Death of a Scientologist: Why Annie Broeker, Famous in the Church, Had to Die in Secret

Categories: Scientology

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Last June, a 55-year-old woman named Ann Tidman died in an apartment in Hollywood.

Her own sisters, who suspected that she was ill, did not learn about Tidman's death until just a few weeks ago. They had tried to get information about her, but Tidman herself -- and the church she belonged to -- wanted as few people as possible to know about her fight with lung cancer.

And that's why we're only finding out now, months after her death, that Ann Tidman died on June 14 in apartment 336 at a complex owned by the Church of Scientology at 1830 N. Bronson Avenue, a block over from the famous Hollywood Celebrity Centre.

For those not in the church, or among its ex-members, Tidman's name may mean little, and her death will probably not be noticed by the mainstream press. But to Scientologists, who tend to call her by another name -- Annie Broeker -- she was a powerful symbol for where their movement had been and where it was going.

On January 14, former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun announced on his blog that a record of Tidman's death had been found online. Then, yesterday, he published her death certificate, along with an analysis of its details. Since his first announcement, we've been verifying information about her final years as well as interviewing people who knew her. [Go here for our primer, "What is Scientology?"]

Janet Reitman, in her excellent history of the church, last year's Inside Scientology, explained what made Tidman such an important figure in the history of the organization. After 1980, when Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, went into seclusion, it was Annie -- then married to Pat Broeker -- who cared for the aging writer:

Annie...spent the years in exile catering to Hubbard's every need. Like several of the other messengers, Annie had served L. Ron Hubbard on the Apollo, starting at the age of twelve. A quiet, pretty young woman with wavy blonde hair, she was twenty-four when she went into hiding. During the last year of Hubbard's life in particular, she served as the link between the Founder and her husband.

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Annie Tidman, on the right, dressed up as a bridesmaid for a 1974 double wedding aboard the Apollo. One of the grooms was Pat Broeker, her future husband.
Sinar Parman, who spent several years as Hubbard's personal chef, tells me he still remembers that Valentine's Day day in 1980 when Hubbard and the Broekers drove away from "X" -- the code name for the Hemet, California apartment building where Hubbard and a trusted core of Sea Org workers lived. "When Annie and Pat were going to drive away in a white Dodge van with the old man, LRH said, 'I'll see you soon,' like it would be a short time. I never saw him again."

Hubbard and the Broekers moved around to several places while remaining in seclusion, and then, in 1983, they settled at a 160-acre ranch in Creston, California. As Reitman points out, Pat then spent more time at another property, and Annie became Hubbard's primary caretaker until his death on January 24, 1986.

Parman told me an anecdote of that day I hadn't heard before: The night Hubbard died, he was called at Scientology's secretive desert compound near Hemet, California -- "Int Base" -- and was told to drive an RV up to the Creston ranch. The RV would be used to house a crew that would be working at the ranch in the wake of the incident. Parman drove through the night to get there, a distance of almost 300 miles.

"When I arrived, at about 6 in the morning, the sun was just up," he says. "There's a main place with the stables, and there was a bunkhouse there. The bunkhouse is where Pat and Annie stayed. I hadn't seen her since 1980. She was sitting on the floor with Shelly [Miscavige, David's wife], and Annie was crying. She loved the old man quite a bit."

Parman says he then found David Miscavige and Pat Broeker with a couple of church attorneys. "They were laughing and joking. It was unreal. They saw me. I was in shock. The old man is gone, and they were laughing." He says he was told that there would be no crying, no grieving. "There's no case on post," he was told in Sea Org jargon, to mean that he wasn't to waste his time doing anything but his duty. (Days later, Miscavige and Broeker would tell several thousand assembled Scientologists at the Palladium in Los Angeles something similar -- that Hubbard had voluntarily shed his physical body, and there was to be no grieving.)

As Reitman explains in rich detail, Hubbard's death produced an epic battle for control of the church that most Scientologists had no idea was going on. The Broekers had been given special status by Hubbard as "Loyal Officers," and he appeared to be setting them up to take over the organization. But the Broekers were outmaneuvered by Miscavige, who runs Scientology to this day.

Stripped of his power, Pat Broeker left Scientology after Hubbard's death. But Annie Broeker stayed, as Reitman explains...

Still loyal to Scientology, she was allowed to remain in the Sea Organization, but she was forced out of her position at the [Religious Technology Center, Scientology's most powerful entity] by Miscavige and sentenced to a period of "rehabilitation" on the [Rehabilitation Project Force, the Sea Org's prison detail], along with most of couple's staff. The Broekers' possessions, including a new Ford Bronco, the horses, and a car that Hubbard had bought for Annie, were seized and sold by the Church of Scientology.

If she had been stripped of power, Annie still remained a powerful figure to many Scientologists. She was renowned as the person who had been with Hubbard to the end, and had spent years with him when few others had any contact with him. And if she had lost what seemed to be hers for the taking -- leadership of the worldwide organization -- she in fact had never really had the qualities or ambition to be a hard-nosed dictator of Scientology. She was, instead, known for her humility, generosity, and kindness (a rare quality in the Sea Org).

