In 2009, Cathriona White moved from Ireland to California. That same year, this photograph was taken. It was posted by celebrity photographer Joshua Shultz, who is sitting at the right. Next to him is a small-time actor named Tyler Hynes (in the red cap). Next to him is a man who is labeled “shmayle,” then actress Erika Christensen, Tama Leia (McCormick) Stewart, and Tama’s husband, Taylor Newton Stewart.
They are young Scientologists, and soon most of them will become part of Cat White’s life.
Cathriona is famous now because on Monday she was discovered dead, apparently at her own hand, four days after her boyfriend, comedian Jim Carrey, reportedly broke up with her. On Wednesday morning, we broke the news that Cathriona — known as “Cat” to her friends — had been a Scientologist, and that Carrey was aware of that fact.
We found that surprising because Carrey had openly mocked Scientology in years past. The church likely considered Carrey “PTS” — a “potential trouble source” or even an “SP” — a “suppressive person” — and it seemed unusual that he would date someone in Scientology, and that Scientology would allow it to happen.
On Thursday, we reported another finding — that when she had done Scientology’s “Purification Rundown,” and then had started in on her “objectives” in a course known as the “Survival Rundown,” Cat had been paired with actor and professional poker player Travis Case, who became her Scientology “twin.” Our sources told us that Cat had stalled on the Survival Rundown in the last six months or so. We don’t know why she struggled with the course. Case did not respond to a message we left him.
In this article, we’re going to look at the beginning of Cat’s Scientology involvement and the people she met who encouraged her to start courses.
Previously, we said that our sources — friends of Cathriona — had told us that Cat had been introduced to Scientology by people in musician Beck’s social circle. Researching the actual people Cat befriended and talking with our sources further, we find that the situation was both less definite and more complex.
Unlike Scientology’s more well known celebrities — Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley — who were recruited by the church in the 1970s and 1980s, Scientology’s young celebrities today tend to have grown up in the organization. And many of them form a large, loose social group that includes Beck but also the Masterson clan, the Ribisis, as well as Jason Lee, and Erika Christensen.
In 2003, for example, when a young artist and Scientologist named Tiber McCormick had a joint art show with a fellow church member named Cyril Helnwein, the show was hosted by Christopher and Danny Masterson at Jason’s Lee’s loft, and photographs show that Laura Prepon also made the scene. (We’ve written about Helnwein before, and his famous father.)
For years, Scientology has recruited young aspiring actors and other creatives wanting to break into Hollywood by holding out the prospect of becoming part of such an in-crowd. In 1955, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard first announced “Project Celebrity,” and offered a bounty to church members who could bring in famous actors and other artists. Ever since then, Scientology has played on the hopes of young Hollywood types and catered to them with its “Celebrity Centres.” As author Lawrence Wright has explained, one of the things that makes the Celebrity Centres so appealing is that any Scientologist can take courses there and feel like a big shot.
And it was in 2010 or 2011 that Cathriona White, trying to make her own foray into the entertainment industry, began taking courses at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre.
Our sources say that the people who encouraged her were actor Tyler Hynes, artist Tiber McCormick, and actress Jenny Burpee. McCormick’s sister, Tama Leia Stewart, was also an influence, as well as photographer Joshua Shultz.
Cat dated Tiber McCormick, our sources tell us, and through him met Beck. McCormick’s sister Tama and her husband, Taylor Newton Stewart of the film scoring duo The Newton Brothers, also had some connection to Beck, our sources say, but we’ve been unable to find such a connection online.
Cathriona also dated Hynes, our sources say, but it was Jenny Burpee who appeared to remain a presence in Cat’s life for a longer time.
Burpee, 32, has appeared in four films. Her credits include “Woman in bed,” “Girl on TV,” “Party girl,” and “Hot-tub girl.” She has also appeared on the stage, as an assistant to illusionist Joseph Reohm. About a year ago, Reohm performed a show at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California with three stage assistants — two of whom were Jenny Burpee and Cathriona White…
We left a phone message and emailed Burpee. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us. Burpee is active in Scientology’s “The Way to Happiness” Foundation, and has marched with the foundation’s float in the Hollywood Christmas Parade, among other activities and fundraisers. Nora Crest says that she remembers Burpee serving a stint in Scientology’s Sea Org, the hard-core inner elite who sign billion-year contracts and work 112-hour weeks at pennies an hour.
Burpee’s connection to Cat and another friend was so tight, at one point the three of them got “X” tattoos made up of crossed arrows on their necks…
But Cathriona later regretted it, and just weeks ago was going through a lengthy process to have the tattoo removed…
Although she didn’t like the tattoo, Cat’s friendship with Jenny was apparently unaffected. Jenny posted this photo around the same time Cat was getting her tattoo removed…
And it was Jenny who discovered Cat’s body on Monday after she noticed that her texts to Cat weren’t being answered. Jenny is now getting publicity as the “best friend” who took Cat under her wing — but without any mention that becoming part of Jenny’s circle included the Hollywood Celebrity Centre.
