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As Scientology coverage blows up, get ready for major network attention on Clearwater

[Clearwater tavernkeeper Clay Irwin, with local friend]

Interest in Scientology is really boiling over, as you’ve probably noticed. We’re hearing from producers and journalists about investigations and programs about Scientology going into development at a stupendous rate. It’s almost overwhelming.

And some of that attention is definitely focused on Clearwater, Florida where we’ve been saying for a while a showdown of sorts has been building. Even the Los Angeles Times, which has shown such little interest in Scientology’s controversies in its own backyard, published a piece by Tampa-based freelancer Les Neuhaus yesterday about the recent land sale that caused reverberations throughout Pinellas County.

And more national attention is heading Clearwater’s way. The land sale — which pitted the Church of Scientology against the Clearwater Marine Aquarium over a 1.4-acre parcel that the city purchased from the aquarium as part of a $55-million redevelopment plan — is exactly the kind of thing that the mainstream media can sink its teeth into. It has conflict — the church offered $15 million for the small parcel, but the aquarium wouldn’t budge and sold it to the city for $4.25 million as it had promised — and it also has lots of public records, as well as politicians and other figures willing to go on the record.

And that’s an enticing combo for big league press, which shies away from more sordid stuff about familial smears, parental alienation, courtroom rancor, and the other stuff we tend to wallow in here.

The Clearwater kerfuffle is safer, but it also has some irresistible drama. In the wake of the land sale, Scientology leader David Miscavige expressed his dissatisfaction with being shut out with a couple of nasty stabs at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and then, reportedly, took a measure of revenge by ordering Sea Org members to stop patronizing local businesses. We’ve heard from several local residents that at the same time, a surprising number of homeless suddenly appeared downtown, more than anyone has seen for years, and the timing seemed suspect.


There’s also the juicy little detail about Tom Cruise planning to move into a double penthouse right smack in the middle of the Scientology footprint, a revelation you heard here first.

And amid all of this swirling drama, there’s an unlikely figure who is getting more and more attention for being in the eye of the storm: Tavernkeeper Clay Irwin, who seemingly had no idea what he was walking into when he started up an Irish pub, the Lucky Anchor, on Cleveland Street at the beginning of the year.

We’ve written about Clay’s hilarious impromptu tour of Cruise’s unfinished palace. And how he was subsequently snubbed when Miscavige invited Cleveland Street business and property owners to hobnob with Scientology celebs John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Kelly Preston. (Though Irwin gained some measure of satisfaction when he ran into Preston while walking around town, as can be seen in the photo above.)

Irwin has now posted on his Facebook page that he’s in great demand from the networks, which are apparently digging into the Clearwater story. Last Thursday he was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt for Dateline, and ABC is knocking on his door next. But what he didn’t say on Facebook was that his rising press stardom has Scientology in something of a panic.

“A half hour before the NBC interview, they called me, trying to get me to cancel it,” he told us in a phone call yesterday. How, we wondered, did Scientology think it could convince him to spurn Dateline at such a late hour?

“They offered to send the celebrities to my bar so I could get some attention for it,” he said.

Irwin turned them down.

And this is what it has come to. In its spiritual mecca, Scientology’s once-legendary slate of celebrities aren’t glamorous enough to charm a bar owner out of his big chance for network exposure.

Wow, that’s gotta hurt.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Joy Villa continues her star turn as Scientology’s sudden celebrity. In this photo, she’s with her “stylish friends,” she says. On the left in the photo is a man named Zoltan Torteli, and more about him in a moment. But on the right, well that’s Arthur Ehrlich. You might remember him from a photo his mother posted when she said she was sending him away to Scientology’s Sea Org at only 16. But he didn’t go after all. And he’s popped up from time to time on various Scientology accounts. When we see him, we remember Aaron Smith-Levin breaking down on Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath as he talked about losing his twin brother, Collin. Arthur is Collin’s son, and he has no contact with his uncle, Aaron. We can’t help wondering if Joy Villa has any clue about this at all.


Here’s another shot of Zoltan Torteli, with his certificates for the L10, L11, and L12 Rundowns. According to a 2010 price list, L10 costs a minimum of $42,000 in auditing (and can cost much more), and L11 and L12 cost minimums of $23,250 in auditing each. That’s at least $88,500 and probably much more just for auditing, plus the many weeks of accommodation at the Flag Land Base and numerous other costs for security interrogations, etc. And for what? Repetitive questioning with gems like these…

Have you ever done a family member in?
Have you ever brutalized another with sex?
Are you best left alone?
Are women stupid?
Do you have a secret desire to annihilate the opposite sex?
Are you spied on?
How powerful do you have to be to be successful?
Are other people necessary?
Have you squashed a thetan out of existence?
Is life worth living?
Are you facing eternity with lack of hope?
Is there hope for man?

We know, we know: Scientologists are very smart people who simply want to help their fellow man. And then there’s this guy.




Countdown to Denver!


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center. Go here to start making your plans.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,767 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,524 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,870 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,364 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,404 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,116 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 642 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,731 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,871 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,191 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,166 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 522 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,824 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 931 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,333 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,206 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 787 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,292 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,536 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,645 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 31, 2017 at 07:00

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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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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