Later today, we will be Skyping with God.
Well, that’s the plan, anyway. We’ve been having a devil of a time making progress since Tuesday, when the “God of Pop,” Kuba Ka, announced on Twitter that he was “officially leaving the Church of Scientology,” and we first heard from Kuba’s cousin and office manager, Patrick Stepniak, who emailed us and indicated an interest in the Underground Bunker telling the story of what was going on. We had a few short calls with Kuba’s business partner, actress Vikki Lizzi, before we finally got a chance to have a lengthy talk with her late last night. She tells us that they are planning to file a lawsuit against Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre for how shabbily the God of Pop has been treated.
After all these fits and starts, later today we’re finally supposed to Skype with the man himself (and his mother), which we’re very much looking forward to. But there’s so much background material to go through to understand what’s going on, we thought we’d write an initial story for today about just who is Kuba Ka for those of you who may not have heard of this entertainment superstar who was poised, he says, to become the next “messiah” and celebrity face of the Church of Scientology until it all went wrong.
According to his website, Kuba Ka is descended from Alexander the Great, is Egyptian and Italian, and is an Egyptian god who is also Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. And, until earlier this week, a Scientologist. But he’s also a Polish guy named Jakub Stepniak who was not unknown in his native country, where he’s still remembered with some fondness as a smiling skinny kid on the make.
There’s a lot of nonsense about Stepniak online but we were happy to find a serious interview by Polish journalist Boris Kossakowski that was dated August 31, 2015.
Kossakowski explained that Stepniak was from Gdansk, Poland, and began making a name for himself in 2000, organizing charity concerts to benefit stray dogs and cats. But that run of publicity ended in 2004, and Stepniak told Kossakowski, “I still feel pain. I cannot accept what happened in Poland.”
And what did happen? Kossakowski asked, suggesting that Stepniak’s disappearance from the scene had been something of a mystery. Stepniak explained that he had been inspired in part by Poland’s first lady at the time, attorney Jolanta Kwaśniewska, who, he said, had helped support his efforts. But then, he claimed, she had forced him to cancel a Christmas 2004 charity concert because it had conflicted with one of her own events. She then supposedly told him, “You have no place in show business.”
That incident was so traumatizing, Stepniak said, he suffered from PTSD for years afterwards. In 2007, he moved to the US and tried to start over, focusing on getting his body into shape. “To be honest, I still do not feel comfortable with myself,” he said. “I am constantly struggling with PTSD — fitness allows me not to invest energy in sadness, anger and depression.”
Kossakowski asked him where the idea of declaring himself “God of Pop” had come from. Stepniak replied that it had come from a conversation with Frank DiLeo, who had been Michael Jackson’s manager.
“It was like this. We were sitting with Frank DiLeo in the hotel. He said, ‘Kuba, I will make you a god.’ I liked it,” he said. Unfortunately for Stepniak, in 2011 DiLeo died after that conversation, but most of the marketing of Kuba Ka tends to begin with the idea that he was chosen by DiLeo to be his next great project after Jackson, who had died in 2009.
“Frank had great tastes: Chains, leather, royal style,” Stepniak said, which has inspired him to wear lots of Versace ever since.
His other great influence, he told Kossakowski, was Caitlyn Jenner, whom he found to be an inspiration. He also told Kossakowski that he was troubled by some of the reactions he was seeing back in Poland to his pop star transformation, but he hoped his native country could come to embrace him again.
“The Polish Internet is awful. People even say that I changed the color of my skin! It’s absurd. It hurts me so much. They do not understand why I’m changing. They do not understand what my art work is about myself. I believe that Poland will someday be proud of me – people will see my music videos and change their minds. This is my cry of freedom. I lived many years in fear, in silence. Now I have decided to live in love. The previous decade was a decade of fear: World Trade Center, George Bush. And now is the era of love, the Caitlyn Jenner era!”
Vikki Lizzi tells us that she met and got to know Kuba Ka in 2011, which was also a year of tragedy in her life, the death of her boyfriend, Grease actor Jeff Conaway. And while she tried to recover from that blow, she did what she could to guide her new friend in Hollywood.
“He’s a little bit innocent, and very naive. When I first met him several years ago, he knew nothing about this town, and I had to guide him through every manager, every PR company, every label. It was always the same thing — they would take advantage of him,” she says.
