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Ron Miscavige’s ‘Ruthless’ includes Lisa Marie Presley’s wild defection scene in Florida

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As we expected, Ron Miscavige’s book being released today, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, contains a bombshell that should send the celebrity press into a frenzy.

And we revealed it to you two weeks ago.

Ron Miscavige learned in October 2014 that his two daughters, Denise Gentile and Lori Verneuille, had cut him out of their lives permanently on orders from their brother David Miscavige, Scientology’s supreme leader. After Ron confirmed with his son-in-law that Denise (who is David’s twin) never again wanted to see him, he called Lisa Marie Presley.

The famous singer, daughter of Elvis Presley, had grown up in Scientology, but since about 2008 she’d been pulling away from the organization. She had also been talking to Ron about what he was going through since he escaped from Scientology’s International Base near Hemet, California, in 2012.

Lisa Marie was so incensed by what Ron told her about his daughters “disconnecting” from him in the Scientology way, she attempted to have a showdown of her own with David Miscavige at his Florida office. But instead of meeting with her, Miscavige sent Denise and Lori in his stead, and they proceeded to scream at Lisa Marie in an unhinged rant, making accusations about their father Ron and brother Ronnie Jr. in a bizarre scene.

“Lisa Marie’s husband told me afterward that watching Denise do her thing was like seeing Dave with a wig on blowing a gasket,” Ron writes, and he goes on to say that it was this episode, his disconnection from his daughters, that ultimately motivated him to write his book.

Shockingly, the ABC 20/20 episode about Ron and his book that aired Friday night made no mention of Lisa Marie Presley’s appearance in the book or her crucial involvement in Ron’s story. Instead, they brought on actress Leah Remini, who claimed she was the one who encouraged Ron to write his book.

Leah Remini’s name does not appear anywhere in Ruthless, not even in the acknowledgments.

There’s also very little about Tom Cruise or John Travolta in Ron Miscavige’s book; Ron didn’t really know them at all. He also says almost nothing about his missing daughter-in-law, Shelly Miscavige, who vanished in the summer of 2005 and then was seen in public only once since then, at the funeral for her father in the summer of 2007.

Ron agrees with what we’ve already written numerous times, that he believes Shelly has been living and working at the Church of Spiritual Technology headquarters — a small Scientology compound near Lake Arrowhead, California — and she might be resigned to her fate.

Ruthless may not contain major revelations about Cruise or Travolta or Kirstie Alley, but it does deliver a withering portrayal of David Miscavige, told by a father who literally had to escape from a prison-like camp in order to return to a normal life. And if he’d been left alone, he probably would not have written a book at all.

But after a year away from Scientology’s gulag, Ron learned that his son was paying $10,000 a week for two private investigators to follow him, and then he learned that his two daughters planned never again to talk to him. So he decided it was time to describe what he had seen in his more than 40 years as a follower of L. Ron Hubbard and for 27 years as an employee in Scientology’s “Sea Org” working for his own son.

“I firmly believe that Scientology has morphed into an immoral organization that hides a long list of abuses behind First Amendment protections,” he writes.

In order to make that case, Ron tells a fascinating tale about how he got from trumpet playing teenager in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania to a 76-year-old on the run from the Church of Scientology in 2012. Along the way, he not only talks about his own personal history, but also the history of Scientology as he’s been able to gather from the many people in and out of the organization that he’s known. And, most importantly, he reflects on the development of his family in that complex history, wondering about how his adorable children grew up into such troubled adults.

At one point, Ron wonders if the permissive environment of Mt. Carmel (pronounced CAR-mel) may explain some of the behavior we see in his grown kids. “So long as you did not break the law too much, you were OK. You could bend it quite a bit, though. I have carried that attitude with me my whole life, and I am certain my children absorbed some of it,” he writes. It’s observations like that which we found most useful for trying to piece together a picture of the Miscavige family and what tore it apart.

And Ron can’t spare himself from the unsavory parts of the family album. As we saw on 20/20, he has to admit to getting physical with his first wife, Loretta Gidaro, something that he says he’s not proud of. And later, he describes an attempted rape arrest that he insists was a case of mistaken identity. This is an incident that got magnified in the telling over the years, but an investigation of the original court documents by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter in 2012 tends to support Ron’s version of events.

