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A Scientology untold history special report: ‘My lunch with Quentin Hubbard’

Quentin_HubbardOur own TheHoleDoesNotExist, a longtime contributor to the Bunker community, hostess to a special 2013 party in Clearwater, and also the impresario behind the Bunker’s theme song, surprised us by sending in a story she hasn’t shared publicly in its entirety before.

THDNE was interviewed by Lawrence Wright for his epic 2013 history of Scientology, Going Clear, for what turned out to be a very brief mention in the book. Over pages 128 to 134, Wright describes the troubled life of Quentin Hubbard, son of Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. Wright explains that Hubbard wanted his son to help take over management of the church from him, but Quentin himself had dreams of being a pilot.

In 1974, Quentin had attempted suicide and then had served a stint in Scientology’s prison detail, the RPF. In 1976, Quentin made a break for freedom, leaving behind a note about UFOs and saying he was headed for Nevada’s Area 51 after “blowing” from Scientology’s Clearwater, Florida base. His mother, Mary Sue, sent out hundreds of Guardian’s Office operatives to look for him. But Quentin, on his way west, stopped in St. Louis to have a memorable lunch to talk about flying with someone who shared his passion. THDNE was at that lunch. We’ll let her pick up the tale. (She has changed the names of her husband and father-in-law for this telling.)

The morning of Quentin Hubbard’s visit, Rick and I showed up early for lunch at Rick’s family home near the airport and MAC, his nickname for his dad’s employer — McDonnell Douglas, which, before its merger in 1967, had been known as the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation.

MAC’s headquarters were adjacent to Lambert-St Louis Airport, so Rick’s family had settled down in the quiet town of Ferguson, just a few minutes’ drive away.


McDonnell Douglas won contracts for the Mercury and Gemini space capsule projects and some of the earlier versions of the giant Saturn V rocket. John, Rick’s dad, was Senior Reliability Engineer. He landed the job through an interview with the old man himself, James Smith McDonnell. John had the kind of job that demanded common sense, nuts and bolts smarts, and the laser focus skills required to pore over a thousand and one details a hundred times over. Besides his studies in engineering, aeronautics and astronautics, he had the background and experience to develop the unflinching toughness that was essential for every project.

John survived stints in the Army Air Corps during World War II as pilot and pilot trainer for a fleet of the notorious B26 aircraft, lovingly referred to as The Flying Prostitute because it had no visible means of support. And notorious because that flaw was actually its only positive quality until improvements evolved long after John’s tour of duty.

After the war, John worked as mechanical engineer on Gulf oil rigs where constant transfers were still required. He married and began a family of three sons, Rick being the youngest. Rick and Quentin both experienced home as a transient thing, uprooted overnight with fresh orders, waking up in unfamiliar beds in towns filled with strange faces. Rick’s family finally settled down in the St Louis area to join the MAC world of hypersonic aircraft, missiles, and the age of rockets and space capsules. John’s hobbies included professional grade photography, ravenous reading, and Lionel train sets, as well as an ever-expanding home library where science fiction claimed its own wall. Calm and cool, John was also a harsh perfectionist with many passions and fleeting interests that led him to mix with mild-mannered fanatics, and magical thinkers.

One of these diversions eventually led him to a new obsession called Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard. John had started out at “the org” in St. Louis and made it just short of the highest spiritual level at that time — “OT 3” — using up his vacation days in Los Angeles to make the grade.

And that’s how John had come to invite Quentin — one of Hubbard’s three sons — for an all day adventure at MAC followed by a languid late afternoon lunch and coffee in a dining room that they only dressed up for very special company. Quentin and Rick were close in age, and both of their dads shared many similar qualities.

I searched Quentin’s face when he wasn’t looking my way, trying to find similarities to his old man. I didn’t see any. Thirty years later I searched through an old box of photos of Rick’s dad. While some people never seem to change appearances, John morphed dramatically every decade. There was one faded snapshot, however, that startled me the moment I saw it. I almost fell off my chair. It was taken in the 70’s, the same era of that lunch date. The resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard was obvious now, but it had completely escaped me in the moment.

