In December, a 56-year-old woman who had long been a prominent presence at Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre, Barbara Cordova Oliver, flew home to Los Angeles from Clearwater and suffered a nervous breakdown.
Her mother, Arlene Cordova, 80, called police to her home, where Barbara was staying. (Arlene has never been involved with Scientology.) Barbara was taken by police to Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, where she was held for observation. Arlene visited her daughter in the facility, but on December 12, she says that Barbara’s Scientologist husband Robert Oliver and a Scientology attorney attended a court hearing that enabled them to get Barbara out of Olive View.
Arlene hasn’t seen her daughter since. And now she and a number of other people who knew Barbara are concerned that she’s being held somewhere and is undergoing Scientology’s notorious “Introspection Rundown.” We’ve put in a message to Karin Pouw, Scientology’s international spokeswoman, asking for an update on Barbara’s location and condition, but she hasn’t responded.
On January 2, a member of Barbara’s extended family reached out to a Los Angeles television news producer, who called the Celebrity Centre asking for an update about Barbara. Three days later, on Sunday January 5, Arlene then received a phone call from Barbara.
“I wasn’t sure it was she for a minute. And I couldn’t understand what she was saying,” Arlene says. “I said, where are you, where are you? At some point ‘Tennessee’ came in the picture. I asked to speak to her husband and got nowhere. She hung up.”
A few minutes later, she says, Robert called her from an 818 area code phone number which she traced to Canoga Park. But she says it may just be a cell phone number and could have been located anywhere. (We tried the number several times, but calls didn’t go through.)
“I’m anxious to know where Barbara is and see what she looks like,” Arlene says.
That January 5 phone call was the last contact Arlene has had with her daughter.
Barbara Cordova Oliver is well known to many people in Scientology. In 1997, she founded Artists for a Better World, a Scientology front group that worked out of the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. Through 2011, the group was holding awards ceremonies at the Celebrity Centre, and according to the group’s website, each time Barbara would give a speech about AFABW’s efforts. Here’s a photo of her giving that talk in 2009…
Arlene says that her daughter was only 17 when she joined Scientology and has never showed an inclination to leave it. Last year, Barbara decided to move to Clearwater, telling her mother that there were “better opportunities” for her there. Arlene notes that Robert’s mother lives in the Clearwater area, which might have also influenced their decision. After a short time, however, they returned to Los Angeles. But then, the couple made another effort to relocate to Florida. And that, too, didn’t work out. So in December, Barbara called her mother and said she wanted to come home again.
The couple flew back to California, arriving late at night at Arlene’s home. The next morning, she found her daughter extremely upset and called police. “She was in bad shape. They ended up taking her to Olive View to take care of her mentally,” she says.
Arlene visited her daughter in the facility. “It was like visiting any patient who was very unhappy to be there. She didn’t believe she belonged there. At that point, she was rational, she knew what she was talking about. She was anxious to get out of there and get on her way with her husband. She didn’t say anything specific about where she might be going,” Arlene says.
The next day, Arlene called Olive View and Robert picked up the phone, telling her that the Scientology attorney had been there. There was then a court hearing, but Arlene says she was told she wouldn’t be allowed to attend. She didn’t even find out that her daughter had left the facility until she called on December 12.
“I called Olive View, to a number that went to Barbara’s room, but somebody else answered. I asked for Barbara and I was told she had just left. I talked to the doctor, and he said the trial is over and Barbara left,” Arlene says. The next day, she heard from Barbara and Robert, who said they were in a hotel near the hospital where Robert had been staying while Barbara was hospitalized.
Arlene heard nothing else until she received the call from Barbara on January 5.
We told Arlene that Barbara’s story had eery parallels with one of Scientology’s greatest tragedies — the death of Lisa McPherson in Clearwater, Florida in 1995. Like Barbara, Lisa also had a mental breakdown, was hospitalized, and then was pulled out of the hospital by Scientologists. She was then taken to the Fort Harrison Hotel, the iconic center of Scientology’s spiritual mecca. She was then subjected to the “Introspection Rundown,” a process that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had come up with years earlier that involved keeping a person who had gone “Type 3” — Scientology jargon for insanity — by keeping the subject in silence. Seventeen days after McPherson was taken to the Fort Harrison, she was rushed to the hospital and died on the way. An autopsy initially found that she had died of extreme dehydration.
