Yesterday, as previous episodes of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath were being shown on the A&E network in the run up to last night’s “season finale,” we were casually chatting with Brandon Reisdorf on Facebook messenger.
You probably know Brandon’s story by now, from either watching last night’s episode or reading our summary of it that we put up yesterday. Brandon was one of three sons to Lois and Gary Reisdorf, who were from a pretty major South African Scientology family. In a seven-part series at former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder’s website, Lois has been recounting her years as one of the original “Commodores’ Messengers” who served L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo as he ran Scientology from 1967 to 1975 from the ship.
Years later, Lois found herself aced out when David Miscavige was elbowing his way to take over after Hubbard’s death in 1986. Lois and Gary were just glad to get out of Scientology as Miscavige began to run it, and for the next 35 years they tried to maintain a “low profile” so that they wouldn’t cause trouble for other parts of their families who were still in the church.
Because of that low profile approach, however, they watched as two of their three sons, Brandon and Craig, got sucked into the church.
Chatting with us from San Diego as we waited for the show to come on, Brandon put up with our requests for a little more detail on that. Brandon was born in South Africa in 1988, and moved to San Diego ten years later.
“I had a stutter till 12,” he told us. He was the middle child between Brett, the oldest, and Craig, who was two years younger than he was.
At what point in your life, we asked, did you begin to realize that there was this thing Scientology that a lot of the family was involved in, but your parents weren’t in it.
“I would say around 17 (in 1998), when my parents were preparing me for my Life Repair and Purification Rundown,” he answered. “Before that I still recall being 6 or 7 in South Africa at my grandparents’ mission answering questions about little stuff like ARCX’s [“ARC breaks” — Scientology for disagreements] with Craig and Brett and friends from school. I only started hearing about the bad side of Scientology once Craig got involved.”
Hang on. If your parents were out of Scientology, why would they have you do courses like Life Repair when you were 17?
“Well, at 17 I was smoking pot and drinking with my friends, and the only savior was Scientology, because that’s all they knew at that time. My mom’s parents were running a mission in Johannesburg at the time when we were living in San Diego, and it was hard to go a different way.”
And at 17, your parents wanted you to get churching in an organization they themselves would have nothing to do with? Isn’t that when most 17-year-olds say you m-fers have got to be kidding?
“No. I felt there was some spiritual growth that I could have gained. Remember, my parents were trying to keep the family together, and they did not spread any ‘black PR’ [negative publicity]. So I was not told negative things about the church, and in those days we didn’t have access to the Internet like we do today.”
For Brandon, his involvement in Scientology turned out to be particularly disastrous because he had an undiagnosed bipolar condition, and Scientology hates psychiatry with a white-hot passion. Rather than get him some standard care, his parents subjected him to Scientology’s horrific quackery known as the Introspection Rundown.
Because L. Ron Hubbard claimed that he’d healed one psychotic member of the crew while sailing the Apollo in the early 1970s, he pronounced that he had a sure-fire “cure” for psychosis, and psychiatry no longer had any reason to exist. Hubbard’s “Introspection Rundown,” consisting of locking a mentally ill person in a room and denying them any talk or other stimulus until they were better, must be followed to the letter if a Scientologist today “goes Type 3,” church lingo for having a psychotic break.
On last night’s show, you could see that Lois and Gary feel terrible today about subjecting their son to something so risky, and they admit that he came out of the Introspection Rundown worse than when he went in.
But that’s still not the worst of what happened. Eventually, despite their low-profile approach, in January Lois and Gary were tossed out of Scientology for maintaining ties with parts of Gary’s family who had been “declared suppressive” — Scientology lingo for branding someone an enemy of the church. With Lois and Gary declared, now their sons Craig and Brandon had a decision to make. Stay connected to their parents and get kicked out, or stay with the church and lose connection to their own parents.
They didn’t make the same choice. Brandon stuck by his parents and was kicked out, but Craig chose to stay in Scientology, which meant cutting off all ties with his own parents and siblings.
Where is Craig today, we asked Brandon. “He’s in Long Beach. He might be on staff in Orange County, but we aren’t sure,” he says.
