SUPPORT THE UNDERGROUND BUNKER
You can either make a one-time donation to the site via Paypal...

...or you can subscribe and get billed monthly:

FOLLOW ME ON
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR
E-MAIL LIST
To join our e-mail list & get daily updates on new stories, e-mail us at newstory@tonyortega.org.
RSS Feed
Click here to add The Underground Bunker to your RSS Reader

LIVE OVER CLEARWATER: Watching Scientology from an Eye in the Sky

HelicopterApocalypseA helicopter just lifted off carrying former Church of Scientology members Mike Bennitt and Mike Rinder, who are headed for downtown Clearwater to film and report on Scientology’s big Super Power Building opening today.

Bennitt’s carrying a couple of different cameras for filming and still shots, and after they touch down in a couple of hours, we’ll start posting images here that he brings back.

In the mean time, we’ve asked Rinder to send us live updates of how the shoot is going, and give us his impression of how many Scientologists are actually in the streets for this event. This should be fun!

Bennitt is a man of means who has suddenly come on the scene in the last few months. He was in New Braunfels, Texas to film a couple of the hearings in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit, and he was with us in Tampa for the Garcia lawsuit hearing in October. And now he’s rented a helicopter to cover today’s 1 pm grand opening of the Super Power Building.

Rinder is Scientology’s top former spokesman, and he lives near Clearwater. At his blog yesterday Rinder gave us more detail about what the new “Golden Age of Technology Phase II” is about. Now that we’ve plowed through the lingo, our impression is that Scientology leader David Miscavige has done for the Bridge — Scientology’s courses and their manuals — what he did for L. Ron Hubbard’s books a few years ago. In 2007, Miscavige announced that he had republished Hubbard’s “Basics” after cleaning them up and putting them in glossy new packaging. Church members were then pressured to purchase multiple sets of the books and lectures, at $3,000 per set.

Now, according to Rinder, Miscavige has done something similar with course materials that govern Scientology’s many classes and levels that a member goes through on the “Bridge to Total Freedom,” and specifically for training to become an auditor.

“Apparently, if you tweak a checksheet and make a new course pack cover, it’s a ‘brand new’ course. Of course it also means they have to be bought. Can’t use anything ‘old.’ Every org, every student. Lot of cash going to be rolling in,” Rinder writes.

But how many people have rolled into town for today’s big event? After 15 years, the Super Power Building is finally opening up. Way back in January 2012 while at the Village Voice we leaked the full set of schematics and renderings for the entire seven-floor building. If you haven’t already taken the virtual tour there, you really should.

We’ve noticed that some newspapers are reporting Scientology’s hilarious claim that this city-block-sized monster cost $45 million to build. As the Tampa Bay Times has pointed out, they believe the church raised more like $145 million for it. And we think that’s too conservative. Our sources have convinced us that at least $200 million was raised for the Super Power Building, and that’s the figure we use.

Well, we’re looking forward to hearing from Bennitt and Rinder. And as we get reports from them, we’ll post them in the live updates below.

 
MikesHeli

 
——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on November 17, 2013 at 12:30

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

 

LIVE UPDATES WILL APPEAR BELOW HERE

12:39 pm

Here comes photo #1 from Rinder…

Clearwater OH0
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:45 pm

Just heard from Mark Bunker, who is on the scene — he sees the helicopter! He had no idea it had Rinder and Bennitt in it.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:46 pm

Rinder: “Crowd looks to me to be about 2,500 to 3,000. Ain’t 10,000 by any measure, unless you’re guzzling Kool-Aid. More people are arriving, though. Another chopper just showed up.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:47 pm

Here comes photo #2…

ClearwaterOH1
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:49 pm

Just heard from Brandon Ogborn. He pointed out that Bert Fields not only showed up and enjoyed The TomKat Project, but he led the standing ovation at the end!
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:53 pm

Photo #3 from Rinder…

ClearwaterOH2
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:55 pm

Just heard from Bunker. He says the two helicopters are LOUD. Is Miscavige going to have a hard time being heard?
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:56 pm

Another photo from Rinder…

ClearwaterOH3
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:57 pm

Rinder: “The other chopper is the ‘official’ one for church photographers, and they’re telling us that speakers are going to be talking at 1:00 pm. We are ‘advised’ to pull off for 15 minutes. We will then have unimpeded airspace.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
12:58 pm

Rinder: “At 12:55 my estimate is no more than 5,000 people, but someone can more accurately estimate when our high-definition zoom shots are available.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:04 pm

I asked Rinder if they were going to pull away as the church asked: “No way. New chopper now added.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:06 pm

Rinder: “Miscavige is talking.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:07 pm

Next photo from Rinder…

ClearwaterOH4
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:08 pm

Says Rinder: “Ribbon just cut. Nobody appears injured by falling bunting.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:10 pm

Rinder: “Front row whales being let in. Everyone else has to wait.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:11 pm

Nice full shot of the crowd…

ClearwaterOH5
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:11 pm

Rinder: “Plebes now being let in.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:12 pm

Rinder: “Sea Org members heading back to the salt mines.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:15 pm

The guys are heading back. Once Mike Bennitt has a chance, he’ll be sending us hi-def photos and VIDEO. We’ll get those up as soon as we can!