For longtime Scientology watchers, there’s plenty that will be familiar in the book — Ron even cites authors like Janet Reitman for some of the historical background in the book — but even for oldtimers, there are some fun surprises as we learn about the life of David Miscavige from Ron’s perspective.

We knew, for example, that Ron hoped Scientology might help his son with his bad case of asthma when he first took David for auditing at 9 years old in 1969. But the details of just what they went through, particularly with some of the ways Ron had been dealing with David’s problems, were fascinating, as were details about how seriously David grabbed on to Scientology once he had been introduced to it.

David was serious and he was physically strong, if not the tallest kid around. (Ron says his son David is “at most 5-foot-4,” but David’s former tailor, Claudio Lugli, told us it was 5-foot-1, “at max.”)

At times, Ron stops his narrative to remind us that Scientology, as envisioned by founder L. Ron Hubbard, had a lot of good in it, and that the only real problem today is that his son has perverted Hubbard’s “technology” and policies. It’s at these times that we were most conscious that Ron chose to write his book with the help of Dan Koon, a former longtime Scientologist who had worked at the highest technical levels in the organization. Koon is still an “independent” Scientologist, and the views in this book are indistinguishable from what he’s posted online about how Scientology can be saved from Miscavige.

At one point, for example, after Ron has talked about his son accepting a $10,000 suit for his birthday, and paying $1,500 for a pair of shoes — what Ron made in a year as a Sea Org worker — he makes a startling admission about his son’s excesses: “To be truthful, though, I would not begrudge him any of the perks of his leadership if he had remained true to the humanitarian objectives laid out by L. Ron Hubbard.”

That statement was a little hard to swallow, coming near the end of a book that describes Scientology as a dystopia of mental torture and physical deprivations, much of which is based on policies written by Hubbard as early as the 1950s.

We’re not sure the book’s general reader will notice these passages as much as we did. But we also couldn’t help wondering how it might have read if St. Martin’s Press had paired Ron up with a co-writer with less invested in convincing the reader that Scientology was worth salvaging.

If we found those parts of the book somewhat distracting, we have to give Ron and Dan credit for their vivid portrayal of Scientology’s many current problems, particularly its toxic policy of “disconnection.” Not only did they provide numerous examples of it that Ron personally witnessed and experienced himself, but we really admire the way they handled the church’s insistence that disconnection is “voluntary”…

“Do you want to keep your job, your friends, family and your continued progress in Scientology, or do you want to keep talking to that no good son of yours who had the nerve to speak his mind about Scientology? You’re free to make your own decision!”

That’s about as good a characterization of Scientology’s Orwellian control mechanisms that we’ve run across. In the Sea Org, workers were so beaten down and completely dominated, the bars are inside their heads, as we’ve heard from so many former Scientologists. And if you dare to object or, heaven forbid, walk away, you’re in for the hell of Fair Game, Scientology’s legendary retaliation policy.

You could argue that Ron should have realized that he would be perhaps the most radioactive defector since Pat Broeker, a rival for Scientology leadership that David Miscavige had followed for 24 years by two private investigators in an operation that cost the church about $12 million. But somehow, Ron was shocked that he was being tailed by similar private eyes, whose job was to spy on him daily and send back reports to a firm out of Florida that in turn passed on their reports to Scientology headquarters in California.

And now, Ron is getting even more of the full treatment. No expense was spared by Scientology, for example, putting together more than 100 slick videos of Ron’s former colleagues in the Sea Org, who trash Ron as a lazy embarrassment and worse. ABC’s 20/20 revealed the existence of this campaign during Friday night’s show. And then this morning, emails from a dodgy source went out to many of the people who read this website, directing them to a website where all of the videos can be seen, as well as letters written by Scientologists trashing Ron’s reputation.

It’s a smear campaign that’s par for the course.

Ron, hopefully, knew that he’d be the target of such a campaign, and we assume he’s mentally prepared himself for it.

But we can’t help wondering if David Miscavige will have the strength of character to read Ron’s book and see himself from his father’s perspective. We don’t know if it would make any difference, but we hope that if he decides to give Ruthless a look, he gets all the way to the end, where his father has left a message for him.

We won’t tell you what it is. But we’ll just say it says everything about the person that Ron Miscavige is, and that so far his son has proven that he isn’t.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 3, 2016 at 00:00 GMT+1

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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