Vikki — whose birth name is Victoria Spinoza — could be seen out with Kuba at various events as he developed his image and put out music.
Conaway had his own history with Scientology, and it left her wary, Vikki says. So when Kuba first got involved with it about six months ago, she says he tried to hide it from her.
“He knew how I felt about certain things. He knew I was going to advise against it,” she says. “But this was something Kuba really had his sights set on. I decided to be open and give it a shot with them.”
As his March birthday neared, Kuba wanted to put on a major event at the Celebrity Centre that would be something of a coming out for him. “They were grooming him to be their new messiah. They were grooming him to be their new Tom Cruise,” Vikki says.
Scheduled for March 28, the event would raise money for charity, and it would be styled as an ancient Egyptian masquerade. (Here’s video of Kuba Ka announcing the event on March 5, saying that it would benefit Syrian refugees. “It’s a very special moment in the history of the world.” You can also hear Kuba say that it will be his 26th birthday. At least one Polish publication, however, listed him as being 29 years old in 2015, which would have him turning 31 now.) The party was going to be hugely expensive, and Vikki says they had spent months getting the details right and using her connections to get major figures to commit to being there, including royalty.
During that period of planning, however, Vikki says she became increasingly concerned by some of the requests being made by Scientology officials. “They wanted him to move to the Celebrity Centre. It was something they kept on and on about,” she says. They also wanted him to turn over medical records, she claims, and they wanted him to meet privately with John Travolta.
“They wanted him to meet John Travolta in a secret room. Kuba said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that’,” she says.
Another problem arose when Kuba said he wanted the charity ball to benefit a children’s hospital, and that he wanted some of the ill children to attend the event and watch him perform.
“When Kuba brought up the idea to bring the children, the looks on their faces. Why would you want to do that? they said.”
On Monday night at a meeting, she says, they were informed by the Celebrity Centre executives that the event was cancelled — just over a week before it was scheduled to happen.
The news was devastating for Kuba, who had to be hospitalized, she says. And after spending several days trying to find a last-minute replacement venue, late last night Patrick Stepniak issued a statement that the event has been postponed. (We sent a message to Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw asking for a statement about why the Celebrity Centre canceled the event. We’ll add her response here if she sends one.)
“This has now cost so much money. And it’s created severe emotional distress for Kuba and Michael,” she says, referring to MJ Powers, another associate in the “Kuba Ka Empire.”
On Tuesday, Kuba decided to return all of the books and materials that the Church of Scientology had sent him during his six months of involvement. “Kuba was so brokenhearted. He didn’t want anything left in his apartment to remind him of them,” Vikki says, adding that the experience was emotionally difficult.
“They were following him tonight. And they were following me. He’s really afraid tonight,” Vikki said during our late-hours phone call.
She consulted with her attorney about filing a lawsuit, saying that tens of thousands of dollars were lost because of the party cancellation, and they became even more determined to sue after the way they were treated when Kuba returned his books and they were treated rudely by security personnel.
And there’s another odd angle to the story that we’re looking forward to asking Kuba about tonight if our Skype session goes off as planned.
We told Vikki that we had been watching Scientology social media and could see that besides promoting Kuba Ka, the church has also been bringing along another new celebrity who has been trying to get more notoriety — the singer Princess Joy Villa.
Vikki tells us in fact that Kuba Ka and Joy Villa were planning to reveal their joint project — a song about human rights — at next week’s ball.
But now, Vikki says, Kuba believes that Joy was stealing ideas from him and was also writing him up in “Knowledge Reports” to Scientology’s ethics department.
Kuba even says that Joy’s big recent fame-making moment at the Grammy Awards, at which she showed up in a “Make America Great Again” dress styled on a Donald Trump campaign poster, was actually Kuba’s idea.
“He’ll tell you all about it,” Vikki says, and we can hardly wait. (We sent an email to Joy asking her to comment on her friendship with Kuba Ka, and if she gets back to us, we’ll add her comments to this story.)
In the meantime, we’ll give you some sense of what the Celebrity Centre is missing out on with this video of a previous Kuba Ka performance at a Hollywood club. Seems like the theta energy is off the charts to us.
Bart Simpson’s Past Life Emporium
Another fun chat with our friends at KABC 790 in Los Angeles…
Less than three months to go — see you in Denver!
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
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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