"Tom Cruise Worships David Miscavige Like a God": A Scientology Insider Gives First Full-Length Interview to the Voice
I've spoken to John Brousseau numerous times over the past couple of years. In 2011, I reported about the photographs he smuggled out of Scientology's International Base east of Los Angeles which documented the work he did customizing a motorcycle, a Ford Excursion, and an airplane hangar for Tom Cruise while working for pennies an hour as a member of Scientology's "Sea Org."
More recently, it was Brousseau who helped me understand why Sea Org members believe that Scientology leader David Miscavige's wife Shelly was "disappeared" to a secret base in the mountains above Los Angeles.
But until now, I've never told Brousseau's entire story as a 32-year member of Scientology and the last person to escape from the International Base who is talking publicly about it.
In some ways, Brousseau's tale is one of the most remarkable to come out of the secretive organization, and one that parallels so much of Scientology's own development and controversies.
He and Miscavige were brothers in law. They were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard's personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.
There are few people, in other words, more qualified to provide a front-row seat to what the Church of Scientology has been through since 1977. And this is his story.
For Christmas 2006, Tom Cruise took his family to a house that had been upgraded and transformed. It was his place in Telluride, Colorado, and he was there with his wife Katie Holmes, their eight-month-old daughter Suri, his mother, and his older children, Isabella and Connor.
There was also a full set of people working to make sure that everything went smoothly, as well as the man wrangling them, who had also overseen the house's upgrade. He was John Brousseau.
"I was making sure everything was beautiful and clean. I made sure the servants knew what they were doing. They had to learn how to make things go right without being visible -- I learned that from Miscavige. I would show the staff that it's not your job to bump into Tom in the hallway. It's your job to make sure everything's right, but be invisible. Anticipate his every move. You had to be there with a salt shaker before he even realized he needed it," he says.
"I was sitting there having meals with Tom and Katie and the family. It was like we were guests," he says.
I asked how the couple appeared to him. "They looked really terrific at that time. They were a hit, it was very evident to me. They were still gaga. At the end of the day, Suri was put to bed, Connor and Bella were in bed. Most of the help had gone home. I'd still be around. And Tom and Katie would go off on their own to chat. They seemed really genuinely happy," he says.
I asked Brousseau for his impression of Katie Holmes.
"Tom Cruise was the dream of her life since she was a little girl. The Church of Scientology wasn't. That was just glued on to the package. They put Jessica Rodriguez on her and she must have thought, what the fuck is happening? I didn't marry a person, I married an entourage."
Rodriguez -- born Jessica Feshbach -- was from a legendary family in Scientology. She became Katie's "handler," and was seen at every public appearance during those early years in the relationship. (We hear that Jessica is now gravely ill, and I've wondered if Jessica's absence was a factor in Katie's ability to secretly plan such a slick getaway from Cruise and the church.)
Brousseau left Scientology in 2010, but I asked him why he thought Katie acted the way she did when she surprised Cruise with her divorce filing.
"The maternal instinct kicked in. And Katie's parents pointed things out. And Katie had read shit. And Suri is six," Brousseau conjectures. "You don't fuck with a mother's child. She just figured the best thing was to yank her little girl out of there, and good for her."
Brousseau had first met Tom Cruise in 1991, when the young movie star had come to Int Base to learn how to audit. As Marc Headley explains in his book Blown For Good, Headley was chosen as a guinea pig for Cruise to experiment on. Brousseau says there were a couple of others as well.
While Cruise and Headley learned how to talk to ashtrays, Brousseau took care of Cruise's Porsche Speedster. And when Miscavige took Cruise to the base's shooting range, Brousseau helped out.
"I was the gun guy. I'd shoot the first couple of shells to make sure the gun wasn't going to blow up. Then I'd hand it to Tom."
Brousseau says this was also when he first got to work for Tom, the first of many jobs making or repairing things for the actor. "I got to customize a Bluebird motor home for him. It had custom hard surfaces and upholstery," he says. Another Sea Org member who was an audiophile made sure the vehicle had the latest hi fi equipment.
"Tom paid for everything. The church never bought stuff. When it came down to paying for stuff, Tom paid for it. But he didn't pay us," Brousseau says. As Sea Org members, Brousseau and the others who worked on Tom's vehicles and properties were paid only about $50 a week by the church, even though their hours could reach 100 a week.