Gary Reisdorf explained in the episode that Brandon took the separation from his brother hard, and in April, in a manic episode, Brandon drove up to Los Angeles and threw a hammer through a window at the LA org in the middle of the night, harming no one. Scientology pressed charges, and Brandon was convicted of a felony because he’d committed vandalism against “a place of worship.”
Watching Twitter and our comments, we could see that viewers were outraged that a “church” would react that way, rather than trying to get Brandon help. (Thankfully, his family has finally got over their aversion to psychiatry and Brandon has received treatment.)
In his interview with Leah last night, Brandon said that he worries about being able to get a job with the felony on his record. We told him he might think about carrying around a DVD copy of last night’s show, and if a prospective employer asks about his criminal record, he can just pop that sucker in.
“That’s probably what I’ll do,” Brandon said.
Once the episode started, we stopped chatting and watched him on screen. And then, right on cue, we noticed that while the show was playing, Scientology put up a page slamming the Reisdorfs on a website that attacks Remini’s series.
It included a video of Craig, the brother that has disconnected from Brandon and Brett.
We watched the short clip and then summarized it for Brandon and his mother, Lois. “Craig’s video basically comes down to: ‘I had to escape a life of sex, surfing, and pot-smoking because my parents are so controlling. So now my life in Scientology is totally fulfilling.'”
Brandon looked at the page, which has a lot of accusations about him and his parents. “This is all expected. The lies and hell the church provides means nothing. This is all BS,” he said. But he couldn’t bring himself to watch his brother.
“Leah and Mike and the producers and editors did a tremendous job to depict my downfalls and my upsets with the church. I have no care for what Craig has said, I and do not want to look to see what he said. It is all lies. We should continue to look forward and determine our best line of defense. We must not back down. My brother is not my enemy. RTC is my enemy,” he said, referring to the controlling entity of Scientology, the Religious Technology Center. “The IRS is my enemy, because they have made this organization more powerful. I have no care for lies.”
Lois also couldn’t bring herself to watch the video of her disconnected son, as well as videos of her sisters, Geray and Louviegne, that Scientology has posted. “It’s predictable and we have been expecting them. Craig and my sisters know who I am and they are under such control right now. If they had refused to do them they would have been in such trouble and they know that. I don’t hold it against them at all. It’s mind control.”
At the end of last night’s episode, after Leah Remini and Mike Rinder let us know that they’d met with someone in New York to talk about possible legal action against the Church of Scientology, the last thing we saw were the words “To be continued.”
Literally that’s true because next week there’s another “Reddit AMA” hourlong special episode coming. But we’ve heard nothing yet about the likelihood of a second season. We’ll let you know what we hear as soon as we do.
Meanwhile, we have been getting a lot of questions about the LAPD missing its deadline to turn over information to Leah about the department’s handling of her 2013 missing person report about Shelly Miscavige, wife of David Miscavige, who vanished from Scientology’s Int Base in the summer of 2005 and has only been seen in public once since then, in the summer of 2007 at the funeral of her father in the presence of a Scientology handler.
It’s our understanding that the LAPD intended to turn over information to Leah yesterday, but then asked for one more day to get its paperwork together. So perhaps as soon as later today, we may have some new info from the police.
Louis Theroux’s ‘My Scientology Movie’ opening March 10
During all the excitement of yesterday’s A&E finale, Louis Theroux posted a tweet revealing that his hilarious take on the church, My Scientology Movie, will open in US theaters in just two months.
— Louis Theroux (@louistheroux) January 10, 2017
The film was first premiered in London in October 2015 (here’s our review), and it’s had successful runs in theaters in Australia and the UK, where it made more than 1.5 million pounds, considered a very impressive showing for a documentary.
We highly recommend it.
Scientology goes big in Denmark
Thank you to our reader in Odense who snapped a few photos to let us know that Scientology’s drug rehabs are advertising on the sides of buses there.
“The bus company has been challenged about it and they say that the ad doesn’t conflict with the ‘international marketing code,’ so they will keep parading it around, unless customers complain about it,” our tipster tells us. “On the island of Zealand one particular bus company has refused to accept the ads because they don’t want to get involved with any religious advertising.”
And the translation? “The ad says: ‘When is it enough? It is possible to kick an addiction. Narconon: Kick your addiction – once and for all.'”
Well, how can that not work?
Go here to start making your plans.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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