The building’s location, 6724 Hollywood Boulevard at McCadden Place, is a block east of the ‘Hollywood & Highland’ complex and it’s long been a Scientology facility, most recognizable for the vertical “Scientology” signs along its corners. Originally, the 1922 eight-story structure was known as the Christie Hotel. In 1945 it changed hands and was named the Drake Hotel and then later became the Hollywood Inn. Scientologists call it “the test center,” or “Hollywood Test Center,” and one of its most notable functions was to host the annual Winter Wonderland display in its parking lot each Fall to (sort of) celebrate Christmas.
(It has always been curious that Scientology puts on a quasi-Christmas celebration when founder L. Ron Hubbard very clearly told his most devoted followers — and it’s on tape — that “there was no Christ,” and he explained that the world’s religions were the result of mental image pictures implanted in the minds of thetans — our immortal souls — by an invading alien force some 75 million years ago. In 1999 or 2000, at a lunch at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, we quizzed Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw about this to the point that she finally burst out, “So we think Jesus is a figment of the imagination! So what!” It was a memorable meal. See our update, below.)
Along with several other Los Angeles facilities, the test center underwent renovation and was scheduled back in February to reopen as a new “ideal” facility. It was slated to carry the new name of “Hollywood Life Improvement Center” and a storefront down the street was given the name Hollywood Test Center.
If you recall, when the other nearby buildings were getting their grand re-openings, the date for the “Life Improvement Center” re-opening kept getting moved back. We heard that there had been a problem which prevented it from getting the proper permits to re-open, and months after the other facilities had their celebrations, the building sat dormant.
And now, Angry Gay Pope has dug up some documents showing that a lien has been placed on the building, which is now in “pre-foreclosure.”
According to county documents Pope forwarded to us, the Shaw Contract Flooring Service is listed as the “lender,” which suggests to us that Scientology simply hasn’t paid its entire bill for the recent renovations.
What’s even more surprising is that here it is Thanksgiving, the Hollywood Christmas Parade is on Sunday, and there’s no Winter Wonderland display in the parking lot. Pope sent us this report after making a visit yesterday…
The Hollywood Inn parking lot is bare just days before the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which is always held in November. Notice even the windows of the welcome center are totally blocked with tight fitting blinds. They have not had the Wonderland for several years because the Inn was being remodeled. Now there is no excuse not to have one. Perhaps they don’t have the manpower to erect and staff it. Or maybe it was too much of an easy target for protesters. Either way it’s a big failure for them. I will miss its camera-friendly decor and the easy access I had to Sea Org workers. I walked a few blocks down the street and spoke to a couple of Sea Org workers at the Hollywood Guaranty Building and they had no idea that the Wonderland was not open. As usual the workers are kept in the dark about things even when they are right down the street.
Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman, told us he was truly stunned to hear the news. Over at his blog, Rinder has been documenting all of the evidence which supports the idea that Scientology under leader David Miscavige is shrinking, fast, and is getting into increasing trouble. But no Winter Wonderland for the Hollywood Christmas Parade? Even Rinder was shocked.
As for the building being in pre-foreclosure, Rinder offers an explanation.
“Clearly they can pay the bill, the problem is no one is responsible for it. When it appears on your blog that there’s a pre-foreclosure procedure, a check will get cut and someone will get their head bashed in by Miscavige,” he says.
As for why the building has been allowed to sit in such a state for so long, Rinder suggests that the reason has to do with Miscavige and his concerns about security.
“My speculation is that they couldn’t get permitting to close off the grand opening event adequately to keep people from seeing Miscavige,” he says. “They’d have to close off Hollywood Boulevard. Now, the Oscars can pull that off, but even Scientology would have a hard time to close down the street for the fifteen minutes it would take Miscavige to make his speech. And it has to be Hollywood Boulevard for that building. And if they can’t shut it down and put up their drapes or their plants, then he’d be open to public view.”
(And that reminds us of Mark Bunker’s efforts at the opening of the Portland Ideal Org last year.)
