For more than a year, the Underground Bunker has been speaking with sources close to Lisa Marie Presley who tell us that the daughter of Elvis Presley has not only turned against Scientology leader David Miscavige, but has taken steps to coordinate actions designed to cripple Miscavige’s rule.
Lisa Marie is using her media savvy and connections with other celebrities and other important figures inside Scientology to release explosive revelations about Miscavige, while keeping her own role quiet. The result, so far, has been the skillfully timed release of media stories that have damaged Miscavige at the same time that Scientology is in a long term decline.
In Lisa Marie Presley, David Miscavige has cultivated a powerful enemy. And in this story, we explain how things got to that point.
Yesterday, we described how David Miscavige’s family has been ripped apart by Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection,” which has left David and his twin sister, Denise Gentile, cut off from other members of the family, including their father, Ron Miscavige.
On May 3, Ron will release a memoir titled Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. On April 29, he will be interviewed by ABC’s Dan Harris as part of a full hour 20/20 is dedicating to Scientology. The book and interview come as the result of series of events that began with Ron’s escape from Scientology’s International Base near Hemet, California in March 2012.
Ron had been a Scientologist for about 40 years, and was a well liked and popular member as the Sea Org’s musical director. But by 2012, he could no longer take the deprivations of Sea Org life under his dictatorial son, and with his wife Becky Bigelow, he “blew” from the base, as Scientologists say. We’re looking forward to reading in his book just how he managed that escape.
Over the next two years, Ron and Becky worked to re-adapt to life outside the Sea Org. They lived for a while with Ron’s son Ronnie Jr. in Virginia. Then they moved to Wisconsin to be near Becky’s family. And it was there, in 2013, that the West Allis, Wisconsin police department contacted Ron about a strange arrest they had made. A father and son private investigator team, Dwayne and Daniel Powell, had been found to be carrying a massive arsenal of weapons and ammunition that included an illegal homemade silencer. Facing ten years in federal prison, Dwayne Powell and his son spilled their guts to police in taped interviews. They admitted that they were being paid $10,000 a week to follow Ron on behalf of his son, David Miscavige, and the Church of Scientology.
At one point, they say in the interviews, they saw Ron clutch at his chest and thought he might be having a heart attack. When they called for instructions, they said David Miscavige himself got on the line and told them to do nothing. “If he dies, he dies,” Miscavige told them, according to the Powells.
Stunned by the news, Ron obtained copies of the recorded interviews. Meanwhile, as we detailed in yesterday’s story, the Miscavige family in Florida was being torn asunder. Denise and her sister Lori were being told to cut off all ties with Denise’s ex-husband, Robert Covington, and his family. And at the same time, they were drawing away from their father Ron.
Ron reached out to Robert Covington and his wife, Heather, who told us that in September 2014, Ron said he was coming to Florida and asked to stay with them. During that visit, Ron revealed to them that armed private investigators had been arrested who admitted that they were following him on his son’s orders. Heather tells us that Ron played the tapes for them, and said that he wanted his daughters, Denise and Lori, to hear them. He wanted them to understand that it was David Miscavige who was ripping their family apart.
But when Ron went to Denise’s house, she refused to see him. He returned to the Covington house, where a barbecue was going on.
Heather says Ron told them, “You know what? I’m going to write that book.”
And then, that same evening, Ron made a phone call.
It was to Lisa Marie Presley.
Heather heard it clearly, because Ron had Lisa Marie on speaker phone as they talked, and Heather says she and her husband were able to hear what they were talking about.
Lisa Marie was furious at what Ron told her about being turned away by his daughter Denise.
Our sources who are close to Lisa Marie tell us that she is a strongly family-oriented person, and highly values family loyalty. It stunned her, they tell us, that Ron Miscavige would be told that his own daughters never wanted to talk to him again, and that David Miscavige had paid for private investigators to follow his own father.
They also tell us that Lisa Marie was prepared to believe what Ron was saying because of her own investigations into what ailed the Church of Scientology.
Lisa Marie Presley was nine years old when her father Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. Her mother, Priscilla, had divorced Elvis in 1973. Last year, Spanky Taylor told us that Priscilla reached out to John Travolta after Elvis’s death, telling him that among her ex-husband’s possessions she had found some Scientology books, and was curious about them. Travolta sent Spanky, who had worked for him in the past, to meet with Priscilla. It was then, Spanky tells us, that she got Priscilla into Scientology, and Priscilla in turn brought her daughter up in the church.
