On Tuesday, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige invited the business and property owners of Clearwater, Florida’s Cleveland Street for an unusual private presentation at the Fort Harrison Hotel, centerpiece of the church’s Flag Land Base that takes up much of Clearwater’s downtown area.
Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times revealed that Miscavige had invited the Cleveland Street “stakeholders” to pitch them on his plans for a revitalized downtown, and he’d even brought along top Scientology celebrities John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and Kirstie Alley to bolster his pitch. (And we spotted Scientology billionaire Bob Duggan in photos of the event as well.)
Miscavige is trying to throw a wrench into the city’s $55 million, 10-year redevelopment plan it calls “Imagine Clearwater,” the city’s latest attempt to resuscitate a town that was invaded by the church (operating under a fake name) in 1975, and a downtown that has been strangled of life in the decades since by Scientology’s presence. One of the elements of that plan is a 1.4-acre parcel that an aquarium company has committed to sell to the city for $4.25 million, pending a vote by the city council next week. But Miscavige wants to derail that transaction, offering not only $15 million for the parcel, but also promising to spend some $8 million for new facades on the buildings along Cleveland Street.
Based on what one of those Cleveland Street business owners, Leif Oskarsson, told us yesterday, Miscavige was clever to pit those stakeholders against the city’s plan. We don’t know, however, if that will be enough to derail next week’s vote.
Anyway, at some point yesterday, we realized that there was one Cleveland Street business owner we hadn’t noticed in any of the reporting or photographs of the event, and so we gave him a call.
Lucky Anchor pub owner Clay Irwin seemed to know why we were calling.
“I wasn’t invited,” he said. “And I’m hot. I’m really unhappy about it.”
If there’s someone who symbolizes the city’s struggle to revitalize itself despite the presence of the Church of Scientology, it might be Clay Irwin. In December, he opened his pub on Cleveland Street and talked optimistically about bringing life back to the downtown district — and with the involvement of the church. On his Facebook page, Irwin posted photos of Scientology workers visiting his bar like they were all fraternity brothers. And he’s told us that he was happy to be in the church’s shadow and didn’t perceive any problem with them.
But that was before the trouble started.
The last time we told you about Irwin, he’d caused a stir when one of his bar guests, a construction worker, offered to take him on a tour of the Tom Cruise double-penthouse being constructed down the street. Irwin broadcast his visit to the unfinished penthouse on a live Facebook stream, which one of our readers then shared with us a few days later.
Within about an hour after we posted the video, Irwin was visited by a church representative who demanded that he take the video down from the Internet.
And now, a few weeks later, he was conspicuously left off the invite list for David Miscavige’s big celeb party at the Fort Harrison Hotel, during which the church leader revealed plans for giving facelifts to businesses that would presumably include Irwin’s Lucky Anchor bar.
“I know what they’re all about now,” he told us during our phone call yesterday, sounding decidedly different about Scientology than he has in our previous conversations.
But wasn’t he excited about the prospect of Scientology paying to give his business a facelift?
“I’ll take them to court before I let that happen,” he said, insisting that he likes the way his bar looks now.
“I had the whole city government in here yesterday. The mayor, everybody,” he said, and he talks about having a good relationship with his landlord, implying that he’s there for the duration, even if he’s now no longer such a happy neighbor of the Church of Scientology.
Hey, Clearwater residents. If you’d like to see the city stand up against David Miscavige and his attempt to scuttle the city’s development plans, you could do worse than to stop in at the Lucky Anchor and support Clay Irwin by buying a beer.
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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, 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