She settled into a new set of diminished roles in the church and became a fixture at Int Base. She was both a rock star in a church known for its celebrities, and also completely self-effacing at the same time.

Her loyalty to Scientology was tested only one time in the 25 years after Hubbard's death, an episode that Rathbun told in fascinating detail in 2009 to the St. Petersburg Times.

In 1990 Annie had remarried to a man named Jim Logan, a Scientologist who had a tendency to speak his mind about things in the church he didn't like. By 1992, that outspokenness had run him afoul of the organization, and he was "declared a suppressive person," the church's equivalent of excommunication. As a declared "SP," no church member in good standing could have anything to do with him, leaving Annie no choice but to "disconnnect" from him. She filed for divorce as Logan was kicked out of the church -- but they had secretly made plans to reunite. (I reached Logan in Australia, but he declined to be interviewed for this story. He sent this statement: "I am afraid I have no words to relay to you what this person meant or means to me. We share an ineffable love. She inspires in me the finest things I am capable of being.")

On November 17, 1992, Annie began her escape attempt, taking a cab to Ontario airport, where she planned to take several flights to join Logan in Nova Scotia.

In a videotaped interview, Rathbun explained how he was sent on a mad cross-country dash to hunt Annie down and bring her back. (At the time, Rathbun was Miscavige's chief "enforcer" in the church.)

After Rathbun caught up to her at Logan Airport in Boston, Annie seemed resigned to her fate -- as Rathbun says, once she spotted him, her shoulders sagged, and any intention she had of continuing on just evaporated. Taking no chances that she might change her mind if she and Rathbun waited for a morning flight, Miscavige had her flown back that same night on John Travolta's private jet, Rathbun says.

Annie returned to Int Base, and never left again.

"That was the last day she spent off the Int Base," says John Brousseau, who worked at the base until 2010. "Miscavige bought her a couple of Shar Pei dogs. Anything to placate her."

Other ex-Scientologists tell me that owning dogs at the base was a special privilege for only a few. But Tidman was afforded that luxury, after she had been through another rehabilitation and interrogation ("sec-checking"), and settled into jobs with impressive-sounding titles but limited responsibility. Most importantly, she was watched, and only very rarely left the property.

"Maybe half a dozen times, under extreme security, she left the base. Like to the Shrine Auditorium for an event," Brousseau says.

Even her jailers considered Annie exceptionally generous and kind.

"I was the one who oversaw providing a 24-hour watch on her," says Gary Morehead, who was the head of Int Base's security at the time. "I had to set up daily transportation for her auditor to audit and sec-check her every day."

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Tidman, left, with Hubbard (right), detail from a 1974 jazz album cover, "The Power of Source" by The Apollo Stars
When Tidman returned to the base, she was considered a security risk, and had to go through months of rehabilitation -- including doses of interrogation, called "security checking" or "sec checking." Holding the sensors of an e-meter, a Scientologist is told to confess his or her "crimes," and is under intense pressure to admit doubts about the organization, plans to escape, sexual transgressions, and other shortcomings. Tidman, in particular, would have been bombarded with questions about Logan until she could answer that she had no thoughts of returning to him. Only then would she be allowed out of the RPF and back to the base's regular "lines."

Morehead acknowledges that even though he was overseeing her interrogations, he was still in awe of her.

"It was known that she was with LRH to his last day, so she was considered special," he says. "She was so gentle. She was a very good-looking girl. It was hard to keep your eyes off of her, she was that good looking. She listened to great music, was very down to earth. She was just fun to be around."

And over the years, he would have to interrogate her again from time to time. He explains that one of her jobs had her working in a darkroom with a coworker.

"A few times Annie would say something about how she missed Jim, and [the coworker] would write up a Knowledge Report," he says. In other words, "She'd drop a dime, thinking she was doing the right thing. So Annie would get a clean up session to find out how she fell into that thought process."

It was Morehead's job to get into her thoughts and remove her desire to see Logan again. [In a remarkable interview he did with Mark Bunker, Morehead also talks about how it was his job to enforce the base's rule that women in the Sea Org were prohibited from having children so they could work 100-hour weeks for about $40 a week. It was his job to talk them into having abortions when they did become pregnant.]

With her thoughts of escape or of reuniting with Logan thus "handled," Tidman became a pliant member of the base community.

But if it was Morehead's job to condition out of her any thought of reuniting with Logan, he says today that effort was ultimately futile. "Probably to the day she died she was at a great loss and was still in love with Jim," he says.

"For years and years, she never left the property. Ever. She just never left. she had her own house on the property. There were a few people who had that, people who were high up or had been there forever. It was called the Tidman house," says Marc Headley, who in 2005 escaped the base with his wife Claire (who had been forced to have two abortions), and subsequently wrote about their escape in a book, Blown for Good.