Which brings me to why I had a seat at that table. I had just run away from a short marriage that had made a sharp turn and crashed. His mother moved to the States and he turned into a strange creature overnight. Naturally, once free, my first move was to join a rock and roll band. When I rang up the band member in charge of auditioning the “chick singers,” Rick answered with some fast talking and a smooth line. As soon as that one hour phone call ended, I grabbed a suitcase and joined the band on the road.

In between tours and back in Missouri, Rick would suggest books for me to read. During one break from the road, I went to the Scientology org and completed what was called a Communications Course and a few other short studies. I was assured by all the friendly staff that these were tools essential for artists such as my poor self to survive in this cruel, cruel world.

Every aspect of my existence at that time was new and fresh and full of, well, just like many twenty-somethings, just full of it, so I readily agreed when Rick asked if I wanted to join in on the Quentin Hubbard lunch event. Rick always looked forward to jumping off tour to be stuffed with his mom’s indescribable cooking. Nothing fancy, although fancy and classy dinnerware and goblets were cast over the iron-pressed tablecloth that day. She laid out her best roast beef, fried chicken, biscuits, and side dishes followed by her double fudge chocolate cake, guaranteed to melt anyone’s last piece of resistance. Then, endless cups of fresh brewed coffee would appear to cap off the feast with a proper finish.

Somehow Quentin and John managed to gab on without slowing a beat in between bites and sips and swatting crumbs off the sidelines. I was looking forward to meeting Ron’s son, full of questions and curiosity about this strange new world, the “org” filled with complete strangers but friendly as family members. I expected Quentin to be just as warm and affable and I was not disappointed on that score. However, I barely got a word in edgewise the entire day and my few questions about his dad or the org were answered in as few if polite words as possible on that subject.

The subject at the lunch table that day was flying, only flying, and every aspect of flying, particularly the space program. Quentin had thrilled at some of the capsules and hardware he had seen that morning and best of all, he could barely stand still when talking about his morning flight. John knew how desperately Quentin wanted to fly, and had made it the centerpiece of the MAC tour — he would have arranged for Quentin to ride a MAC corporate jet. I did get in a question if Los Angeles was the location of the pilot school he was driving to since I knew there was a major string of orgs and units near Hollywood. I was surprised when he answered in the negative.

I’ve tried in vain to remember where he told me he was going, but I’ve always come back to thinking it was one of the small towns in central or northern California that hug the coast. When I remember Quentin’s face and expressions, I swear it seemed like the sun was shining through his eyes. I don’t care how corny that sounds because it’s not an exaggeration. It’s the best description I can muster.

The dining room table became covered with John’s photos and mementos recording every kind of flying and space program from the 20’s to the 70’s. Quentin lit up with every piece of memorabilia that had been brought up from the basement below. John filled in the details from memory, each item becoming more fascinating than the last with his storytelling. I still hear refrains of laughter building momentum, echoing down the hall through the tiny, crowded kitchen passage. The sound still lingers as the final ghost of that day, one of the secret treasures I take out to enjoy every now and then, like my memories of space launch days.

None of Rick’s other family were involved in the Hubbard experience, and they weren’t happy that he or John were either. The naysayers included his mom, Sally, but you’d never have known it from her friendly, swift appearances scurrying back and forth. She doted on Quentin like she did all her boys.

Quentin began with a helping of biscuits and honey and, from what I learned later, his usual reserved and soft speaking manners. That quickly dissolved long before dessert and coffee. His shyness in the midst of our more boisterous and quirky ways faded as his excitement and probably that second slice of double fudge cake did their magic.

Pretty soon it looked and sounded like the day after Christmas — picking over leftovers, showing off our presents, wrappings on the floor and chairs, catching up on the details of our lives in slippers and familiar old faces. I’d rarely experienced a “Norman Rockwell moment” in my life’s journey. In fact, I’ve only experienced one, and this was it. The impact of current events seems to have converged and absorbed all sense of time, hurtling me back in memory to that single day.

After Lawrence Wright and his sunny research assistant, Lauren Wolf, interviewed Rick and me for his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, I had made a futile search for any pictures of that day. Rick was hesitant in sharing too many of the details with the outside world, but now with a few pseudonyms and Wright’s book an unqualified success, it was time to tell the tale while both of us could still remember our own names.