After that initial encounter with Cruise at the Int Base in 1991, the actor made himself scarce, Brousseau says.
"He was with Nicole Kidman at the time. But then, he sort of fell away after that. He was gone from Scientology for like ten years. That's where Marty came in, to get him back in," he says.
As we've written numerous times, this was a secret that Cruise and the church managed to keep at the time: Nicole Kidman, after initially embracing Scientology, soured on Miscavige and pushed away from the church. For years, Cruise also maintained a distance, and wasn't auditing or going to events. But then, after Cruise and Kidman broke up at the beginning of 2001, Miscavige assigned Marty Rathbun the job of auditing Cruise and bringing him back into the fold. From 2001 to 2004, Rathbun helped turn Cruise into the most rabid of Scientologists.
During that period, Brousseau also began to work more closely with Cruise.
"In 2002, Marty was auditing him and getting him through his OT levels [Scientology's highest spiritual packages]. And I went to his house on Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills. I was put in charge of a complete overhaul of his house," Brousseau says. David Miscavige's wife, Shelly, was overseeing the project, and was pushing everyone to hurry.
Brousseau says Cruise had been impressed with the way Miscavige lived at his apartment in Hollywood. When Cruise complained that he couldn't get his own place and staff the way he wanted it, Miscavige reassured him that he'd take care of it.
"The result was people like me going and working for Tom, making his house perfect. We even landscaped the grounds, everything was transformed. I was the technical guy, directing people, getting the irrigation fixed, the windows, doors, gutters, even the light bulbs."
After doing many projects not only on Cruise's house, but also with his vehicles and his airport hangar in Burbank, Brousseau says he got to know the man pretty well.
"He's got more energy than the local grid. But he's not very smart," he says. "He has so much energy, and he always has to be doing something with somebody."
That's backed up by something a person who worked closely with Cruise for many years told me recently about watching him during his marriage to Kidman: "Tom can't be alone. He goes nuts if there's not someone else around him, someone he can bug about stuff. He'd walk around the house, saying 'Where's Nick? Where's Nick?' He was like a kid that way."
Hearing Brousseau talk about all the work he was doing around Cruise's Beverly Hills house in 2002, I had to ask: had Tom Cruise really been living in squalor before the Int Base crew arrived?
"It was bullshit," he says. Yes, they improved the place, but Cruise hadn't been living in a dump to begin with. "Why did it need to be done? It was Miscavige," he says.
Brousseau says he had ample opportunity to examine the two men up close. And it taught him that theirs was a very uneven relationship.
"It isn't the same both ways. Miscavige would throw Tom Cruise under a bus in a minute," Brousseau says. "But Tom thinks Miscavige is the greatest person in the world. He worships him like a god. Miscavige would pretend that Tom was his best friend, but you could see it was horseshit. Tom couldn't see it." (Miscavige has not given a public interview since he talked to Nightline in 1992.)
I asked another person who knew both men and who worked very closely with Miscavige for many years about Brousseau's claims about that uneven relationship. Mike Rinder left Scientology in 2007, but he had been the church's top spokesman and the executive director of its Office of Special Affairs, its intelligence and legal affairs wing.
"JB knows of which he speaks," Rinder says. "If Miscavige felt that Tom Cruise was no longer able to provide him things he wants -- access to big names in Hollywood, money, expensive gifts and star power -- Cruise would find himself in the same category as a Geoffrey Lewis or Michael Roberts, rating a polite, camera-posed handshake and 'Hi, how are you' when Miscavige visits Hollywood Celebrity Centre once a year for their annual 'gala.' No more 'insider' briefings or hanging out together at Telluride, no more special birthday parties and expensive gifts, no more Sea Org slave labor projects, no more staying in Miscavige's personal guest quarters at Int Base or using Dave's tanning bed. Tom would become like all the other pieces of gum on the bottom of Miscavige's hand-made John Lobb shoes, someone to be tolerated as a cost of doing business, but generally looked upon with disdain. And Cruise cannot see it, even though the evidence of every single person who has ever come close to Miscavige (with the exception of [Miscavige's 'communicator'] Laurisse Stuckenbrock) lays strewn in his wake like the victims of the Bataan Death March."
