|Picking up where Going Clear left off:|
The David Miscavige Family
Be it time limits, legal limits, or financial limits, the bottom line is that Alex Gibney had a four hour documentary when he made his first cut... and we only saw the 2 hour version. No wonder those of us who already knew Scientology inside and out walked away feeling like it only covered half of the story.
As one expert wrote, when asked if things were "really that bad," they responded,"Oh, it could have been much much worse. Imagine every story, make it twice as scary, and then you'd been just a hair closer to how it actually happened."
And so, in honor of that sentiment, we've decided write for you a series of shocking articles that pick up where Going Clear left off. A sort of one-stop-shop, if you will, that will introduce you to a myriad of names and references you will hear along the way as you Google yourself into Scientology oblivion. It can be daunting, but these quick articles should get you started on the path to expert with ease and grace.
Are you ready for this? Then let's begin.
What You Didn't Hear:
The world may have already known about John Travolta and Tom Cruise, but the cult's current master and commander, David Miscavige, was relatively unknown before the famous documentary aired. Before that, there were only two photos of the famous Hollywood maven in the Getty photo archives (compare that to the number of your Grandma Betty, who has 12 photos in there... and a few instagram tags too).
Much of the film's power lay in its unveiling of the mystery tyrant. The film's aftermath included references to Hitler, Stalin and even Bin Laden. It was clear the tirades of David Miscavige rivaled that of the infamous drill sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, but the difference lies in the details. While Hartman toes the line of physical violence, Miscavige threw men twice as tall as him across the room, beat members with chains and put his hands around their throats, choking the life out of them for simple things, like bearing bad news. "Shoot the messenger" might have been coined by Miscavige himself.
One time Miscavige hopped onto the table in the meeting room where a presentation had been given, ran across it and tackled the presenter and beat him so horribly, that the dividing wall broke and destroyed the cubicle next door, knocking the woman in it flat. Everyone saw, but no one spoke. One eventually left. We didn't hear from her though.
What is perhaps more damning? His family.
The Terrors of the Miscavige Family
Meet Jenna Miscavige Hill, David Miscavige's niece. Born into Scientology, Jenna was raised under the cult's supervision and teachings. She began working for Scientology when she was five years old. Yes, I said five. (That's another tidbit you missed in Going Clear. Children can sign billion year contracts as early as age four.)
In 2005 Jenna managed to escape Scientology. Only a teenager, she nevertheless began speaking out against the cult, sharing her first-hand stories with the world, warning families and communities about the dangers of Scientology.
Her testimony is terrifying. Children harmed for missing their parents (kids aren't allowed to see their parents in the Sea Organization - only for a half hour on Sundays if they are lucky), tasked with lifting boulders out of rivers for landscaping and they are all working 100 hour work weeks. No wonder she helped found a forum for survivors of Scientology who were there as children. It's called ExScientologyKids.com, and you can visit it and read their stories. It hurts, but it's true.
Jenna also wrote a book about her time in Scientology: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape, not to mention providing excellent interviews over the years around the country, one of my favorite being her interview with Piers Morgan. Scientology sent in photographs of where she was raised, as proof that she had a wonderful life, only to backfire when she starts using them to demonstrate how and where they, as children, built and landscaped the property into the beauty it now beheld. Incredible and compelling stuff.
Other members of David Miscavige's family have "blown" as well, meaning they've escaped Scientology. (It is not easy to leave - not at all. Katie Holmes, anyone?) They include his older brother, Ron Jr. and even his own father, Ron Miscavige Sr.*
His twin sister, however, is reportedly still in the church. Technically. Because Scientology is a cult that claims to be the solution to drugs. They aren't quiet about how they feel on the subject. We certainly learned that from Tom Cruise's stint with Matt Lauer. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, it's not working for Denise Gentile, David's sister.
On January 22nd 2013, she was arrested for possession, drunk driving and refusing to yield after leaving a well known drug house in St. Petersburg, Florida. Clearwater, FL the one town in America that Scientology straight up owns, is right next door. So it's no surprise David Miscavige was able to use his clout to get it covered up and then delayed, but in the end, his sister Denise was caught red handed.
As one survivor put it, on the famous Underground Bunker site, run by longtime Scientology reporter Tony Ortega:
“Denise couldn’t still be a Scientologist if she’s doing drugs. It’s against everything they stand for…. David must be irate about his family — his dad blew, his brother left, his twin sister doing drugs, his niece wrote a book about him... The result of Scientology tech application to one’s family = a disaster. But inside the church, it will never be heard about. And if someone gets wind of it, OSA will have a packet of docs to prove about how Joe Childs (the reporting newspaper's editor) is a long term enemy trying to smear the church and its members.”Wow. Well said. On to the final remaining member of his family: his wife.
Miscavige's wife has simply disappeared. Off the map. Gone. For 10 years. In fact, the disappearance of Michele "Shelly" Miscavige, is the sole reason behind the noisy departure of Leah Remini from the cult. In 2006, at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding, Leah, who was a close friend of Shelly's, saw David flirting with other women while Shelly was nowhere to be seen.
When asking questions about Shelly's whereabouts, she was handled so severely that she filed a report against Miscavige, which may sound terrifying to you, but in Scientology, it's the cultural norm. Filing "snitch" reports is a daily thing. They all do it. It's encouraged and entire courses are built around it. But filing against the leader himself did not go well for Leah, and it all went downhill from there.
A lifetime member of Scientology, the shakedown, audits and aftermath of her own espisode of "seeking susan" turned "seeking shelly," lead Remini to gather her entire family and leave Scientology, which is no small miracle. Almost no one survives with their entire family intact, but her entire lifetime of friends and fellowship disconnected from her, as expected.
Shelly has still not been seen by anyone inside Scientology or out, with the one rumored exception of the LA police who asked to see her when Leah Remini filed a missing persons report. The only things we do know for certain are that 1. Miscavige was upset with Shelly before her disappearance and 2. Shelly is not being held in any location with other staff members, including the hole. There have been guesses by one or two experts, but if history tells us anything, we cannot begin to imagine that which she is enduring at this moment, providing she is alive.
That reminds us of another quote of L. Ron Hubbard's not mentioned in Going Clear: "Don't call them murders. Let's call them suicides." David Miscavige was an avid follower, after all. We're sure he learned well.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: A day after publication, new revelations about David Miscavige and his father, Ron Sr. made headlines everywhere. Though this article in no way captures everything, shocking or otherwise, regarding the Miscavige family, the timing of its release and the nature of it seems too relevant to ignore. You can read the story and find links to the subsequent revelations here on the Underground Bunker or here on Mike Rinders blog. It starts with Miscavige having his father tailed 24/7 for $10k a week all the way to "let him die." Riveting, alarming and most certainly not the end.
Stay tuned for other secrets of Scientology you didn't learn from Going Clear: Narconon, Lisa McPherson, Operation Snow White, and more!
Follow Katherine Eastvold on Twitter @hollywoodanalys or @wcsrevolution
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