But Lisa Marie’s doubts about the organization have been growing for years. In April 2012, just a month after Ron Miscavige and Becky Bigelow escaped from Int Base, Lisa Marie released a single that contained lyrics which, to us, suggested she was pushing Scientology away. She followed that up a month later with an album that contained lyrics that seemed unambiguous, and she gave interviews during which she talked about getting rid of people she called “nuts” from her life.
Our sources now tell us we were right about those assessments — Lisa Marie had begun pulling away from Scientology as early as 2008, and meticulously gathered information about the organization. But even after she had all but announced her defection in her 2012 album, Storm & Grace, Lisa Marie still considered herself a Scientologist and believed that David Miscavige was a friend.
This isn’t unusual for Scientologists, who often go through several stages of withdrawing from the Church of Scientology and from the subject itself. But as 2012 unfolded, Lisa Marie’s disaffection deepened.
She talked to Ron Miscavige and other people who had left Int Base, asking for stories about what it was like there, and for confirmation that “The Hole” actually existed. She did other research as well, learning the kinds of things about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology that church members are supposed to assiduously avoid.
(Our sources tell us that the tabloid rumors last year that Lisa Marie has been attempting to help Tom Cruise leave Scientology are false. Cruise is as dedicated to the church as ever, and Lisa Marie, our sources say, has no interest in trying to change his mind about that.)
As she continued her project, Lisa Marie then reached out to her mother, Priscilla Presley, and her daughter, Riley Keough, telling them she needed their support. If she decided to leave the church, they needed to come with her.
And after talking with Ron Miscavige in September 2014 about his own daughters disconnecting from him, Lisa Marie was ready, after all of her research, for a showdown with David Miscavige.
The next month, in October 2014, Lisa Marie traveled to Scientology’s “spiritual mecca,” the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, having notified Flag officials that she wanted to meet with Miscavige.
When she arrived at the offices of the Religious Technology Center, where Miscavige is chairman of the board (and known as “COB” to Scientologists), the church leader wasn’t there.
Instead, our sources tell us, Lisa Marie was confronted by Ron Miscavige’s daughters, Denise Gentile and Lori Verneuille, who tried to convince her that Ron and his son, Ronnie Jr., had been abusive to them.
Lisa Marie was disgusted by the encounter, we’re told. And she left the base no longer considering herself a Scientologist.
But if David Miscavige thought Lisa Marie would go away quietly, he was badly mistaken.
One of the things Ron Miscavige discussed with her was that his book would reveal the shocking news that he’d been tailed by the private investigators arrested by the West Allis Police Department in 2013.
But Lisa Marie told Ron that wasn’t going to work. She explained that revealing that information in a book with Ron’s name on it would allow Miscavige and the church to claim that it was a biased attack by an interested party.
It turned out that Lisa Marie had other plans for that information.
Our sources tell us that she hired an attorney in Los Angeles, someone who specialized in the media. That attorney obtained copies of the police interviews and police reports from the 2013 arrest. And then, the attorney strategically fed that material to three media organizations.
For print, the Los Angeles Times, for online, TMZ, and for television, NBC.
It was a savvy move by Lisa Marie. TMZ had been Scientology’s lapdog for several years, doing the church favors when it wanted to slime a former member, or ignoring Leah Remini’s defection from the church in 2013, for example.
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, had done legendary work exposing Scientology in the 1990s, and even as late as 2005 it did a major piece on David Miscavige and the Int Base. But since then, the newspaper has shown almost no curiosity about the church’s controversies in its own backyard. The L.A. Times has still, for example, not written anything about the Los Angeles billboard about Scientology disconnection that has garnered so much interest by other news organizations around the world.
But this material, dropped in their laps by Lisa Marie’s attorney, was impossible to ignore. And each of them did strong pieces that showed up on April 8 last year, and were picked up everywhere. It may have been David Miscavige’s most damaging news all year.
It was Lisa Marie Presley who made the decision that the story about the private investigators should show up in these mainstream outlets before it appeared in Ron Miscavige’s book.
And our sources tell us she has more planned.
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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