Sea Org members have been speaking out in a big way, adding to the church's headache there.
This week, we noticed what seemed like a throwaway item, but as slight as it is, it also points to just how bad Scientology's reputation has become in the land of Oz.
It was something written by one of Australia's most well-known conservative politicians, Malcolm Turnbull, who, wanting to convey to his readers just how inappropriately secretive and obstructionist is the country's high-speed Internet contractor, NBN, wrote this on his blog:
As it is, the NBN Co projects a defensive and non-transparent approach, which seems like a cross between the Kremlin and the Church of Scientology.
D'oh! Now, I wanted to make sure I had a handle on Turnbull's politics and background, so I turned to Australian journalist Bryan Seymour, who gave me a very helpful primer. Here's just a portion of it:
Malcolm became the leader of the Liberal Party [Australia's version of the Republican Party] after they lost Government in 2007 and was considered the prodigal son. He "betrayed" the faithful, however, by acting and voting with his conscious.... Malcolm was dumped as leader but is still regarded as the most capable, and he is demonstrably the most able thinker, in Australia's conservative movement. Whether or not he returns as leader of the Liberal Party and, possibly, Prime Minister will depend largely on what he and those around him are willing to accept.
Hm. So over here, who does that sound like? Perhaps in the comments, our readers could fill in the blank: "This would be like American leading conservative (but go-it-alone) politician [BLANK] saying that a major American corporation was so secretive, it was like the Church of Scientology."
Thursday's Stats: Upstate or Downstat? In Australia, this kind of quip just cements in the public's mind that Scientology is about as trustworthy as the Kremlin. Yikes. When conservative politicians (who, for some reason, tend to be friendly to Scientology here in the States) are saying things like that, you know the church has it bad there. A big -- if geographically regional -- downstat!
Well, another bummer week for Scientology. But that seems a common refrain lately, doesn't it? Come on, Miscavige, things have to get better next week. Right?
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?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology's cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska's sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
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]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here's Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor's Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor's Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
["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]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]
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
["The Money Machine": another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[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 in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia -- and a visit by the Voice!]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin' with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology's in-house rapper]
[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]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]