The other member of the group, Joshua Shultz, is becoming known as something of an in-house Scientology portrait photographer…
A few months ago, Shultz included Cathriona in a shoot for a Bellus magazine spread that featured David Hasselhoff…
Shultz also appeared numerous times in photos on Cat’s Instagram account. We called Shultz, explained who we were and why we were calling, and he said “goodbye” and hung up.
Shortly after Cathriona arrived in California in 2009, she began taking acting classes. But she had more success doing make-up for a few small productions through 2013. In 2012, in one of her last credited jobs as a make-up artist, she worked on a short film titled Firefly. It was co-written and directed by Tyler Hynes, who was also its lead actor. Joshua Shultz was one of the producers, the soundtrack was by the Newton Brothers, and Jenny Burpee was the production coordinator. (Christopher and Danny Masterson made the premiere, along with Erika Christensen and Jason Dohring.)
Cathriona, in other words, had found her way into a working group of young Scientologists in Hollywood trying to get more famous. But also that year, she met and began dating Jim Carrey. Suddenly, she had found a portal into another world.
As we reported on Wednesday, our sources told us that Carrey was aware of Cathriona’s involvement in Scientology. Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman, tells us that there’s little question that Scientology would hear about the relationship and then call Cat down for questioning about it.
The relationship was reportedly not a very stable one, and the couple broke up about five months later. They started dating again earlier this year. Both Cathriona White and Jim Carrey had histories of depression. White’s mother Brigid also battled depression in her life. Did Cat get proper care for it? Scientology demonizes the psychiatric industry and anti-depressant drugs in particular.
EOnline is reporting that it talked to a friend of Cathriona’s who says that Scientology was a big part of Cat’s life, and that it was an issue between her and Carrey: “She was very involved and Jim wasn’t so sure about the whole thing.” Cathriona “really wanted to marry Jim. It was a point of contention between them. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to get married and the role that Scientology was playing in her life.”
Scientology itself has accused us of “bigotry” for even reporting on this story, and claimed that no one would be curious whether someone who committed suicide had been reading the Bible.
That’s an interesting comparison, because Scientology itself does have a Bible of sorts. It’s Dianetics, the book that founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote in 1950 and to this day is still pushed by church members as “Book One” and the start of their movement.
Dianetics has a subtitle. It is “The Modern Science of Mental Health.” In fact, the entire basis of Dianetics, and Scientology, is that Hubbard was the first person in history to discover the true nature of the human mind, and then developed the only reliable processes for good mental health. In order to get newer members to commit to Scientology’s ideas about mental health, it puts them through grueling courses that are more like hazing rituals. Remembering her ordeal on the Purification Rundown, a regimen of five-hour days in a sauna and ingesting dangerous levels of niacin and other vitamins, Cathriona used the hashtags #run #sweat #puke #repeat #day29icantfeelmylegs.
In the last photograph Cathriona posted to her Instagram account, after her breakup with Carrey but before she killed herself, she included the hashtags #endless #search and #californiadreaming.
Cathriona had gone to California with a dream, but instead got caught up in one of its oddest products, the Scientology movement, and then found herself on a huge stage as the companion of Jim Carrey. Sadly, it left her feeling that she was still in an endless search for something she could never find.
Jeffrey Augustine interviews Aaron Smith-Levin
A summary from Jeff: “What is the ‘Clear Cognition’ and why is it so confidential in the Church of Scientology? In this wide-ranging podcast, former Sea Org member Aaron Smith-Levin discusses Scientology’s controversial Freeloader bills, the confidential Clear Cognition, and the fact that all Scientologists are taught to unquestionably believe that L. Ron Hubbard was the reincarnation of Buddha come back to finish his work. This podcast has two companion documents: 1. Aaron and his wife’s Freeloader Bill totaling $129,344.27 itemized on an Excel spreadsheet. This documents offers a fascinating look at some of the odd courses for which the Church charges Sea Org members. Examples: $500 each for the Sea Org etiquette course and the Sea Org grooming course. 2. Aaron’s petition to reduce his wife’s Freeloader Debt by deducting Non-Bridge courses.”
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Fellow Ukrainians! We are scholars from the future and we will teach you how to use a dictionary!
Hey, girl. Denver can be lonely without some L. Ron Hubbard to curl up to.
Time for the Australian Football League’s championship — and Scientology was ready! Did you pick up a booklet?
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)…
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour)
Oct 25: Melbourne, venue secured (announcement coming later)
Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (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), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29)
Posted by Tony Ortega on October 4, 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