On Friday, we showed you a wild five-minute Scientology testimonials video which featured actress Erika Christensen. The video included dozens of Scientologists gushing in rapid-fire manner about how some repackaged 1950s lectures by L. Ron Hubbard had changed their lives.
“It’s straight out of this universe,” Christensen said at the tail end of the video. “It is! It’s straight out of this universe!”
It turns out, that five-minute testimonials video was first revealed at a very special gathering: Opening night at Maiden Voyage 2006.
If you’re new to Scientology watching, that designation may not mean a lot to you. So let us set this up a little before we reveal what we managed to track down — the entire hour-and-forty-five minute briefing from that night featuring Scientology’s leader, Captain David Miscavige, in his full Sea Org quasi-naval regalia.
Some context: The Scientology year is punctuated by a few major events that all Scientologists who can afford to go are encouraged to attend. They are the New Year’s Eve celebration in Los Angeles, the L. Ron Hubbard Birthday Event in Clearwater, Florida (on or near Hubbard’s March 13 birthdate), and the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) anniversary gala which is usually held in England in October.
There are other important dates on the Scientology calendar (Dianetics Day — May 9, and Auditor’s Day — second Sunday in September), but there’s one celebration in particular that we’ve always wanted to know more about — Maiden Voyage.
It’s a weeklong event to commemorate the first voyage of Scientology’s private cruise ship the Freewinds after the church purchased it and put into service in 1988. Jason Beghe, the actor who left Scientology and was recently featured in Alex Gibney’s documentary, Going Clear, told us that he made multiple trips to Maiden Voyage (but we don’t see him in this video). He said that one of the reasons he hated Maiden Voyage was having to don formal wear on a ship in the Caribbean in June or July. The heat and humidity was brutal, and the last thing you wanted to be wearing was a tuxedo.
Beghe was invited because he was one of Scientology’s brightest stars at the time — a celebrity who was racing up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.” And the other invitees are also very special. They are the “OTs,” the wealthy church members who have spent anywhere from half a million to a million or more paying for expensive levels and donating to various causes over their church careers. Over that week, Miscavige gives the glittering crowd of OTs briefings about Scientology’s various initiatives, but he also previews new releases. The wealthy in-crowd gets a sneak peek of what everyone else will hear about a few weeks later, when video of the Maiden Voyage nights are played at Scientology’s “orgs” — churches — around the world.
In recent years, we’ve seen leaked video of various New Year’s Eve, LRH Birthday, and IAS events. But a Maiden Voyage video is much rarer. We didn’t know, for example, that Miscavige would deliver a briefing on the ship while decked out in his full Captain of the Sea Org naval get up. And it’s fun to spot who we can in the audience.
When this event was filmed in June 2006, former number two man Marty Rathbun had already been out of Scientology for a couple of years. Scientology’s spokesman, Mike Rinder, tells us he didn’t attend because Miscavige was disciplining him (Rinder would soon be tossed into “The Hole,” and many other top members of “exec strata” were also being punished and didn’t make the trip). But Rinder was surprised when we pointed out that we had spotted Church of Scientology International president Heber Jentzsch sitting in the front row. Jentzsch has spent years in The Hole, but was apparently allowed out to take part in Maiden Voyage that year.
Others we spotted in the audience were actress Jenna Elfman, singer Stacy Francis, and singer Angelo Pagan, who is married to actress Leah Remini. Our sources tell us that Leah didn’t attend the event, and that Pagan was one of Miscavige’s favorite performers and entertained on the ship during the week. Also, we see Grant and Elena Cardone on the right side of the audience — Elena shows up in the testimonials video, as we pointed out Friday, and Grant was already a Miscavige favorite for doing some dirty work for him.
And another face really stunned us. It was Rinder who pointed out that sitting on the left in the front row was Rena Weinberg, the Sea Org officer who ran the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), which in turn oversaw the Narconon drug rehab network for Scientology. Rena disappeared not long after this event in June 2006. She was seen in The Hole by Rinder, and to this day she’s never re-appeared at ABLE or anywhere else in public. Is she still in the Hole? Has she been shipped somewhere else to keep her out of the public eye? And what was her crime, exactly, that has required that she be vanished for nine years?
Other luminaries that Rinder spotted in the crowd: David and Sheila Gaiman — parents to famous writer Neil. Matt and Kathy Feshbach. Sue Price, Lurie Belotti, Colm and Janet McLaughlin, Craig and Sally Jensen, Jeff Pomerantz, Terri Novitsky, Sue Moore, Jim and Tamra Meskimen, David and Benetta Slaughter, Michael Phillips, and Miscavige’s speechwriter, Dan Sherman.
And there were other surprises besides who’s in the live audience. During his talk, Miscavige used video clips to illustrate his speech. About twenty minutes into the presentation, as Miscavige is boasting about the expansion of the Narconon network, we see the grand opening of Narconon Stone Hawk East in Michigan — which would be renamed Narconon Freedom Center, and was mentioned in a recent story we posted. At its opening, Priscilla Presley makes the scene, and we think we can also briefly glimpse Per Wickstrom.
At the forty-three minute mark, as Miscavige is boasting about success in South Africa, he celebrates Ernest and Gay Corbett — who are now suing Scientology.
Another surprise, for us: After the hour mark, Miscavige talks about a worldwide barnstorming mission by the ambassadors from the Freewinds, who held large gatherings in places like England and Taiwan and Milan, Italy. At these gatherings, large numbers of Scientologists were put through “Upper Indoctrination Training Routines” — exercises which look bizarre to the outsider. Here’s something interesting going on in Milan…
While in Toronto, a large number of Scientologists do their Upper Indoc TRs by walking another person around a room. Touching walls is involved, so some temporary plywood “walls” have been set up…
While the same setup at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, England required that temporary walls be set up in a field….
And we love this shot of Taiwanese children drilling on TR 8, telling an ashtray to stand up and sit down, etc. You rarely see Scientology using images like this today…
We’re looking forward to all of the things you spot in this briefing, which we found posted online in three sections. Let us know what you pick out, and also tell us how much you dig seeing David Miscavige in his Sea Org regalia. Oh Captain, My Captain!
Nice UK smackdown of Scientology nutritional woo
We were happy to help out Gabrielle Monaghan of the Sunday Times who dug into a naturopathic “college” that promotes dangerous nonsense, and happens to be run by an OT 8 named Hermann Keppler. She checked with us about Keppler’s bona fides, and they are solid. He completed OT 8 in 2012, also L10 and L11, and just weeks ago he showed up in a promotional flier for the new media center in Los Angeles at the old KCET studios. So yes, Keppler is a very involved, high level Scientologist, and he’s also selling the woo that ensnared Miss World Rosanna Davison.
It’s a nice, clean hit, and the kind of thing we’d like to see other newspapers do more often.
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Juliette Lewis performing last night at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, in a concert that benefited the LAPD Police Activities League…
Tom Cummins giving his presentation in Taiwan — every whale has to pull his weight in COB’s navy!
We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.
Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…
Sept 15: Phoenix, Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus, Walter Cronkite Theater, 5:30 pm
Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio
Sept 24: Minneapolis, Grumpy’s Bar & Grill, 2801 Snelling Ave, Roseville, 7 pm, sponsored by Minnesota Atheists
Sept 27: Portland, Friendly House, 1737 NW 26th Ave, 12:45 pm, sponsored by Humanists of Portland
Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists
Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm
Oct 14: London, premiere of Louis Theroux film, ‘My Scientology Movie’
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 25: Melbourne, venue secured (announcement coming later)
Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 30: Perth
Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24)
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 6, 2015 at 07:00
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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
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield