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Robert Vaughn Young on L. Ron Hubbard’s final days — another ‘Secret Lives’ video outtake

Robert_Vaughn_Young2Robert Vaughn Young was a national spokesman for Scientology, and he had the unenviable task of editing L. Ron Hubbard’s ten-part science fiction mess Mission Earth, which came out between 1985 and 1987. (Hubbard died in January 1986).

RVY, as he was known, left Scientology in 1989, and eight years later he was featured in the excellent Channel 4 documentary, Secret Lives — L. Ron Hubbard. For several weeks now, we’ve been bringing you original footage and outtakes from the documentary for the very first time. And today, we have Robert Vaughn Young, talking primarily about Hubbard’s final days.

Previous segments that we’ve released from the Secret Lives files have featured Hubbard’s literary agent, Forrest Ackerman, his press assistant and lover, Barbara Klowden, one of Hubbard’s fellow science fiction colleagues, Arthur Jean Cox, the former mayor of Clearwater, Florida, Gabe Cazares, Hubbard’s former medical officer, Jim Dincalci, archivist Gerry Armstrong, former Los Angeles Times reporter and postwar Hubbard roommate, Nieson Himmel, and Washington State Representative Robert MacDonald Ford, who knew Hubbard and his first wife well.

The Secret Lives interviewer wants to hear about Hubbard’s final week at his hiding place on a ranch in Creston, California. RVY describes a broken man who was afraid of the world, and who had retreated into his place of seclusion.

“He was a storyteller caught up in his own stories,” Young says. “He was frightened to meet people…He was disappearing down into this world he had created.”

Young says that Hubbard was hiding and disheveled, and he compares the aging writer to Howard Hughes. At the ranch with him were Pat Broeker and his wife Annie, Hubbard’s physician, Gene Denk, and a ranch caretaker, Steve “Sarge” Pfauth.


Young relates an anecdote that Denk went gambling in Reno when Hubbard had his final stroke, and the doctor had to come rushing back to treat him. Young says that Hubbard’s mind had already been deteriorating, and after the stroke he was completely debilitated. But the day before he died, Hubbard supposedly signed a new will. “The coroner was wondering, was he even capable of understanding that last will?” Young asks.

Hubbard had been taking a psychiatric drug, Vistaril, for anxiety, which was pretty scandalous for an organization that hates psychiatry and its pharmaceuticals so much. But that was just one of the things that had to be covered over about Hubbard’s death for the Scientology membership.

RVY says death caught Hubbard by surprise. “In my opinion Hubbard never believed he would die. He just thought he could beat it all the way.”

The last thing Scientology could have, he added, was for Hubbard to be mortal. So the story was told that he’d voluntarily left his body to do research in another part of the galaxy. “They had to portray this man as in control of his life.”

Let us know what you find most interesting or startling about RVY’s description of Hubbard and his final days.


One additional note. Before he died of cancer in 2003, RVY worked on an epic affidavit which helped Lawrence Wollersheim finally win his thin dimes. If you’re not sure what we mean, you might look at our very lengthy 2008 story about the Wollersheim saga and the part Robert Vaughn Young played in it.

UPDATE: And another additional note. Robert Vaughn Young was a very knowledgeable expert about Scientology and his involvement in it. The interviewer here, however, keeps asking him about things he knows only second hand. More recently, we have better information about Hubbard’s final days from a direct eyewitness. Lawrence Wright’s interview in his book Going Clear of Sarge Pfauth is illuminating, but the really definitive version, we feel, is Marty Rathbun’s lengthy discussion with Pfauth in his book, Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior.


Travolta in Clearwater — reporters, here’s your chance!

Since Alex Gibney’s movie Going Clear aired on HBO for the first time Sunday, there’s been a lot of press coverage of it and questions about how the media might treat Scientology’s celebrities in the future.

Well, we now know about an opportunity for reporters to ask John Travolta about the movie, and it’s right in Scientology’s spiritual headquarters, Clearwater, Florida!

On April 18, he’ll be at the premiere of his new movie, The Forger, at Clearwater’s Capitol Theater. Early indications suggest that the movie might not be any great shakes, but we’d like to see some reporters get a good question or two to Scientology’s favorite Qantas spokesman!


Warren Olney tackles Scientology

Speaking of fun, it was a thrill for this native Angeleno to appear on KCRW (our favorite radio station ever) on Which Way LA?, the show of the legendary Warren Olney. He had us on with Tom DeVocht and Kim Masters as we talked about Going Clear. If you’d like to hear it follow this link. Near the end of the segment, we think we landed a pretty good one about the IRS.


To our Canadian friends, some news about Going Clear

It looks like Canada’s unfavorable libel laws are not going to keep Alex Gibney’s film out of that country (even if you still can’t buy Larry Wright’s book that it’s based on there). The documentary will apparently debut at the TIFF Bell Lightbox theater in Toronto on May 8. You lucky Canucks!


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Seems legit.


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


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 2, 2015 at 07:35

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 cover to cover with the help of LA 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

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
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


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