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Derek Bloch on fighting Scientology ‘disconnection’ in an unaired TV series

[Derek Bloch at HowdyCon in Denver with Cathy Schenkelberg and Willie Jones]

We first wrote about Derek Bloch at the Village Voice in 2012, and he’s been a pretty constant presence here since then. You probably know his story — that he was kicked out of the Sea Org for being gay, and then his family disconnected from him in the Scientology way.

In 2015, Derek was chosen to take part in a television series about disconnection that featured a lot of people our readers are familiar with. And for a short time we too became involved in that production, serving as a consultant for Sirens Media for about a month as the series lineup was being finalized. By the middle of 2016, the show seemed to be ready for airing on the A&E network. But then we heard about another series being filmed for the network that would feature Leah Remini.

Leah’s show was aired first, and it became a huge hit. As her show nears its second season, the Sirens Media program still hasn’t been given an airdate. We don’t know if it ever will.

Derek has decided he wants to talk about some of his experience shooting the “Disconnection” series in case it never sees the light of day. We hope that it does find an airdate at some point, but we’re also fascinated by Derek’s account and felt it deserved to be seen here.

 

——————-

 
I was standing in front of my apartment building on a crisp Wednesday morning in April of 2015. I was anxiously awaiting a phone call announcing the arrival of my ride. I had contacted a couple of my friends the day before to share my itinerary for the trip with them. Until the moment I saw a friendly face, I had no idea whether or not this was some kind of Scientology trick.

I went to a place that I hoped was far from the prying eyes of Scientology. The safehouse was not far from my home but was a necessary precaution. Surely, if Scientology got wind of the plan they would sabotage it. For the next few days, every car that I was in had tinted windows. I had to be hidden in case there were Scientology private eyes on the prowl.

The first step of the plan was figuring out which of my family members I was going to make contact with.

I considered my father first. He and I had a few moments where we were close. I spent most of my life afraid of him. He was always heavy on discipline and light on praise. I tried my best to make him proud, but at some point, I gave up.

My mother and I were a lot closer. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was about 7 years old. She was the only one that seemed slightly saddened by the fact that I moved out after being labeled persona non grata by Scientology.

My sister and I never got along. My parents often pitted us against each other, comparing one of us to the other to show who was the better child. I knew there would be no hope for that reunion.

Finally, I thought of my little brother. He looked at me as a father figure, even when I was young. I spent a lot of time counseling him when he was in his early teens. I occasionally took him and his friends out to places. When I was 8, my parents taught me how to change his diaper. I fed him, burped him, and put him to sleep when he was an infant. When he was a toddler, I would pick him up after his middle-of-the-night outcries and put him back to sleep. As he got older, I helped potty train him at home. Surely, reconnecting with him would be easiest if only I knew where he was. Sea Org members, and especially ones that started at 17, don’t have much in the way of public records, if any at all.

Given the time constraints on the project, I decided that I would attempt to make contact with my mother. Granted, this entire process was infinitely emotional. I cried a lot. I was actually surprised at how much it hurt to think back on the time I spent with them. Every time I think that I’ve cried all the tears I have to cry, I find out there are more. At one point, a cameraman burst into tears while I was telling my story. It was shocking to see, as it always is, how much my life experiences emotionally affect the people around me. It’s not something I’m used to, having grown up in Scientology.

I knew that if I tried calling my mom she would hang up on me. I think it was a safe assumption that she would refuse an in-person meeting, particularly on camera. If I tried catching her at home, I was certain she would either not answer the door or as soon as she saw a camera she would shut and lock the door on me. Eventually, I realized the best option was to catch her in the morning as she was heading into work. I knew where she worked and around what time she would arrive. I did not know whether or not my dad would be there since they worked together. I figured if he was there, it would put a damper on the entire meeting.

The night before this attempt, my mind was racing. I was thinking of all the possibilities. Would my mother simply walk away from me? Would she insult me? Would she run away from me? Had Scientology figured out this was happening? Would she even show up? My worst fear would be that they had left Scientology but hadn’t bothered to try and reach out to me. That would have hurt more than anything I could imagine.

It had been four years, almost to the day, since I had seen or heard her. I had no idea what she would look like and had forgotten the sound of her voice. I was still on the fence about even trying this at all, but what pushed me over was thinking of all the people who had asked me: “Have you ever tried to talk to them since?” This was my opportunity. Maybe my last one.

The day before all of this, I spent some time talking to a psychologist about how to best approach the conversation. We talked about what to do in various scenarios. He showed me how to adjust my body language so that I didn’t come off as imposing or intimidating. He taught me how to phrase my words and thoughts so they didn’t sound accusatory or antagonistic. We even planned for the unexpected: What if she did actually want to talk to me?

The next morning, after several cups of coffee (which did nothing to ease my anxiety), I hopped into yet another car with tinted windows and headed to her place of work. The parking lot was in an alley. I was there about 15 minutes before she arrived. I asked a cameraman to please bring a small, hand-held camera to record the encounter. My hands were clammy and my heart was racing. When I saw the familiar car turn into the parking lot, I was overcome with emotion. It was very hard to choke it back. I knew I had to if this was going to work. For a brief second, I was so afraid of being emotionally damaged (again) that I considered just leaving.

