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Scientology donor Joy Villa aiming for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Miami congressional district

It’s been a question a lot of bewildered Scientology watchers have been asking recently: How far can church donor Joy Villa take her “MAGA” fame after wearing a pro-Trump dress at the Grammy awards in February, and which Congressional district is she thinking of parachuting into to make her run for the House?

The ever-vigilant Jeffrey Augustine appears to have answered that question — he pointed out to us that according to a donation page on Joy Villa’s own exploratory committee website, she’s aiming at Florida’s 27th district in Miami, which is going to be wide open after incumbent Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced that she won’t be running in 2018.



Ros-Lehtinen has held the seat since 1989, but the getting out may be good after Hillary Clinton took the district by 19 points last year, and a pro-Democratic wave appears to be building on the horizon. The Tampa Bay Times rated the district “highly vulnerable” to switch to the Democrats now that Ros-Lehtinen is leaving.

Jeffrey points out that Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican known for supporting LGBT issues. “Her district includes large LGBT communities in South Beach and Miami Beach. Her activist son Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, born Amanda Michele, is transgendered and came out with strong public support from his parents.”

So is this the best district for Joy Villa to drop into?

We’ve been keeping an eye on Joy since 2014, when her attempts to be considered a Scientology “celebrity” of some sort — of any sort — were getting too obvious to ignore. But then she wore the MAGA dress for the 2017 Grammy awards, and it got her more attention than she might have bargained for. It didn’t seem to matter that Joy had a record as a Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders supporter, or that she was one of the most active Scientologists we’ve seen in years, and is documented as a “Patron Meritorious” donor — a level that requires giving the International Association of Scientologists at least $250,000.


[Joy Villa, far left, identified as “Patron Meritorious” in Scientology’s Impact magazine]

Perhaps she thinks the district fits her because although she’s professed to being an evangelical Christian (which doesn’t really work with being an active Scientologist), she has also aligned herself with the group “Gays for Trump,” which held a rally featuring Joy in March.

But will being friendly to LGBT issues be enough for a pro-Trump newcomer to win over a heavily Democratic district where Trump was trounced by Secretary Clinton?

“Joy is no doubt quickly approaching the exploratory committee dollar cap of $5,000 and she’ll have to formally declare that she’s seeking the 27th District seat or announce that she’s chosen not to run,” Jeffrey tells us. “Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen spent $3.4 million to hold onto her seat in 2016 in what was her closest race in years. If Joy Villa runs as a political unknown with Scientology baggage in Miami, she may well need to spend in excess of that. Bottom line: If Joy Villa runs in South Beach, she’ll need all of her OT powers and about $4 million dollars.”


Bodhi Elfman writes a harsh disconnection letter, and other winter delights at the Bunker

[Bodhi Elfman and Scientology’s “celebrity whisperer,” Quailynn McDaniel]


We’re looking back at 2017’s most significant stories here at the Underground Bunker and today it’s a flashback to February in our annual Scientology year-in-review.

At the beginning of the month, we were still enjoying the media buzz over Leah Remini’s first season of Scientology and the Aftermath. But it wasn’t all good feeling. As the month opened, Giovanni Ribisi took a swing at Leah, questioning whether she was only doing the show for the money. We noted that his attacks were right out of Scientology’s playbook. “I feel bad for Vonnie,” Leah told us. “He’s only doing what we were all taught to do.”

As usual, February meant football, and we were interested to see what Scientology had come up with for its annual Super Bowl ad. This year, as ever, Scientology’s pricey ad was a mystery sandwich.

The next day, we had quite a surprise. Laurie Harness noticed that L. Ron Hubbard’s daughter, Alexis Hollister, had posted photographs of herself on Facebook, and wow, the family resemblance was unmistakable.

On February 7, we celebrated Alex Mitchell, the Aussie journalist who first revealed L. Ron Hubbard’s connections to Aleister Crowley and the occult, in a 1969 Sunday Times of London piece. Said Alex about his masterpiece: “My investigation, ‘The Odd Beginning of Ron Hubbard’s Career,’ published in the Sunday Times on 5 October 1969, caused panic and havoc in the ranks of Scientology. I received a rash of phone calls from the Sunday Times switchboard – this was well before the existence of mobile phones, emails, or laptops – asking me to phone reporters from other London newspapers and from news desks in New York and Los Angeles. They were pleading for commentary, more leads, and additional information. I checked with my editors who advised that I should do nothing. They were adamant: ‘You’ve written your story, it has been checked and re-checked, the lawyers have passed it, reporters should be calling Ron Hubbard and not you’.”