Brousseau was equally damning in his words about the way Miscavige uses and discards the people around him.
"There isn't a human being that David Miscavige admires," Brousseau says. Not L. Ron Hubbard, I asked him?
"No. He says he does, and I think he thinks he should. But I know he thinks everything he does is best, and if things get destroyed, someone else caused it. Miscavige actually thinks that Marty and I and the others are all a bunch of suppressives bent on destroying everyone including ourselves, and he's the only one who really knows what's going on, and he has to drive the whip to push humanity in the right direction."
After his Christmas with Tom and Katie and baby Suri in 2006, Brousseau saw them only occasionally.
Brousseau says he had bigger things to worry about. It had become, he says, the period of "Miscavige unplugged" as Int Base increasingly became a prison camp and more and more top executives were being "disappeared" -- at the same time that Tom Cruise was being hailed by Miscavige as the church's epitome of dedication.
"The only thing I have against Tom is that he accepted this shit."
Since he left Scientology, Brousseau has released photographs of the work he did for Tom Cruise -- work that was unpaid, and that some have used to argue that Cruise and Miscavige benefited from inurement -- enriching them in a way that violates Scientology's tax-exempt status.
"The reason I've released those photos is because I want Tom to wake up. I remember at the time, I was being told I was doing a good job on these things for him. But I was thinking, what the fuck am I doing? How the hell is this helping humanity? Why am I being flown to Telluride to be the babysitter for Connor and Bella? What the fuck was I doing?"
It was New Year's Eve, and John Brousseau had nowhere to go. At midnight, it would turn 1977, but the 20-year-old didn't have a date or a party to go to.
Bored, he called up an old high school friend to see what he was doing. The friend was going to a party, and asked Brousseau to go along. It turned out to be at Scientology's mission in Berkeley.
"They were friendly people. They weren't a bunch of druggies or weirdos. One person said, you should come back some time -- but he wasn't pushy about it. So I ended up going back and took the comm course, which was like 20 bucks back then. It had a few things I liked," he remembers.
Brousseau had been born in San Diego but grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. After high school, he was drifting. College wasn't really in the cards -- not only did he not have the money, but he didn't really know what he wanted to do with his life. He'd been working as a machinist in a safe manufacturing company. "It was gas money. I was standing at a milling machine getting covered with oil and metal chips," he says.
At first, his involvement in Scientology was modest. "I was going one or two nights a week, and then I dropped out for a few months." A change in his schedule made it tough to get to the Berkeley mission, which had limited hours. But then Brousseau realized that in San Francisco there was an "org" -- short for "organization," a Scientology facility that is bigger than a mission. It was open longer hours, and Broussau finished his comm course there.
"That's where a Sea Org recruiter approached me," he says. It didn't take much convincing to sign up. "I was tired of living with my mom and dad. I was bored. Let's go for it, I told the recruiter."
Looking back, Brousseau says he was ripe for recruitment because he was drifting and unassertive. "I'd really been into the sciences in high school. I figured I'd be a research chemist at a big company or something. But I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I can look back and tell the difference I saw in other kids my age was they were willing to stick their necks out and say what they were going to do. Other kids like me were getting recruited into the Marine Corps, the Navy, or a church, or the Sea Org. When someone comes to you with everything figured out you grab on to that. It's what you're used to," he says.
Brousseau was sent to Los Angeles for his Estates Project Force -- the Sea Org's version of a boot camp. After three months, he was sent to Clearwater, Florida for more EPF training.
"Then, somebody pulled me aside from the CMO -- the Commodore's Messengers Organization."
In the late 1960s, when L. Ron Hubbard was running Scientology from a small armada of ships sailing the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, on his flagship, the Apollo, he surrounded himself with young "messengers" -- mostly teenaged girls in halter tops and hot pants -- who tended to his every need and ran from place to place to deliver his messages, even trying to imitate the way he had said them. Once Scientology came back on land in 1975, the CMO became an elite unit inside the Sea Org, mostly of young people who tended to Hubbard's needs and carried a lot of responsibility.
"The guy from the CMO said, how'd you like to work with LRH and make movies? Sure, I said."