"Tom Cruise Worships David Miscavige Like a God": The John Brousseau Story, Part Two
NEW: Scientology's concentration camp for executives -- John Brousseau helps us compile a list of its prisoners, past and present.
John Brousseau, aboard the Freewinds
Yesterday, we published the first part of our conversation with John Brousseau, a 32-year veteran of Scientology's "Sea Org" who escaped from the church's International Base east of Los Angeles in 2010.
In our first part, Brousseau described his work in the Tom Cruise household with Katie Holmes and baby Suri. He saw up close the odd relationship between Cruise and Scientology's leader, David Miscavige. He recounted his early days in the Sea Org, making movies with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, whom he later served as a personal chauffeur.
Brousseau helped convey Hubbard's instructions to the church after the aging writer went into seclusion. Brousseau lived for several years under an assumed name as he ran a Mojave Desert ranch in case Hubbard needed to hide there. And after Hubbard's death in 1986, Brousseau served Miscavige at Scientology's Int Base until Miscavige had him sent to a prison program for three years. After his return, Brousseau was surprised when Miscavige restored him to a position in Scientology's most powerful entity, RTC -- which allowed him to do more work for Tom Cruise.
And now we continue with part two....
In 2006, John Brousseau outdid himself creating luxury for Tom Cruise. He'd been customizing vehicles and houses for the actor on occasion over the past 15 years. But this time, he wanted to do something that would mean something special to Cruise.
He'd been asked to customize yet another vehicle, a black Ford Excursion, which on its own was nothing special for a celebrity like Tom. But Brousseau had found a way to upgrade the vehicle in a way that would bring Cruise, then 44, nearly to tears.
Brousseau replaced many of the surfaces in the vehicle with wood sculpted from the burl of a Eucalyptus tree that had been blown down in a storm at Scientology's International Base.
"In 1991, Tom had done his auditing at the base," Brousseau says. He thought that carrying around a piece of the compound in his car might have some meaning for the man. The custom job was so detailed, it even included a matching pen in a special hidden compartment.
"Tom fell in love with this thing," Brousseau says.
"I told him, 'Here you go, Tom. Here's the pen and stuff that was made from a tree that grew at the place where you learned to audit'," he remembers.
"There were tears in his eyes."
Brousseau says Tom showed the car to Katie Holmes, and opened up the special compartment to show her the pen.
"'Oh, JB, did you make that?' she asked me."
And Brousseau knew that as soon as she said it, Katie's question actually put him in a tough spot.
"I couldn't accept the praise. Miscavige was standing there," Brousseau says, referring to Scientology's leader and his former brother-in-law, David Miscavige.
He then held out his hand to Miscavige and said, "This is the hand that wields me."
Brousseau says Tom nodded, knowingly.
"'Thanks, Dave,' he said. And that's how you survive at the base. You can't accept praise. You have to divert it to Miscavige."
He also had to be prepared to mobilize for another Cruise project on a moment's notice. The Ford Excursion, for example, sometimes needed repairs.
"Somebody spilled something, or there was a scratch on the burl-wood finish. I'm out there wet-sanding it and buffing it in the middle of the night. Laurisse [Stuckenbrock, Miscavige's "communicator"] gets hold of me after Miscavige has flown somewhere in Tom's Gulfstream. And she wants that done right away. Things like that happened three or four times over the next few years," he says.
"I went up to Oregon to a manufacturing plant that was making Tom Cruise a new motor home," he remembers. (Brousseau had earlier customized a Bluebird motor home for Cruise in 1991.) He spent the next six months working at the plant, each day from six in the morning to midnight. "I was making sure these guys were doing these finishes correctly. They weren't used to this high-end stuff. Tom paid the tab to the company, Marathon Coach, but he never paid me," Brousseau says.
Over the years, however, Cruise did give him numerous gifts. "A lot of Oakley stuff, like an Oakley backpack. A $125 flashlight. And a Corum Admiral wristwatch, which is worth like $5,000."
Brousseau wants to be clear that he never felt slighted when he wasn't paid for the hours he put in working on Cruise's homes and vehicles. "I'm not complaining. I had low overhead. I had a place to stay and food to eat. I even saved money despite being paid $50 a week." When Brousseau has publicly released photographs of the work he's done for Cruise, he says it was not to carp that he was owed money, it was to make Cruise question why he was benefiting from a group that is supposed to be helping humanity.
Why, for example, was a church redecorating Tom Cruise's Burbank airplane hangar?
"Tom had gone to where Miscavige lived, near ASI," Brousseau says, referring to an apartment the church leader keeps in Hollywood, near his offices at Author Services, Inc., one of Scientology's many entities, and the literary agency for L. Ron Hubbard's books.
"Miscavige had a garage there all tricked out. I had made signs for every kind of car and motorcycle he owned. Tom saw it and said it rocked, and said he wished his airplane hangar looked as good. So Miscavige had the people in Cine [Scientology's movie making division] make these giant signs. Four months it took just to make the signs," he says.