Three days later, we pushed back on the notion that John Travolta, with his “Kha-Khan” status, could literally get away with committing murder. “It’s all about Miscavige,” Tom DeVocht told us. “You might be Kha-Khan, but you couldn’t do anything against him, so what’s the point? That kind of thing only actually worked if there was some benefit to Miscavige directly. Other than that, it was just theoretical.”

The next day, Jeffrey Augustine answered Scientology’s Super Bowl ad about reaching “your full potential” by reminding us of many people whose potential was snuffed out by Scientology and its greed.

On Valentine’s Day, we marked the 25th anniversary of David Miscavige’s disastrous appearance on ‘Nightline,’ his one and only appearance on live television. And here’s a fun fact: Ted Koppel took home an Emmy for that episode (in a category that no longer exists), but Miscavige’s underlings bought him a replica Emmy for it, and to this day Scientology somehow thinks Koppel won his statue because Miscavige was on fire.

Also on Valentine’s Day, Phil and Willie Jones posted another ‘Call Me’ billboard, this time just blocks from Scientology Los Angeles headquarters and right on Sunset Boulevard.

On February 19, Rod Keller told us a fascinating story about a man who was suing his former employers for trying to force Scientology on him. And, for the first time, we heard that Scientologists were pressuring someone to disconnect from the dead — they wanted him to cut off ties with his deceased mother in order to stop her influence on him. Wild.

The next day, Minister Louis Farrakhan announced that the Nation of Islam would stand by Scientology in the face of Leah Remini’s onslaught. “I’m just setting the record straight. I’m not a Scientologist but I respect L. Ron Hubbard. I know that this is the time that they’re making an all out move to destroy Scientology. But what I ask Mrs. Remmy, or whatever her name is, she’s going in hard. She’s hurt, by something,” the minister said.

On the 22nd, Clearwater bar owner Clay Irwin got an impromptu tour of Tom Cruise’s unfinished double penthouse in a live Facebook video. We were the first to this story, but wow, did it eventually catch on with the rest of the media. “I got a tour of the whole complex,” Clay told us. “Oh god, he’s got an infinity pool that’s amazing. His master bedroom plans are incredible.”

The next day, we uncorked one of our longest features of the year, our look at the “celebrity whisperer,” Quailynn McDaniel, who, with her husband Paul, was trusted for years by Scientology to pamper and cater to its famous celebrities, in particular the Elfmans, Jenna and Bodhi. But when the church asked Quailynn, while she was isolated on the Freewinds, to steal from her husband’s 401K in order to donate more, she walked away from the church and all of its perks. It was especially interesting to publish the harsh disconnection letter that Bodhi sent Paul simply because he’d “liked” something Leah Remini had posted on Facebook. What a saga!

On the 24th, we got a look at the big donors who were celebrated by Scientology at its October 2016 IAS gala. Once again, Bob and Trish Duggan were the top givers, and this time they were given the status “Invictus” for all of the cash they’ve forked over — something like $80 to $90 million just to the IAS, we estimated.


And we finished up the month with a look at Nancy Cartwright’s movie about Federico Fellini, which our Celebrity Centre source told us was the most Scientology-involved movie of all time. “Battlefield Earth had a lot fewer Scientologists involved than this one,” he told us. “I can’t remember another film with this many Scientologists involved. And from their perspective this is awesome.” And good for Nancy, the film got some decent reviews. The New York Times, for example, said, “The movie can shift unevenly from effusive love letter to travel lust to sentimental moment, but that doesn’t break the fantasy.”

1. L. Ron Hubbard’s daughter — the one he wanted to disappear — surfaces online
2. Louis Farrakhan: Nation of Islam will stand by Scientology as Leah Remini ‘goes in hard’
3. Scientology’s 2017 Super Bowl ad, ‘Your Full Potential,’ is another mystery sandwich
4. Leah Remini books the Bill Maher show, gets swung at by Giovanni Ribisi
5. Scientology’s Celebrity Whisperer: An inside account of life in the fame-obsessed church

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2016: News breaks that Monique Rathbun has fired her entire legal team. Ross and Carrie begin their trip inside the church. Defector Paul Burkhart estimates fewer than 20,000 active members left in the church worldwide. And a 1940 L. Ron Hubbard short story turns out to have a lot of precursor ideas for Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2015: The horrifying story of a mentally ill woman held in an Arkansas basement by a Scientologist, Mark Ebner finds that Narconon International ditched its offices, we fact-checked Danny Masterson, and R.M. Seibert dug up L. Ron Hubbard’s high school record.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2014: The Master actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died in New York, we wrote an essay complaining about the way the media talks about Scientology and celebrities, and we provided some context to the first official Scientology wedding in England.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2013: Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir, Beyond Belief, is published. Harlan Ellison helps us document a Hubbard legend. And former Narconon executive Eric Tenorio comes forward.