I calmly stepped out of the SUV. My feet were trembling as they touched the ground. I wiped my hands on my sweater to get some of the sweat off. I took a slow, deep breath. I slowly walked down the alleyway towards the parking lot. I didn’t want to startle her by moving too fast. I didn’t want to miss her by moving too slow. The cameraman was standing behind me in plain view. As I walked up to their parking lot, I glanced down at the ground to mark the property line; where the alley ended and their small parking lot began. I made sure that the car I was in was parked away from the exit path so that we wouldn’t be blocking her exit if she wanted to leave. I stood with my toes touching the property line and looked up at my mom. She was reaching in the car, looking for something.

“Mom,” I said.

She looked up in shock, apparently recognizing the sound of my voice. She stared at me in silence for a second or two and made some noises like she was trying to find a word. Finally, she asked, “What is this?”

“Mom, I just came here to tell you…” My voice failed me as the lump in my throat started growing by the millisecond. My lips quivered and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and tried to start again.

“I just came here to tell you that I love you and I miss you.”

“Tell CJC.” She replied, referring to the “Continental Justice Chief,” the official in the Church of Scientology that I, an outsider, could communicate with. She stepped towards me a bit. I had kept the volume of my voice down, intentionally to try and encourage her to move towards me. I saw an arm reach over and close the driver’s side door of the car. I realized that my father was sitting in the car. He had adjusted the seat all the way back, probably napping as he was driven to work. I didn’t see him in there when she pulled up. I didn’t let this distract me from saying what I wanted to say.

“Mom please, I love you.”

“Tell CJC. Tell CJC.”

“Can I at least have a hug?” I said, again swallowing a lump in my throat, nervously wringing my hands and biting my lip to hold back the tears.

She hesitated. There was a look on her face that made me feel for just a moment that she did want to hug me. She stepped forward and shook my hand instead, as an apparent compromise. I clasped her hand and looked into her eyes. In that moment, I realized how long four years can really be. How different she looked, and yet how very much the same. How much I missed her. How much I really do love her. Even after what happened next.

It became clear that she wasn’t going to say anything more than her Scientological mantra. She looked over at the Lincoln Navigator I had rolled up in. “Nice car,” she said. I did not respond. I slowly dragged my feet back to the car, holding in my emotions until I was behind a closed door. Tears quietly rolled down my cheeks as I headed to the nearby park to recoup and process what just happened.

After a 45 minute break, I headed back to the safehouse. As I was getting on the freeway, I noticed that there was a car that looked very much like the one my parents were just in. It was right ahead of us just a lane or two over. I was thinking there is no way that this can be real. When I got up beside the car so I could see in, I realized it really was my mom. It immediately dawned on me that she must be heading back to the org. I wanted to be sure, though.

I pulled up next to the LA Org parking lot, just as she was parking. I saw her open the back of the car and pull out a baby blue duffel bag. She looked over and I realized that she knew it was me sitting behind those tinted windows. I wanted to leave and as soon as she entered the building, and I did.

Again there were thoughts racing through my head. Why had she gone there? Clearly to report what had just happened. What was in the bag? Had she set up a camera in the back of the car, blocked by the tinted windows? Did she record this encounter because she knew I was coming? I know that she had to have reported the encounter to the org, but why LA Org? Why not CLO or AOLA where Julian and Lon were? They were the church officials who had delivered my “declare order,” announcing my being thrown out of the church (and then promptly took it back without leaving me a copy).

After a few more tasks for the day, I laid down in my bed and busted into tears. I had no idea how I was going to go to work after all of this, or even how I was going to get back to my normal life again. Feelings of worthlessness started to bubble up in my mind again. Indignant anger began to return. I had nightmares for the next two or three months and even suicidal ideations. Thank the good lord for pharmaceuticals.

I did not have the wherewithal to record this myself. I insisted that only one small camera be used and that not more than one person accompany me. I was not going to ambush my mother. I have no copy of the footage to share with family. Only my flawed memory which will inevitably fade.

I hope that I am wrong and that the show will air. I am happy for the success of Aftermath. I am happy that millions of people are watching it. But I hate to think that what I went through won’t get seen and help expose what this church does to people.

 
— Derek Bloch

 
——————–

Chris Shelton on the basics: Study Tech

Says Chris: “This is the first actual video breaking down Scientology basics in my new series critically analyzing Hubbard’s so-called “tech.” I am basically following the sequence from the Scientology Handbook and Study Tech is the first part of their methodology that they present. In this case (and as I’ll do in all these videos), I present what Hubbard actually said and wrote about the topic and then start breaking down the pros and cons. In doing research for this one, I dug pretty deep and there is a really nice surprise near the end in terms of debunking not just Hubbard’s claims about Study Tech, but about Hubbard himself. This is a beefy video at an hour long, but I think that’s probably how most of these are going to go since the goal of these is to be the sort of final word on the topic, i.e. once you watch this, you won’t have any questions about it and you’ll know why Hubbard’s nonsense is not something to follow. I hope I can pull this off. I look forward to everyone’s feedback.”

 

 
——————–

Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,824 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,581 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,927 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,421 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,461 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,173 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 699 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,788 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,928 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,248 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,223 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 579 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,881 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 988 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,390 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,263 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 844 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,349 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,593 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,702 days.

 
——————–

3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 27, 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 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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