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Bryan Seymour takes a Scientology field trip, and we’re the better for it

Our man in Australia, TV journalist Bryan Seymour, sent us a dispatch from one of our favorite places on earth, and we’re happy to share it with you.

Perhaps the best thing about the decade I’ve spent reporting on Scientology is the people I’ve met, many who have become friends.

My wife Dianne and I are traveling through Europe on our honeymoon. A few weeks ago I received an email from Claudio Lugli, congratulating me on my marriage and asking if we’d like to catch up while we were in Italy.

I knew the name from meeting their son Tiziano in Los Angeles in 2013. Tiziano and his beautiful wife Jamie helped me report the story of Australian dancer Manuela Oliveira, who had joined Scientology and was quickly pressed into service, despite the objections of her partner. Several former Scientologists, including Tiziano, staged a kind of intervention to bring Manuela back to reality (Tony was there and wrote about it). You can see my own story about Manuela here.


I was only peripherally aware of Claudio and his wife Renata so it was a surprise to hear from them. Then I remembered an article Tony posted on this site not long ago. Tony received a phone number for Flavio Lugli, the couple’s son who is still in the Sea Org. Claudio and Renata, who left Scientology in 2010 and had not spoken with their son in six years, eagerly called. You can read about that encounter here.

It turns out the couple had discovered me on Youtube while researching Scientology after leaving. They had also seen me on Scientology And The Aftermath – the brilliant A&E series by Leah Remini and Mike Rinder.

We agreed to meet in Verona for dinner. We arrived and immediately hit it off. There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie I feel with ex-Scientologists, even though I was never a member and do not have their breadth of knowledge about life inside.

What I do have is a visceral, deep understanding of the method, manipulation and emotional blackmail employed by the leadership of Scientology – to the extent that I can quickly talk with former members ‘in their language’ and share things many simply wouldn’t understand.

Claudio and Renata joined Scientology as doe-eyed youngsters in Italy in the 70’s. Together they built up a multi-million dollar fashion house and became celebrated designers. All the while, they were studying the tech and enjoying what they were learning.

In 1989 Claudio reached OT 8 – still the highest achievement for any Scientologist.

Over dinner, he and Renata told us many wonderful anecdotes of their time in Scientology.

About ten years ago, Claudio asked David Miscavige a question that had been playing on his mind for some time. “Dave, I completed OT 8 in 1989, when are we going to see OT 9 and OT 10 and the other levels, and what is the end goal?”

Claudio says Miscavige told him, “You know that comic book character Superman? That is what you will become, you will have his powers.”


“That’s what he told me, what a lying *******!” Claudio said.

As for the upper OT levels, Claudio says Miscavige has for years been promising to release them but then he always finds a reason to delay the launch. “We need to establish ten missions for every org, we need to do this, now we need to put in place that.” And on and on it goes…

Renata says her biggest regret is the two opportunities she had to get her son Flavio out of the Sea Org. The first, just six months after he joined as a 20 year old. Flavio came to his mother and told her he had expected to immediately make new friends but instead had been shunned and ignored. Everyone seemed miserable and all they did was work.

“I told him just give it some more time, you’ve just joined, it will get better,” Renata told me. “But I believed that they were doing good work, I didn’t know anything back then. Stupid!”

The second time came years later when Flavio ruptured the ligaments in his knee and required an operation. As a Sea Org member he had no money or assets and Scientology would not pay for the operation. So he went to Italy where his parents could look after him and get him the medical attention he needed.

The first alarm bells came when the Doctor told them the operation would have to be delayed due to the results of Flavio’s blood tests. His system was on the verge of shutting down. Life in the Sea Org consists of endless physical work punctuated with basic meals of beans and rice and constant stress and abuse. It had taken a heavy toll.

When he finally recovered the operation was a success. Within a couple of weeks Scientology was calling demanding he return to post. Renata was furious and wrote to Shelly Miscavige (Renata had for years been her personal designer) and Flag management quickly responded saying Flavio could have as much time as he needed to get better.

This reflects the standing the Lugli’s enjoyed in Scientology by this time. The pair designed suits and casual wear for David Miscavige – who wrote them glowing letters praising their skill and expressing his love for them and their work. His wife Shelly wore their creations and the pair were firm friends with Kirstie Alley (Some great stories there!) and hung out with John Travolta and the top echelon of the group.

Flavio was having some second thoughts about returning to life in the Sea Org, Renata says, though he didn’t directly voice them; rather she sensed his reluctance. To her lasting regret, she did not push him to speak with her about his feelings and within a few months, her son returned to Clearwater.

Since leaving, Claudio and Renata say they have discovered a new joy in studying Scientology. Thanks to Wikileaks releasing all of Hubbard’s materials Claudio says he has discovered how David Miscavige has ‘perverted’ Scientology to suit his own ends.

The Luglis say friends urged them to set up a facility to help other former members study the tech and apply it. So that’s what they do. Finally helping people without any Fair Game, Disconnection, hatred, abuse or cruelty.

And now we have two new friends.

— Bryan Seymour

Thanks very much for that, Bryan. We made our own pilgrimage to Brescia to meet the Luglis, who are truly lovely people. And then Claudio confirmed something for us that became an Underground Bunker classic.


Jeffrey Augustine talks to Janis Gillham Grady, part 2



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,825 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,582 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,928 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,422 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,462 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,174 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 700 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,789 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,929 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,249 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,224 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 580 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,882 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 989 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,391 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,264 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 845 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,350 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,594 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,703 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 28, 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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