“No one probably has the guts to tell Miscavige that they can’t secure it for his appearance. So they let it sit,” Rinder says.
Another person who went by yesterday to get a few snapshots was our friend Jeffrey Augustine.
As Pope pointed out, there’s been no Winter Wonderland at the Christie/Hollywood Inn since
2010 2011, after which it closed down for the renovations. And it appears that in the meantime, Scientology has moved the display to its Clearwater, Florida location (Update: It appears that the Wonderland in Florida has been running in parallel for a long time, so the Hollywood version is simply closed). But here, once again, David Miscavige is messing with the traditions of founder L. Ron Hubbard, who is known as “Source” to Scientologists.
Scientology’s website still says that Winter Wonderland is a Hollywood tradition begun by Hubbard in 1983 when he “provided a 60-foot Christmas tree as a gift to the people of Hollywood. Winter Wonderland holiday village is erected each year on Hollywood Boulevard as a service to the community.”
Longtime Scientology watchers know that by 1983, Hubbard had been in total seclusion for three years, and by then was hiding out at a ranch in Creston, California, near San Luis Obispo, where he died in 1986. So maybe Jesse Prince — one of the few people who saw Hubbard’s “despatches” in those days, can tell us if Hubbard up at Creston really knew anything about his largesse to the folks of Hollywood.
But even if Hubbard’s PR staff was responsible for the Christmas tree, what’s David Miscavige doing messing around with a tradition like that for? That’s awful squirrely, if you ask us.
Anyway, Jeff Augustine had two observations for us about the building after making his visit. First, he wonders who owns this fancy motorbike which was behind the spiked fence at the property…
And he also noticed that on the sidewalk out in front of the building, there’s this marker…
Says Jeff: “How fitting that Christopher Street West began right outside the homophobic Church of Scientology on Hollywood Blvd and McCadden Place.”
Isn’t that something.
What we’re thankful for
Here in the United States we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, and we wish a happy day to all of our readers, from Canada to Europe to South Africa to New Zealand to the UK to Australia and to all 50 states. We love hearing from all of you, in our comments and directly.
We’re so fortunate to have the community that finds the Underground Bunker a place to visit day in and day out. And we’re reminded of what great friends we have after being humbled by a piece written at Facebook yesterday by Chicago Fire actor Christian Stolte (seen here with Chicago PD star Jason Beghe in a photo they took for us here in the Bunker last year). We’ve met few people, in or out of show business, who are more knowledgeable about Scientology and care about its history and where it’s headed today than Christian. And if we can keep a guy like that coming around for more, well, it gives us a lot to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving from our bunker to yours!
UPDATE: We can see that our Karin Pouw anecdote is raising questions among our newer readers, so we’ll fill it out just a little more. We’ve mentioned this incident a few times in the past. At the time, we were working at a newspaper, New Times Los Angeles, which went out of existence in 2002. But while it lasted it was a feisty thing, and we covered Scientology along with a colleague, Ron Russell. (Ron did the amazing story of Raul Lopez, while we wrote about Tory Christman and Graham Berry, among other subjects.) Concerned that we seemed to be determined to keep up our coverage, Pouw invited our editor, Rick Barrs, and the newspaper’s publisher to have lunch at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, presumably to “safepoint” them and get them to call off us writers. At the last minute, however, the publisher begged off, and Barrs brought your proprietor along. Ms. Pouw did not appear too thrilled about the substitution, and throughout our (quite delicious) meal — your proprietor can still remember the superb Chilean Sea Bass and wild rice — she tried to engage Barrs in conversation, but he was happy to let his reporter ask about Scientology’s uncomfortable truths, until Ms. Pouw’s remarkable outburst. All in all, it was a day we will never forget.
SECOND UPDATE: Apparently, some folks are having a hard time seeing what Christian Stolte posted at Facebook. Here’s a copy of it…
Posted by Tony Ortega on November 27, 2014 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to email@example.com 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.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49