It wasn’t until I read Lawrence Wright’s finished work in Going Clear that all the pieces seemed to fall together. In the book, I read for the first time about Quentin’s last confusing note, the one he left behind before he fled, about his plans to take off to Area 51 — and something about UFOs.

Thinking back on John’s books and talks, I saw that he and Quentin were alike in many ways. I also didn’t know that Quentin had escaped from his father’s attempts to control him by any means at his disposal, or that his mother had summoned hundreds of Scientology’s hunt-and-attack men to comb the countryside as we sat chatting and sipping cups of coffee.

Shortly after that fall day, in the very same month, Quentin Hubbard died. The coroner called it suicide, but there have always been questions about it. I didn’t know about any of it until decades later.

Notes and letters came from those who knew him well. He seemed to have had so many friends. I only knew him for a day, not as Hubbard’s son, but as a friend of the family. There are a hundred details I wish I had captured. There were no smartphones or Internet back then. Inventors could get a man on the moon, but the average person couldn’t capture much that didn’t require a dark room or a Polaroid. I wish, for example, that I remembered the name of the pilot school or exactly what type of aircraft Quentin flew in that morning. I wish I remembered every single word he said. I know those who have spoken about him in fond remembrance might be relieved to know Quentin Hubbard finally got to fly, but looking back, what I am most grateful for is
that Quentin had a few hours to just be himself; a young man sharing a special day with an almost-ordinary family. Other than Rick, it was my first day meeting all of the characters in this scene. Little did I know the impact each one would have on the rest of my life, in ways I could not even begin to fathom.

Here’s how Wright describes what happened a few days after that lunch…

Only a few days later, Las Vegas police were trying to identify a slight young man with blond hair and a reddish moustache who had been discovered comatose in a car parked on Sunset Road facing the end of the runway of McCarran Airport. He was naked. He was five feet one inch tall, and weighed just over a hundred pounds. There were no identifying marks on his body and no personal identification. The license plates had been removed. The engine of the white Pontiac was still running when he was discovered. The windows were rolled up, and a vacuum tube led from the exhaust through the passenger’s vent window. Two weeks later, on November 12, 1976, the young man died without regaining consciousness. Las Vegas police were finally able to connect the Pontiac with Quentin through a Florida smog sticker and the vehicle identification number.

An agent from the Guardian’s Office came into Hubbard’s office in La Quinta as he was having breakfast and handed him the report on Quentin’s death. “That little shit has done it to me again!” Hubbard cried.


Scientology’s big New Year’s Eve ‘surprise’ is old news

On December 27, Scientology had its New Year’s celebration at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and then last night church members at other orgs were shown video of the event so they could share in David Miscavige’s latest hyped up “surprise.” Various sources are reporting that this year’s reveal was that the KCET studios in Los Angeles is being turned into Scientology’s new media center — which isn’t a new idea at all. But the hype around it is being pumped up, which means Miscavige is going to be hitting the whales up for big donations to complete the media studios. For some thoughts on what’s going on, we turned to one of our best sources inside the church. This is the report we received…

In my experience this is the first time in Los Angeles that donations are being asked for what will clearly be a Sea Org facility. I assume they will be hitting up all the LA celebs. This is probably a stop gap to compensate for the dwindling income from orgs that are not bringing in hordes of new public.

It seems that Gold [“Gold” is the existing set of studios at the International Base near Hemet, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles] will be moved 100 percent to KCET and Hemet will be used mostly as a re-education facility. In this way they can seduce other actors and musicians into the Hollywood facility with their awesome “MEST.” They will work closely with Celebrity Centre. No actors wanted to drive out to Hemet. And as they do at Celebrity Centre they will rent out their shooting stages and facilities to anyone who has the money. One more giant ruse to make the marks think they are going to save the world.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Midnight last night at the Fort Harrison Hotel…


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Special note to our readers

A clumsy hoax email is going around this morning — it’s already been forwarded to us three separate times — which supposedly features Scientology spokeswoman Sylvia Stanard (her name misspelled as “Stannard”) complaining about church leader David Miscavige.

It bears all the marks of the bad satires by the “Thetaburst” indie group, but we don’t really know who came up with it. Please ignore it.



24 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah

11 days until our special Underground Bunker announcement at noon, January 12

Posted by Tony Ortega on January 1, 2015 at 10:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to 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.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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