Woo-hoo! Thank you Mike Bennitt and Mike Rinder!
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:19 pm

Meanwhile, this is what it was like on the ground for Mark Bunker, who was kept far away from the event…

ClearwaterBunker
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:29 pm

We asked Rinder if the extreme brevity of the ceremony had something to do with the noise from the helicopters. “I hope so. More likely because Miscavige was afraid of being recorded. Plus he already spent 2 hours talking about it last night!”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
1:48 pm

Just sayin’…

TBTvTUB
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
2:23 pm

Hey, I just noticed something looking at the photos again — did the church pull down the street signals after all? UPDATE: No, it looks like all signal poles are accounted for.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
2:47 pm

Gentle ribbing aside, our regular readers know how much we hold the Tampa Bay Times in high esteem.

And this is rotten. An hour and a half after the event, Charlie Frago still can’t get near the Super Power Building.

Let our man in Clearwater in!

Frago1
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:06 pm

Here’s the corner I’m talking about, the SE corner of Ft. Harrison and Pierce. You can see the air bridge below. This is a Google satellite view. So it looks like they took out a palm tree, but I’m wondering about the light pole as well. I don’t see it in our helicopter shots. Just wondering. May not be a big deal.

FtHarrisonPierce
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:21 pm

Childs and Frago are saying Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston were there today.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:26 pm

The funny thing is, shouldn’t the Tampa Bay Times also report that former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder flew in a helicopter today to take photos of the event, and that his presence and the noise it created might have shortened the event? I mean, isn’t that news, guys?
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:34 pm

VIDEO COMING SOON…
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:46 pm

Ha. Rinder just pointed out something to me from the TB Times lede today: “Actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston joined hundreds of other Scientologists today as a massive building church members call their ‘cathedral’ was dedicated in downtown Clearwater.”
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
3:55 pm

I want to put Jefferson Hawkins’ comment here so everyone can see it. Hawkins was once the top marketing man for Scientology and knows what he’s talking about, especially about events.

Epic Fail doesn’t even begin to cover it. That the “fastest growing religion in the world” with “millions of members” was only able to muster up 3000 people for “the most important event in the history of the galaxy” says it all. And probably half of those are staff and student trainees who were already there. They have been claiming for years that there are “10,000 Scientologists in Clearwater.” Guess they all stayed home.

Then, Mike Rinder shows up in a freakin’ helicopter! The pathetic turnout is going to be filmed for all to see! So Miscavige panics. He cuts short what was probably going to be a one hour Dan Sherman special, axes any other speakers, cuts to the ribbon ceremony, and rabbits out of there in eight minutes flat!

Now you can bet he’s hunkered down in his office, screaming at everyone, RPFing a number of people, and beating on others. His big moment, opening the Superpower building after a 15-year buildup, has turned into a stinking disaster! I would really hate to be anywhere in his vicinity right now, and I’m sure his staff are thinking the same thing about now.

There is no way it was planned to be only eight minutes. No way.

Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
4:11 pm

Some more details from Rinder: we asked if he’d felt all right with all that activity in the chopper. He said he’d felt fine — he’s been on a lot of helicopter rides.

He said that when the second helicopter showed up, his pilot had radioed to ask what its plans were. And got no response. He tried again. Nothing. Finally, the other helicopter radioed back, saying that it was working for the church, would circle at 750 feet, and wanted Rinder’s pilot to know that speakers were talking at 1 pm. They asked Rinder’s pilot to move away for 15 minutes.

Rinder’s pilot asked, “Are we moving anywhere?”

Rinder then answered with a choice Anglo-Saxon curse word. They didn’t budge.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
4:26 pm

Just heard from Bennitt. Hopefully getting that video link soon, plus high-resolution photos.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
4:42 pm

And here’s the video.

Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
4:50 pm

Busted…

Extras

Our tipster says this was very close to the Super Power Building.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
5:08 pm

And until something clearer emerges, here’s what it sounded like from the position of one of our tipsters on the ground. You can hear the helicopters!

Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]
7:08 pm

Mike Bennitt has his photos up at his Flickr account, you can see them here.
Share Button
[Twitter] [Facebook] [Google Plus] [Pinterest] [Digg] [Reddit]

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email