Arlene told us that she understood why we weren’t the only ones bringing up McPherson’s experience. “Robert did say they were going to take Barbara someplace quiet,” she says.
Nancy Many, however, cautions us not to jump to conclusions.
Nancy, who wrote about her experiences in Scientology in her book, My Billion-Year Contract, described in vivid detail her own mental breakdown after days of intense questioning by a Scientology official. She’s been through the worst Scientology can dish out. But she points out differences she sees between Barbara Cordova’s situation and Lisa McPherson’s.
“I did know Barbara,” Nancy tells us. “She was at the Celebrity Centre forever, and she was also active in the field. This is a 40-year member. This isn’t someone who came in off the street. I don’t know what level she got to be. But she’s an active, participating member. This is the result? People give their lives to Scientology, and it uses them up and abandons them,” she says.
But she points out that it’s an important difference that Barbara’s husband is apparently with her. “It’s not Lisa McPherson, she’s not alone,” Nancy says.
Still, Nancy is as concerned as the other people who have been trying to help out Arlene Cordova, and she agrees that pressure on Scientology is important to convince the church to reveal where Barbara is and what condition she’s in.
Arlene tells us that’s what she’s hoping for, whatever her daughter’s intentions.
“I’m not asking her to leave Scientology. But not only do I want to hear from her, I want to see her.”
UPDATE: We heard from numerous readers this morning who suggested that if Barbara Cordova is in Tennessee, she may be at a facility calling itself Life Center for a New Tomorrow, which bills itself as an “alternative to psychiatric treatment.” We called its owner, Marc Vallieres, and asked if Barbara was staying there, but Vallieres said that he isn’t allowed to discuss who is taking treatment at his center, per Department of Health Services rules.
We assume he’s correct about that. However, he then suggested that if we wanted more information about Barbara, we should call Celebrity Centre International.
So you know about her? We asked. Yes, he said, he knew about her and we should call Celebrity Centre.
We thought that was an interesting response. (We called the Celebrity Centre on Sunday and we were passed around to a couple of people before we were hung up on.)
On Sunday, we told you about receiving a flier which confirmed that Scientology is, for the second year in a row, planning to run one of its slick ads during the Super Bowl. Now, a tipster has forwarded to us another flier that gives more detail about Scientology’s plans.
Here are the specifics: Starting on the 13th of January — the ad will begin playing on Prime Time TV in every US city with an Ideal Org. They may not start simultaneously in every city on that day, but it will roll out very fast (and in some cases, may even start earlier).
Specifically it will play in: Tampa & Clearwater, New York and Harlem, Buffalo, Washington DC, Nashville, Cincinnati, Dallas, Twin Cities, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland.
The flier goes on to say that the ad will air not only during the Super Bowl but also during the Winter Olympics. And it reveals that the ad campaign’s main objective is to direct people to Ideal Orgs…
DIRECTING PUBLIC TO OUR IDEAL ORGS: When people visit www.scientology.org the new ad will be right there. When someone clicks to watch it, at the end, the image of their nearest Ideal Org appears with an invitation to come in for a tour. The address and phone number of the org also shows up along with a map of how to get there…For any person who is not located near an Ideal Org, they will be offered the option to start an on-line course.
Another thing that caught our eye was the reference to Scientology’s big Internet play. Here’s how they describe it…
YouTube HOME PAGE TAKE-OVER: This year the Scientology Spiritual Technology ad will be placed on the US YouTube homepage for a full 24 hours where it will be the ONLY ad appearing. This is what is called a “YouTube home page take-over.”
No date is given, so we have to assume the YouTube takeover will happen on Super Sunday. At least, we’ll check to see if it happens that day.
Spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam
Finally, we caught this tweet last night by Monty Python’s Eric Idle…
The so-called Monty Python dating site is run by a Scientologist. Naturally the Pythons do not support this. You should beware.
— Eric Idle (@EricIdle) January 21, 2014
If we’re not mistaken, this is the result of a campaign by reader Media Lush who has been trying to make the Pythons aware that a man named John Wood — who has been portrayed as the comedy troupe’s biggest fan — is also one of the UK’s most fervent Scientologists.
Looks like that campaign has hit paydirt.
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 21, 2014 at 07:00
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