Two years ago, Michelle Visage was a longtime talk radio host in Los Angeles when she was presented with a tantalizing opportunity. RuPaul wanted her to be a judge on the third season of his VH1 show, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Visage says she knew it would be great for her career. But she worried that her bosses at CBS Radio, who were conservative and uptight, might have a problem with her asking for permission to do that kind of show. She agonized over the idea of even bringing it up.
“I don’t want to hear it. Do it, or I’m going to call the president of CBS Radio myself,” Michelle’s friend Leah Remini told her.
“So I called and made it happen,” Michelle says. “If it weren’t for Leah, I may not have had the balls to get this job. She does this stuff. She offers to call the presient of CBS Radio. That’s what a friend is.”
But now, Michelle says, Leah’s really learning something about her friends.
“Leah has been one of my best friends since 2002,” Michelle says — it was Sinbad, the comedian, who introduced them. “I’m seeing people who called on her and needed her over the years, and all of a sudden people forget the meaning of friendship. It disgusts me, actually.”
Once we broke the news on July 8 that Leah was leaving the Church of Scientology, Remini soon learned that Scientologists were being told to cut her out of their lives.
“The shit has hit the fan and everyone is scattering like roaches. Only her real friends are left,” Michelle says.
Michelle herself spent some time in the church.
“I took some low-level, four or five courses. Leah never forced it on me. And when the heavy sales pitch came on, I was out,” she says. “I’m the sole breadwinner in our family, and I don’t need to hear that Jenna Elfman used a friend’s credit card so she could go Clear. I can’t do that.”
Jenna Elfman? Michelle says that’s the story she was told by the church official pressuring her to put a large payment on her credit card. When she balked, the official told her that Elfman had used a friend’s card to pay for services, with the implication that it paid off for Elfman in the end. Michelle turned her down.
Leah didn’t complain when she gave it up, Michelle says. “That’s what I like about her. She said make up your own mind, and I did. And she said that she’d love me no matter what.
“She’s rescued so many people. When I moved back to Los Angeles, she was there helping me unload boxes for eight or nine hours,” she says. “Now, when times are tough, nobody’s there for her? That’s bullshit. I can’t believe you wouldn’t choose friendship over religion. I’m disgusted and outraged.”
Things have gotten ugly, fast. One of Remini’s friends is X Factor singer Stacy Francis, who went after Leah’s sister Nicole for speaking out publicly this week. RadarOnline recorded some tweets Francis put up before taking them down:
“People are so shady!! Say it if you got the nerve! Say it! don’t be cryptic!! Get the balls to say it to me! AND!ONLY IF YOU KNOW THE TRUTH!…DON’T BE A SHIT STARTER @nicoleremini YOU BETTER NOT BE TWEETIN ABOUT ME! Oh and nice you are friends again with your OWN SISTER Don’t do it…DEAR SELF>>>>>>GO TO BED! Dealing with bulimic crazy people won’t help you tonight.”
Michelle points out to us what a low blow that final statement was.
Michelle says that Leah is being dropped by friends she’d known for more than 20 years. Once the church instructed people to “disconnect” from Remini and her family for defecting, they have done so, overnight.
“Not one person has stood up to say, ‘No, I’m not going to abandon my friend.’ That’s amazing to me,” Michelle says.
“The Remini family gave Scientology millions of dollars, and for her to be treated this way is incredible.”
We asked her how Remini is holding up.
“She’s trying to be as strong as she can. ‘Sad’ is the best term. It hurts. All of these people she thought were her friends are scattering. It’s like roaches, I’m not kidding. And it’s very difficult for her. Under the tough chick there’s a human being.”
Will Leah say something publicly?
“I honestly don’t know,” Michelle says. “I just hope the people who truly do love her will come to their senses.”
On Monday, we told you that Brian Culkin had hired attorney Ray Jeffrey in the Luis and Rocio Garcia federal fraud lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. The church had claimed that Culkin, a former church member, was too afraid to attend an evidentiary hearing in the case once the readers of this blog (and others) found out that he’d submitted a declaration that the church used to try to get the attorneys for the Garcias disqualified. But Culkin put that assertion by the church into serious doubt by hiring Jeffrey — who is well known for litigating against Scientology — and had Jeffrey write a letter that blasted the church’s attorneys for the way Culkin was treated. Culkin said he was assured his declaration would only be used internally by the church, and he said he wasn’t, in fact, afraid to attend a hearing or deposition.
Now the church has come back, filing a motion that calls Jeffrey’s letter “bombastic,” and attaching e-mails that the church says show Culkin isn’t being truthful. Culkin was aware that his declaration would be used in the Garcia case, the church says. To support that, it attaches an email dated May 8 from the church’s Sarah Heller to Culkin: “Per our agreement, I’m letting you know that we will be filing your declaration in the Garcia case in the near future.”
The next day, Culkin replied: “If you file that I would probably bet money the defense team is going to call me as a witness. Just to let you know. OK then. I am not entirely happy but its your choice.”
It’s hard to tell from the church filing if either of the e-mails are complete. And even if (once again) Culkin’s credibility has come under question, this new filing doesn’t seem to contradict the thrust of Ray Jeffrey’s letter — that Culkin is willing to testify and is unafraid to do so.
We called Jeffrey and asked for his comment about the filing.
“The church is twisting the facts and selectively using tidbits of information that we’re not going to respond to because we have confidentiality obligations,” Jeffrey says.
We also asked Scott Pilutik for his thoughts on this newest filing.
As I hinted at a few days ago, Culkin has a credibility problem, and that’s now coming into sharper focus with Scientology producing e-mails which appear to contradict the narrative suggested by Ray Jeffrey.
The e-mails may not tell us everything (perhaps Culkin has further correspondence giving a clearer picture?), but they do undermine the notion that Culkin was unaware of the purpose of the Declaration and how Scientology planned to use it.
Indeed, Sarah Heller’s May 8 e-mail to Culkin refers to an agreement between the two parties whereby Scientology would be permitted to file the Declaration in the Garcias’ lawsuit.
If he had reached an agreement with Scientology by which the Declaration was considered “for internal use,” why didn’t he contend as much in his May 9 response to Heller, in which he even expresses the acute-enough understanding that he might be called upon to testify further?
Of course, the person whose credibility Scientology is now trying to undermine is the same person Scientology is relying on as the basis for its disqualification motion. If you’re alone in a boat, common sense dictates that shooting it full of holes will ultimately have adverse consequences.
We hope Judge James Whittemore brings some sanity to this squabble soon.
Victoria Britton on the Radio
Today at 3 pm Victoria Britton will be talking about the 2007 death of her son, Kyle Brennan, on God Discussion Radio: go here for more details.
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 20, 2013 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.