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That time Scientology’s Sea Org grunts donned cut-offs and bikinis to fake out L. Ron Hubbard

Gary_Morehead

 
So much has happened since we returned from the last leg of our book tour that we’ve hardly had a chance to look back on the really remarkable things that took place during our trip to places like Minneapolis and Vancouver, BC.

In Seattle, we had a real treat meeting Gary Morehead for the first time. Known under his code name “Jackson” during his Scientology days, Gary was the chief of security at the Gold Base for nearly all of the period between 1982 and 1997, and he has told some amazing tales of those days. But he saved a really wild one for us when we sat down with him for a meal before our talk at Razzi’s Pizzeria on September 28.

It involved, of all things, Steve Wozniak’s “US Festival,” the massive outdoor music party the Apple inventor threw for himself in Southern California over the Labor Day weekend in 1982.

Your proprietor was fortunate enough to attend the first day of the second US Festival, over Memorial Day in 1983. So we have some sense of the truly incredible sprawl of the scene when Woz shelled out huge money to bring together an astounding slate of acts for his two festivals. Wozniak estimates that he lost about $15 million for the two parties he threw for a combined total of about a million music fans. Music writers say that it’s a shame the festivals have largely been forgotten; they were remarkably trouble-free and anticipated the festival scene that would emerge with Coachella and Lollapalooza years later. Just look at this lineup for the 1982 show…

Friday: Gang of Four, The Ramones, The English Beat, Oingo Boingo, The B-52s, Talking Heads, The Police

Saturday: Dave Edmunds, Eddie Money, Santana, The Cars, The Kinks, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Sunday: The Grateful Dead, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hoyt Axton, Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac

 
USFest

 
The concerts took place at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino, which is about 45 miles north of Gold Base, also known as Int Base or Int to the Sea Organization workers who lived there.

Gary reminded us that L. Ron Hubbard’s vaunted return to science fiction, the publication of Battlefield Earth, was also happening around that time. And he was part of a quirky mission that someone at Gold Base had dreamed up. Gary was part of a group of Sea Org workers from the base who went to the first US festival to man a booth to promote Hubbard’s new book.

Sinar Parman and Mark Fisher also went, and corroborated what Gary remembered. Two days before the festival itself started, they set up a big tent for Author Services, Inc., which was one of the new corporate entities set up after Hubbard went into permanent seclusion in February, 1980. ASI was created to be Hubbard’s literary agency, and it wanted to get some attention for Hubbard’s 1,050-page space saga.

In the center of the tent stood a scale model of the villain Terl — all 10 feet of him — and he was chained between two walls. (It was Gary’s job to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn’t fall over and hurt someone.) The other workers in the booth were dressed in kilts, like Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and his fellow rebels. Chick Corea was there as well, performing songs from the Space Jazz album, which had been recorded specifically to be played as a soundtrack to the book. Here’s how one publication described it at the time:

Those who stopped to ask what the fuck an otherwise respectable jazz man like Corea was doing shilling for a bad Sci Fi author, plinking out loud, raspy monophonic computer tones while standing in front of a very tasteful ten-foot-tall replica of a Psychlo chained between two walls, well, those people were blocked by — er, greeted by — booth attendees dressed up like kilted Scotsmen with rayguns stuck in their immodestly large sporrans.

Fisher tells us that, in fact, the music did have an odd quality to it. “The Gold musicians had a computerized synth that was new. It was before the Synclavier. I can’t remember the name of it. It made music sound stupid in my opinon, but Hubbard loved it.”

We found a few other press accounts of the festival that mention Scientology’s bizarre booth and its giant manacled Psychlo. But none of the press stories include the wild coda to the tale, which Gary told us about.

After they got back to the base, Gary says, they learned that one of the guys in charge of getting publicity photos of the event — one of the main reasons for doing it — had failed to do his job.

“He was too busy during the festival getting laid,” Gary told us with a laugh.

Norman Starkey, one of the leaders at ASI, was livid. So he ordered Gary and the others to set up the tent again, as well as the Terl figure, but this time on the property of the base itself.

If they had failed to get the photos of music fans at the US Festival looking entertained at Scientology’s tent, then they’d just have to make it happen back at Gold Base, they were told.

Fisher remembers it as well. “The publicity photos had to be sent up to LRH. So they had to fake them,” he says.

“It took a couple of weeks to do it,” Gary adds. “The whole base was down there, and we’d be up all night.”

So the workers at Scientology’s Gold Base re-created the US Festival to fool Hubbard, who was in permanent hiding, and whose location none of them knew. The tent and Terl were set up, the musicians played music (but without Corea), and the kilted characters waved their rayguns.

But to make the scene complete, they needed to recreate the festival crowds. Base workers had to ditch their regular Sea Org uniforms and put on shorts, T-shirts, and, for the women, bikinis.

“I didn’t mind it, because there were these women at the base who were drop-dead gorgeous, and they were running around in these bikinis. Wow!” Gary says.

The guy who had screwed up at the actual festival now had to get convincing photos that would look believable to Hubbard. Gary says the photographer got up on a tall ladder, had the fake music fans swarm around, and then he’d yell “freeze!” to get everyone to hold still as he snapped photos.

“The problem was, some of them actually looked like they were holding still,” Gary says with a laugh. He says many other shots were taken that were closeups of individual “festival goers.”

“There were photos of Terl, of music fans holding rayguns on him, people showing curiosity in Terl. And there were pictures with the musicians,” he says. “The whole base was there because we needed the bodies. And because we needed different faces. You couldn’t use the same people over and over again.”

Gary says they got to see the photos, but he doesn’t know if they were ever shown to the public. “I rarely left the base, so I don’t know if they were ever actually used for publicity.”

We sure would love to see them. If they’re still in the vaults at ASI, that may be a tough proposition. But maybe there’s someone out there with copies. We sure would love to see Terl and those Sea Org drudges prancing around like they were footloose festival goers!

Hey, wait. Could this be the US Festival Terl?

 
Terl

 
This full-size Terl was apparently donated by Hubbard fan Edward Marsh as part of the $2.25 million science fiction collection he donated to San Diego State University a couple of years ago. Could it be the same monster psychlo? We suppose it’s more likely it was a prop made for promotion of the 2000 movie version of Battlefield Earth. We’ll try to find out, when we have a minute.

Scientology. It’s always weirder than you think.

 
UPDATE 1: Our own “Techie” fills us in on the synth device whose name Mark Fisher had a hard time remembering: “The sampler Mark is talking about was the Fairlight. With a pitiful 24K sample rate and old ratty converters it truly sounded awful, but you could sample a lion’s roar or a lamb’s bleat and play them as notes. Unfortunately they both sound almost alike, the main thing you hear is the low resolution Fairlight sound. It was featured in the background on the famously unlistenable “Windsplitter” song from the Space Jazz album. I can be considered a primary source on this, the Fairlight was one of the pieces of equipment I was in charge of maintaining as Studio II Technician on the Gold Base.”

UPDATE 2: Since the festival lineup seems to be generating some discussion, here’s the day one slate for the second event, on Memorial Day 1983, that your proprietor attended: Berlin, Divinyls, INXS, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, Missing Persons, The English Beat, A Flock of Seagulls, Stray Cats, Men at Work, and The Clash. It would be the final appearance of Stan Ridgway with Wall of Voodoo, and Mick Jones with The Clash, and we were very glad we went.

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

 
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 25: Melbourne, The Wheeler Centre, 3 pm, free but reservations recommended (with Steve Cannane)

Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth, Collins Street Centre, Collins St and Shaftesbury St, South Perth, 7 pm

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on October 12, 2015 at 07:15

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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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