Steven Mango makes an appearance in Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie, which opens in Australia in less than two weeks and in the US in January. But last night, Mango got more than he bargained for when he tried to warn some Hollywood tourists about his bad experiences with the Church of Scientology and ended up with a sore shoulder, a police report, and plans to sue over what he characterizes as an unprovoked assault.
We first ran into Mango when he told his story in a 2014 YouTube video about how, like so many others, he’d been sucked into Scientology as an aspiring actor in Hollywood. In Theroux’s film, he makes a brief but memorable appearance explaining that in just a short amount of time, he was convinced to pay huge amounts of money for piles of church publications and courses. (In the photo above, he’s pictured with Theroux and Andrew Perez, who plays Scientology leader David Miscavige in the movie.)
After about four years of taking courses, Mango got fed up with the constant push to spend more money, as well as aggressive recruiting to join Scientology’s “Sea Org” and dedicate his entire life to the church. He dropped out in 2012, and since 2014 has consistently spoken out about what he went through.
And last night, he tells us, he wanted to show a curious friend what all the fuss was about. “My friend Sarah was visiting from New Jersey, so we were on Hollywood Boulevard,” he told us last night after he got home from the incident. “She mentioned reading Leah Remini’s book and wanted to see the Test Center. So we walk over, and I see them roping in families with strollers. So I got in my activism mode.”
The Scientology facility on Hollywood Boulevard at McCadden Place is currently in its newest incarnation after a recent renovation. It was originally the Christie Hotel, opened in 1922, then was renamed the Drake Hotel and then the Hollywood Inn before Scientology took it over. And that’s the name some Scientology oldtimers still call it as it became a berthing location for the church’s low-paid staff. For many years, the building was also known as the Scientology Test Center, but then just recently it was renovated and the organization now calls it the Church of Scientology Information Center — but very few people seem to call it that. It’s most recognizable for the vertical Scientology sign along its front, and also as the location, in the lot next door, where the church used to put up its annual “Winter Wonderland” display.
Last night, several staff “body routers” were trying to get passersby to come into the building, presumably to see a video about Scientology or to take a personality test. Mango’s friend decided to continue sightseeing and walked away as he stayed outside the center to see if he could keep the tourists from taking Scientology’s bait.
Mango went to his car and retrieved a “Call Me” protest sign, modeled on the billboards that former Scientologists Phil and Willie Jones put up in Los Angeles and Florida to bring attention to Scientology’s “disconnection” policy that keeps them away from their own two grown kids in the church. Mango received one of the smaller Call Me signs from the Joneses, and had used it for demonstrations at Scientology’s “Big Blue” downtown complex.
For about an hour, Mango says, he stood outside the Information Center approaching people who had been leafleted by the Scientology staffers. “People asked me what I was protesting about, and then threw away the fliers.”
“I was saying some things, ‘David Miscavige beats his staff,’ or ‘Scientology rips apart families,’ or ‘Scientology rips off people on Hollywood Boulevard.’ But mostly, I held my sign until someone asked about it.”
The Scientologists got fed up with him, he says, and started taunting him. “Steve, we just sold a book, no one reads your fucking sign,” and “You failed in Scientology,” and “Go home. You and your sign are worthless.”
“They were telling people, ‘He is insane and was released from the psych ward and isn’t on his meds, you can’t listen to him’.”
Mango said he didn’t mind the taunts. But then, someone who hadn’t said a word to him suddenly rushed him and body-slammed him into the building’s windows.
Usually, Mango records video when he’s protesting, as protection, and he’s usually with other people. But this time, the battery on his camera was low, so he wasn’t filming, and he was alone — and a Scientologist took advantage of it.
The man who barrelled into him laughed while he did it, Mango says. But Mango stuck around, continuing to carry his sign. And then, about 20 minutes later, the same Scientology staffer came back, carrying fliers, and this time, he attacked Mango with a slashing karate chop on his arm, and again with a sneering chuckle.
Mango says he threatened to call the police, and then decided to go to the nearest police station instead. He filed a report, but couldn’t put down the name of his attacker, since he didn’t know it. But then, as he was driving home, he spotted the same man, again on Hollywood Boulevard outside the Information Center, handing out fliers. Mango called police to the location.
Two officers arrived, and Mango talked to them, explaining that he’d been unable to identify his attacker when he’d filled out the police report, but now he could point the man out. He said they were eager to help him out, and asked him about his experiences in the church.
“They said they hate dealing with Scientology,” he says. The officers then went into the Information Center to talk with the man who had struck Mango.
“So many security guards came when the police showed up. Odo from PAC and many others were frantically on their phones,” Mango adds, referring to a well-known Scientology guard who patrols the “Big Blue” complex on Fountain Avenue that is known to Scientologists as PAC base, for Pacific Area Command.
The police interviewed Mango’s attacker, and also viewed video from the building’s security cameras. Meanwhile, Mango managed to snap a photo of the officers in the building…
The police officers told Mango that the man’s name was John Joseph La Voie, age 63. Mark Plummer, the former Scientologist and longtime critic and archivist, tells Mango that La Voie at one time had been the “LRH Communicator Secretary” at the American Saint Hill Organization, one of the high-level course facilities at PAC base. One listing in a Scientology publication indicates that La Voie has been in the church at least since 1981.
“He was claiming that he did hit me but that it was an accident. But twenty minutes later he walked straight up to me and karate chopped my arm. That is no accident.” Mango says. Security video of the first encounter did show the man knocking into Mango, but the officers told him that they couldn’t tell from the camera angle if it had been “malicious.”
“They said if they had seen him laugh and smirk about the body check, they would arrest him. But the camera wasn’t positioned that way,” he says.
Mango says his shoulder still hurts, and it’s painful for him to lift his arm. He’s going to have it looked at today, and he says he’s also going to talk to an attorney about filing suit.
In the meantime, Australian filmgoers can see Mango in Theroux’s film starting September 7, and our UK readers can catch the movie starting October 10. American moviegoers will have to wait until January. We saw the movie last year in London and found it hilarious as Scientology’s security goons followed Louis Theroux around with cameras.
None of them body-slammed him, though.
Chris Shelton on ‘Scientology’
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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
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