"She was nice. She wasn't one of these people who were yelling and screaming. She never screamed at me," Headley says. But he says Tidman also seemed "miserable," like someone resigned to a fate they wanted no part of.

"She looked like her dog had died, every day of the week," Headley says.

Repeatedly, her former colleagues told me that Tidman had a way of cutting through the Sea Org's intense, ultra-serious atmosphere with a joke or a kindness.

"She didn't raise her voice," says former Sea Org member Amy Scobee, and she knows that I've heard enough about the organization to understand just how surprising that statement is. "She'd say, 'You criminal,' and then she'd wink at you."

But more than one person described her as "broken" after Rathbun had chased her down during her 1992 escape attempt and brought her back to the base.

Parman, who had known her before she went into seclusion with Hubbard, says the rehabilitation Annie went through in 1992 left her a different person. He agrees with those who saw her in her later years and described her as "broken."

In 2000, the two of them ran into each other at an event. "She didn't recognize me. We used to be close. But she was another person, totally. Her eyes were dead," Parman says. "It wasn't her. She seemed kind of leaden."

Her job, meanwhile, had lost much of its meaning. "She was still CO CMO-Gold," says John Brousseau, an acronym which means "Commanding Officer of the Commodore's Messenger Organization, Gold Base" (another name for Int Base). "But Miscavige had obliterated CMO-Gold, so it didn't mean much. Everyone was pretty much stripped of any importance of what they did in early years. Miscavige is really good at making everyone feel like they were shit."

In April 2010, just a few days before Brousseau himself left the base and the church after decades as one of its most trusted insiders, he learned that Tidman, a smoker, had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

"It was told to me in a very confidential manner, just a few days after she was diagnosed. And it was only ten days before I left," Brousseau says. "Then I told Marty."

Rathbun, at his blog, wrote that when they heard the news, Tidman's two sisters got her on the phone to ask about her illness. We confirmed this with a source close to the family, who backs up Rathbun's version of events: that Tidman herself denied that she was sick, and refused to see her sisters.

I asked the people who knew her why Tidman would keep her illness a secret from her own family.

Gary Morehead, who ran security at the base, tells me it would have been drilled into Tidman that she was too important to the movement to leave the base, or for an illness to become known outside its controlled environment. An important Scientologist, caretaker to L. Ron Hubbard, dying of a disease that the upper-level "technology" of the religion should be able to "handle"? It was the makings of a "PR flap," and had to be avoided.

"I witnessed it. It's the process. It's the way it works. Even a dying person would not tell their family that they were dying. The phone system was designed to have listen-in capability from anywhere," Morehead says.

"It wasn't her choice. You think she was on the phone without someone listening in? No way. The church knew it had to let her talk to her sister, but she would have been told to say everything was all right," John Brousseau says. "This was all rehearsed. She's drilled what to say."

(Two weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw, as I normally do, asking for her to confirm the death of Tidman and for her to comment on Tidman's illness being kept a secret from her own family. As usual, I heard no reply of any kind.)

Rathbun, at his blog, angrily pointed out the facts listed in the death certificate -- that at some point during her illness, Tidman was moved to an apartment in Hollywood, although her sisters were allowed to keep thinking she was being held at the base, for example.

He also blamed Miscavige for coercing Tidman into dying ignominiously.

But I had to put it to Rathbun himself -- after all, wasn't he the one who screamed down the highway at illegal speeds to get to the Ontario airport, and then flew across the country so he could track down Tidman and bring her back? An experience, combined with subsequent "rehabilitation" with hard labor and sec-checking, that had "broken" her?

Didn't he feel some remorse for having helped to break down Tidman so that she never attempted to leave again?

"Do I feel guilty? Well, not really. She made her decision," he told me, saying that when he caught up with Tidman, she could have continued onto a small plane that was about to leave the Boston airport and he would not have been able to follow her on board. Instead, just the sight of him seemed to make her give up her escape attempt. Rathbun defensively added that he'd done what he could to help the family get what information it could in the last year and a half. But then, he shifted tone.

"Yeah, I do feel bad about it," he said about the 1992 incident. "But I think I've been doing everything I can to reverse those problems."

Rathbun, who was the second-highest ranking executive in the church until his defection in 2004, was one of many longtime, powerful Scientology officials who bolted in what Reitman characterizes as a recent "exodus" of church members. Unhappy with Miscavige and the church's increasing focus on "extreme fundraising," the defections have been remarkable and numerous in the last several years.

And maybe that's what is most remarkable about Tidman's story. That even as Scientology is going through perhaps its most challenging time, she remained loyal, compliant, uncomplaining. Even to the point of not telling her family that she was dying.

"Power and status was meaningless to her," Mike Rinder, another high-ranking executive who left the church in recent years, wrote about Tidman at Rathbun's blog. "What was important was her dedication to LRH and his legacy."



Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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