Five of our favorites from the most-upvoted comments of February 2017

February 4: Newiga
OK, it’s time: *clears throat*

There are no words to describe the amount of money we spend
Every sec-check
Every KR
Every donation
And status upgrade.
Words for fear
And for despair.
The levels
And then the re-dos.
The empty bank account that pushes us on the brink of being declared
And the second mortgage that brings us back.
But on the Bridge to Total Freedom
There’s no language adequate to describe
The ultimate sacrifice you have to make…
Your entire family….

February 10: John P.
In some sense, these people illustrated are the great tragedies of Scientology. But I’d argue that the greater waste of Scientology are those people who have had a tough time reaching their potential from the ordinary grinding misery of the cult at its most banal. There’s a lot more of that than the cases where the cult has done great evil (like in the Lisa McPherson case) or where people’s belief in Scientology enabled them to perform heinous acts (Rex Fowler murdering his business partner to conceal his embezzlement). Think of all the thousands of cult members whose potential to enjoy a comfortable retirement was gradually extinguished as Scientology’s constant fundraising demands ate away at their savings. Think of all those whose ability to reach their potential in being part of a loving family was eroded by disconnection. There are many thousands of people in that category, far more than the murderers, psychopaths and those who suffered from the most severe fair game campaigns (McMaster, Mayo, etc.). But think of the impact of the lowest level where Scientology robs people of their potential: those moderately committed members who didn’t suffer fair game, disconnection or catastrophic financial losses, but who spent dozens of hours per week in utterly wasted effort chasing self-help via Hubbard’s bizarrely contrived notions. Auditing is based on work that Jung and others had done iin using electrical devices to read emotions but rejected as unworkable. The model of the reactive mind was built on abreactive therapy, whose developers had abandoned it and which never had any significant acceptance in the psychological therapy. Hubbard’s model of addiction and cure was based on notions about pharmacology (drug residue stored in fatty tissue forever) that defy common sense and that were known to be invalid when he embraced them. The cumulative missed opportunity for reaching potential for people pulled down those long-distance wrong turns is immense…

February 12: InClearwater
To the city officials of Clearwater, who I know damn well read Tony every day, just like I do: All this planning is going to be in vain. The elephant in the room is not going away. This plan, just like all your other plans, will cost bunches of money and in the end yield ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. No one will want to hang out near the creepy Scientology buildings, where they are under surveillance. I do not feel comfortable AT ALL whenever I am near any of the properties owned by Scientology, being watched by their security forces, as well as the Clearwater police officers who have been groomed to do Scientology’s bidding and who are having their pockets lined by Scientology. I hate, hate, hate seeing the slave buses going to and fro. I hate seeing tired, overworked staff members, who almost always look sad and drained. It sucks the joy right out of me. So go ahead and keep planning and keeping wasting money and keep on hopelessly hoping. Idiots. When I want to have fun, I’ll continue going to Dunedin, St. Pete, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater Beach, and all the wonderful communities south of Clearwater Beach. Until you get rid of the elephant in the room (and I hope someday you do), your plans are for naught.

February 14: Phil Jones
Scientology Billboard Panic: So far Scientology has had our daughter Emily reach out to an old friend in Florida and others to try to shut us down. They had her contact my sister’s ex-husband in Canada to have him call me. He’s an auditor and actually asked me if I’d been PDH’d either by a psychiatrist or a dentist. (PDH is Pain, Drugs, Hypnosis and Scientologists believe that the psychs use Pain, drugs and hypnosis and “implant people” with commands to destroy Scientology.) Emily also called Willie’s twin brother’s ex-wife (I know, right?) and also told her she’d be calling Willie’s twin brother. They seem to be desperate about the billboard going up and are trying to figure out what triggered my apparent madness. That old Study Tech doesn’t seem to be working too well for them. The billboard says “Call Me” not “Call Everyone Except Me.”

February 23: Paul McDaniel
I have to run to work, and have never posted here …. I just want to say “thank you.” You can’t imagine how we feel right now, and what our life was like. I have every emotion, from embarrassed, to regret, to ashamed, to relieved, to hopeful, to fear. You name it. I’m still processing all of this. But I read all of your kind words of support. And feel it. Bunker peeps, thank you.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Tomorrow the last Ideal Org opening of the year will take place in “Johannesburg North.” Here are a few shots from a tipster there…



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,971 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 117 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,180 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,954 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,728 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,074 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,568 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,608 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,320 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 846 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,935 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,075 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,395 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,370 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 726 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,028 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,134 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,537 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,410 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 991 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,496 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,740 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,849 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 22, 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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