"We used scissor lifts and trussing to hang them. And the hangar's fancy office was completely designed and constructed at Cine Castle. It was reassembled at Burbank. Tom was blown away by it. He was raving -- 'Dave, thank you!'" Brousseau says. "It was sick."
Brousseau says he enjoyed working for Cruise, but things were different than when he first met the actor at Int Base many years before.
"Back in 1991 we called him 'Tom,' but not anymore. Now we had to call him 'Mr. Cruise.' Anyone in the Sea Org had to call him 'sir'."
It wasn't the only change that Scientology had been going through in recent years.
From 1996 to the early 2000s, Scientology was weathering one of the biggest threats to its very existence -- the death of Lisa McPherson. McPherson had died in 1995 at the Fort Harrison Hotel, which is just about Scientology's holiest place on the planet. And after news of how she had perished -- while held for 17 days being "cared for" by inept Scientologists as she died of dehydration -- the criminal investigation and then civil litigation coming out of her death was turning into the church's worst press nightmare ever (and if there's one thing Scientology is good at, it's attracting bad press).
But in 2000, the criminal case fell apart, and gradually, so did the intense media scrutiny. In 2004, the wrongful death suit filed by McPherson's family was finally settled, and the matter seemed to be over.
And Brousseau says Miscavige seemed like a different person.
"It was high-fives time. He just seemed to be pretty high on himself after that. Like he was invincible," Brousseau says.
And for some reason, Miscavige then turned on his own management staff.
"I remember that he was really wailing on these guys for several weeks. What a bunch of suppressive criminal pieces of shit they were, he said, and that he should just offload them. Miscavige was in this constant, unending fury," he says. "It was the era of what I call Miscavige Unplugged."
About 50 people in international management -- also called "Exec Strata" -- were working out of some offices constructed from a couple of double-wide trailers at the Int Base. They were known as the "CMO Int" trailers, for Commodore's Messengers Organization International.
One day, Brousseau says, he was called to the CMO Int offices. "I was there with Laurisse Stuckenbrock, Miscavige's personal communicator. Miscavige comes storming out of the trailers, points to the wooden sign above the main doors, and says, 'Take that fucking thing down, they don't deserve to have that above the door.' So I did it," he says.
"A few days later, he has them all march up to Building 50 [the offices of the RTC] and put into one big room. He gives them all pieces of paper and tells them to write down all of their crimes against humanity. He had them starving in there all damn day. Someone eventually brought them some food. Then I was told to change the deadbolt lock on the door to that room in Building 50. I had to change the lock so the keyed side was on the inside. So he could lock them in," he says.
Eventually they were marched to another set of buildings, known as "Berthing," where they were allowed to get some sleep.
"It was a group seance, a total mindfuck. They were being told to confess their crimes," Brousseau says.
"They were up there for about three days. Miscavige was trying to figure out what to do with them. Then, all of a sudden I got called by one of his personal secretaries, Ailon Barram, who told me to meet him at the CMO Int trailers," he says.
Brousseau was told that Miscavige wanted the trailers made secure. "He wants steel bars put on the three doors. He wants it so no one can blow from this place," he says.
"So I went down to the big garage. I knew where everything was. I rummaged around and found some real heavy chrome-plated steel tubing. Kind of oval. I went and measured every door, cut the pipe, made holes in the end with a drill press, and then put them on with these big ass nasty screws. I put bars on each of the three doors. In the windows, I put in a block with weird screws that no one would have a bit for in their pocket," he says.
"The next morning, these people all got marched down to the new 'Hole' that I'd built. I'd turned it into a prison."
When Brousseau left the base six years later, in 2010, there were still 80 to 100 executives being held in the place that came to be known as "The Hole."
"It was Miscavige at his absolute worst. There were a lot of people in there. I was never in it. I just put the bars on the doors. But the people outside, they talked about it like it was a comedy. You had to be in agreement, too. You didn't know who was going to turn you in. It was just this fear factor."
As the Tampa Bay Times reported in its landmark 2009 investigation, "The Truth Rundown," one of the worst mind games in The Hole occurred in 2004, when Miscavige had his disgraced executives play a game of "musical chairs" to the sound of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, promising that he planned to ship the losers that night to Scientology's most godforsaken, far-flung locations around the planet.
"Miscavige wanted a bunch of U-Haul trucks parked by the door. He told me, rent three 24-foot U-Haul trucks, park them right by the front door. So when the people in The Hole came out for showers in the morning, they'd see them. It was just to make the 'musical chairs' thing more dramatic. Those trucks were there for three weeks," he says.
"I remember telling the FBI this. I told them, there have to be records to prove what I was saying was true. You could find a receipt at the U-Haul in Hemet for three trucks that only had 18 miles each on them, the distance up to the base and back."