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Geoffrey Lewis, 1935-2015, a consummate character actor and an OT 5 Scientologist

Geoffrey_Lewis4Geoffrey Lewis, the bucolic character actor known best for the 1970s Clint Eastwood movies he appeared in, died in his son Miles’s arms Tuesday after suffering cardiac arrest during a morning workout. He was 79 years old.

Lewis had suffered ill health and dementia for some time, but had been cared for by his children, including Miles, who posted a notice to his Facebook page Tuesday evening. “We were at our Tuesday morning workout at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills and he experienced cardiac arrest. He stopped breathing in my arms. We’d had a good morning, talking about my trip to Japan,” Miles wrote.

Geoffrey Lewis had also been a dedicated Scientologist who was the father of church member Juliette Lewis, and we’re told that Geoffrey had attained Operating Thetan Level Five on Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.” In a recent photo that Miles posted to his Facebook page, Lewis was visited by two old Scientology friends, musicians Chick Corea (left), and Geoff Levin.



We’re told that Lewis had two families. He was married from 1973 to 1975 to graphic designer Glenis Batley and they had three children, Juliette, Lightfield, and Brandy, all of whom are Scientologists.

He later married musician Paula Hochhalter and started a second family, with children Miles, Matthew, and Hannah, and none of them are Scientologists.

Here’s the full statement by Miles…

My Dad Geoffrey Lewis just died today at the age of 79.
We were at our Tuesday morning workout at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills and he experienced cardiac arrest. He stopped breathing in my arms. We’d had a good morning, talking about my trip to Japan.

He was a great actor, story-teller, and a life-time artist. He was both a classic beatnik and a family man and an extraordinary supporter of his many children (more of whom he took on so easily – like my partner Duncan Scott Scrymgeour, and our friends Caprice Conley and Phil Donlon). I’m so grateful for what I’ve gotten of his humor, clever sweetness, and independent-mindedness. In the past few years of dealing with his parkinsons and dementia, we were able to pull together as a family and care for him as a team. In the past week, he enjoyed a great Easter dinner, remembering old hymns with my Mother Paula Hochhalter, in the company of extended friends and relations. As his primary medical coordinator, I’d like to say that this was a quick, natural death that he – more than anyone else – hoped to be the mystic cap to such a fully-lived life.

I thank you all for your condolences, here.
There are so many who have been so good to me and my family.

We reached out to Miles and he sent us this to add to what he already said on Facebook: “He was one of the great American character actors and a brilliant voice in theatrical story-telling through his classic audio series Celestial Navigations. After studying dance and theater in New York he eventually found Hollywood success, starring in such films as The Culpepper Cattle Company, High Plains Drifter, and Every Which Way But Loose. He continued to act in television, film, and on stage through the early 2000s. While struggling with dementia and Parkinsons in his last years, he remained humorous, positive, and supportive as the grand old man of his large, local, and loving family.”

Geoffrey’s daughter Juliette expressed her grief in a poignant Instagram posting…


We asked a film industry insider to give us some thoughts about Lewis’s career. He said, “He was an absolutely rock solid character actor; always reliable, always enjoyable. Eastwood always surrounded himself with his guys — fantastic characters with great presence, and awesome faces. I can’t imagine Thunderbolt and Lightfoot or High Plains Drifter or Bronco Billy without him. If I thought being an Operating Thetan could make me as good at what I do as he was, I’d sign up tomorrow.”

Here’s a clip from High Plains Drifter featuring Lewis.


Besides his film and television acting, Lewis was also part of a group, Celestial Navigations, that put out several albums of Lewis narrating stories to music. He was apparently very fond of this piece, dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.



Reporters asking better questions of Scientology celebrities

Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear hits Scientology celebrities Tom Cruise and John Travolta very hard, and many of the millions of people who have seen the film wondered how the actors would react to it. Stories spread quickly yesterday that Travolta was asked and said he doesn’t plan to watch it. “I’ve been so happy with my (Scientology) experience in the last 40 years,” he said, “that I really don’t have anything to say that would shed light on (a documentary) so decidedly negative.”

What few noted, however, was the context in which those comments came up. Tampa Bay Times movie critic Steve Persall had called Travolta because the actor will be in Clearwater this month for the premiere of his latest movie, The Forger. And Persall didn’t waste the opportunity to ask Travolta what everyone wanted to know — his thoughts on Gibney’s film.

We’re thrilled to see Persall be so bold.

Meanwhile, Salon writer Anna Silman called us up to talk about the very same thing — what are the ground rules for reporters interviewing celebrities as far as bringing up the controversies of the church they belong to? We told her there’s nothing wrong with a reporter questioning someone like Elisabeth Moss about a group which has been accused of human rights abuses, shocking examples of child labor, decades of forced abortion, families ripped apart through political leverage, and the strange imprisoning of its own executives.

This wasn’t in her piece, but we told her we understand that entertainment reporters might be concerned about losing access if they dared to ask questions an actor didn’t like. But Persall, as a movie critic, showed how it can be done.

In her article, Silman also referred to something Lawrence Wright had told Salon earlier, which we think is exactly right: “The reason I single out Tom Cruise and other celebrities is that they have a moral responsibility to demand change inside their church — which is committing abuses and they know about it, it’s not a secret. But they’re the ones who have been selling Scientology and are responsible for people coming into the church. Some of those people have been harmed and I think it’s on them to demand change.”

We think it’s great that Silman is raising this issue in Salon, and that Persall took the initiative to ask Travolta some real questions. We hope this trend continues.

Speaking of journalists asking real questions, here’s our friend Bryan Seymour doing just that in a piece that features Tom DeVocht on Australian TV…


Meanwhile, the Australian press is picking up the story that Senator Nick Xenophon has asked the Charities Commission he helped create to consider taking away Scientology’s tax exempt status there.

Turning into a big news day. Radar has two interesting pieces. They got the latest tax return of Narconon International to show that it’s paid out about half a million in a couple of recent lawsuits, including, it looks like, about $400,000 to a “Georgia law firm.” We can imagine what that might be. (Keep in mind that might be only NI’s share, with multiple defendants.)

Also, Radar has some details from its sister publication, the National Enquirer, which is reporting that Priscilla Presley had an affair with her auditor, who they are not naming. If you know the name, drop us a line. (Just got more info and, you won’t be surprised to hear, the Enquirer has this story all wrong. Not sure we’re going to take the time to do anything about it.)


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 08, 2015 at 00:30

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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