ISABELLA CRUISE CONSIDERS JOINING SCIENTOLOGY'S 'SEA ORG' AFTER BOYFRIEND SIGNS UP
The Voice has learned that Tom Cruise's daughter, Isabella, announced on a private Facebook page this week that her boyfriend Eddie Frencher signed Scientology's billion-year "Sea Org" contract about a week ago and is now going through its "Estates Project Force" boot camp in Los Angeles. Isabella took down that Facebook page a few days later, but a friend who recently shared an apartment with Isabella and Frencher tells us that the information is correct, and Frencher has joined the Sea Org.
Eddie Frencher, on the right in his Facebook photo of a previous band, Sky Diamond City
Former Sea Org executives tell us that Isabella would be under intense pressure to join the hardcore Scientology organization herself or be forced to give up her relationship with Frencher.
Another close family friend tells us that after being cut off from Frencher for a few days, Isabella began considering seriously the prospect of signing the Sea Org's contract and joining him in the EPF.
We asked Tom Cruise's attorney, Bert Fields, for a comment today and are still waiting for a reply. We also sent a request for a statement to the Church of Scientology's media office.
On June 28, Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Cruise, and media reports said that Scientology was at least part of the reason for their split. Some speculated that Holmes had wanted to make sure that her daughter Suri would not end up in Scientology's Sea Org.
Turns out it's another Tom Cruise daughter who is apparently facing that possibility.
Isabella, 19, and her younger brother Connor, 17, were adopted by Cruise and his previous wife, Nicole Kidman. But after they split, the children spent most of their time with their father and both became members of his religion, the Church of Scientology.
In recent years, media reports had Isabella rebelling against her father and his church, but then in January, the tabloids went wild reporting that Isabella was now in a relationship with another young Scientologist, Eddie Frencher, who had also grown up in the religion and is four years her senior.
Later in the year, Isabella and Frencher moved into an apartment with Sarah Waterkamp and her boyfriend in an old bank building in downtown Los Angeles. The tabs called it a "skid row" area, but Sarah's father, Gerhard Waterkamp, tells me the building was part of a trendy neighborhood where young couples are rehabbing old buildings.
Frencher and Isabella later moved out after the Waterkamps asked Scientology for a refund from unused money on account, but Sarah is still friends with Isabella Cruise and she told me today that Eddie Frencher had joined the Sea Org about a week ago.
Through another close Cruise family friend, we learned that Isabella had announced on a private Facebook page that Eddie had joined the Sea Org and that she wished him well.
The "Sea Organization" was formed in the late 1960s as Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard ran Scientology from a small armada of ships that plied the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Today, Sea Org members are the most dedicated workers for the church, signing billion-year contracts and promising to come back, lifetime after lifetime.
Sea Org members work up to 100-hour weeks for about $40 to $50 a week, and almost never get a day off. And when they are in the EPF, the Sea Org's boot camp, they are cut off from friends and family. Isabella would have been entirely sealed off from Frencher.
After a few days of separation, say family friends, Isabella began to consider joining the hardcore organization herself.
"Bella is very serious about following Eddie into the Sea Org," one source told us.
I asked Amy Scobee, a former Sea Org executive, to tell me what kind of choice Isabella is facing.
"She's either going to need to join or that's it, it's over," Scobee says.
A 27-year member of Scientology, Scobee was a dedicated Sea Org official who left the church in 2005 after witnessing the violent work environment at Scientology's secretive international base east of Los Angeles, something she details in her book, Abuse at the Top.
I asked Scobee what Frencher is going through now as he works through his EPF training.
"It's five hours of study each day. And then otherwise it's 'deck work' -- either garbage detail or renovations or other menial work. He'll be eating on a buffet, and it's not the best food in the world. He will be having to hustle wherever he goes. There's no TV. It's going to be a shock to him," she says.
If Isabella joins him, I asked, would the daughter of Tom Cruise also go through those kinds of hardships?
"Yes! You are signing over your entire life. Every minute of your day is spent there. I didn't take a day off in 11 years while I was in the Sea Org," Scobee says.
I told her that Frencher is reportedly training to join the Sea Org workers at Celebrity Centre International, the organization that runs Scientology's Celebrity Centres around the world, including the famous one in Hollywood.
"Maybe Celebrity Centre would treat Isabella better if she were there, and she would be able to see her dad once in a while. I'm sure they'll do something special for her," Scobee says. But she still expects that it would be no picnic for the 19-year-old woman.
"I wish Bella could read my book, oh man," she says.
Scobee adds that she was one of those who warned that Katie Holmes had to consider the possibility that her daughter Suri could eventually be recruited to the Sea Org.
"I didn't think it was a lot of hype that Suri could join. I think it was a clear possibility," she says -- and now this new information tends to vindicate her.
"Tom Cruise had said he would have joined the Sea Org but he had used drugs in his past. That disqualified him. Shelly Miscavige told me that and it's in my book," she says.
"If she joins, Isabella isn't going to last long," Scobee predicts. "She grew up with a celebrity lifestyle and now she's going to clean garbage cans and never get a day off?"
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.