In 1997, Channel 4 in the UK aired an hour long documentary titled Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard. We’ve posted it here at the Underground Bunker in the past, and it’s long been considered one of the better documentaries about the organization and its founder. It contained interviews with key people, such as Hana Eltringham Whitfield, who captained one of Hubbard’s ships as Scientology was run from sea in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It also featured a brief interview with Forrest Ackerman, the famous science fiction promoter who was once Hubbard’s literary agent.
And now, the raw footage of Ackerman’s entire interview — most of which did not make the finished documentary — has been released. It’s a real treat!
The 25-minute interview begins with “Forry” talking about meeting Hubbard for the first time. He then relates a tale about Hubbard as a skilled stage hypnotist — something Atack has told us about numerous times.
Hubbard and hypnotism are central to Scientology, Atack tells us, but almost nothing angers Scientologists more than to tell them their “wins” are the result of hypnosis.
Ackerman also describes Hubbard chewing tobacco and spitting as he drove, and he jokes that Hubbard’s followers would love to find those places in the road where Hubbard spit so they could dig them up to worship them.
He describes Hubbard’s tale about his 1938 experience under nitrous oxide at a dental visit, which was a big turning point in Hubbard’s life, and was the event from which he dated his understanding of the concepts that would become Dianetics. (Ackerman, however, says Hubbard told him it was a war experience, and it’s hard to know if this was Ackerman’s mistake or if Hubbard changed the date of his tale himself.)
After that experience, Hubbard wrote the manuscript he called “Excalibur.” And Ackerman repeats Hubbard’s fantastic tale about the work, that anyone who read it went insane or committed suicide. Ackerman seems to give it some credence. He describes the elaborate rules Hubbard supposedly set down before a publisher could look at it. But Ackerman admits that he never knew anyone who actually read it, and he never saw it himself. (As we pointed out recently, Gerry Armstrong has read three different versions of it, and there’s a long description of it online which shows that it contains some of the early concepts of Dianetics but was mostly deadly not because it induced suicide but rather because it cured insomnia.)
As for Hubbard’s stature as a science fiction writer? “I think Ron has been blown all out of proportion as a science fiction writer,” says Ackerman, who, we’ll remind you, was his agent. Forry compares Hubbard to a couple of other writers who were known as “fiction factories.” Ackerman says Hubbard’s literary reputation rests on his short novels Final Blackout and Fear, a book Harlan Ellison told us he admired very much.
As for what Ron was like in person, Ackerman says Hubbard liked to entertain with tales that weren’t necessarily so. And that he was a legendary tightwad.
He’s asked why Dianetics was so popular, and he first points out that Los Angeles was known for its cults. Then he goes into a long story about his own memories and associations and fears that he was apparently able to bring up by following the instructions in Dianetics. And he points out that the goal of Dianetics was to get to memories from the womb.
But then, in Scientology, the point became to remember what had happened in past lives. Ackerman says it became a game of one-upmanship — you remember one past life? Well I remember three!
Ackerman was also present the night Hubbard revealed the first “Clear,” a young woman named Sonya Bianca, who put on a disastrous demonstration at the Shrine Auditorium in August 1950. “Nobody walked out, but there was a low hum of disappointment,” Ackerman says.
And finally, he’s asked about the popularity of Battlefield Earth, which he repped when it came out in 1982. Ackerman says that if the story had been serialized, it might have been fine for one of the publications of the time, but he said it was “nothing extraordinary.” He says he thought it became a bestseller for “artificial reasons.” You don’t say!
We sure wish Forry was still around. He was a great interview…
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Hey, hardy adventurers, the Anchorage mission is hiring!
Narconon Colombia’s executive director, Maria Gilma León, got herself superpowered!
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
16 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah
3 days until our special Underground Bunker announcement at noon, January 12
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 9, 2015 at 13:10
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts