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Ten years ago, all hell broke loose for Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology

Ten years ago tomorrow, a nine-minute video of Tom Cruise was leaked to the Internet, and the Church of Scientology would never be the same.

It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since the infamous Cruise video showed up and then resulted in the Anonymous movement turning its sights on Scientology. For those of us who had already been watching Scientology for some time, it was really something to see Scientology have to deal with so many new critics, and all at the same time. Then, a few weeks later, Anonymous began its real-world protests at Scientology locations around the planet — well, let’s not get ahead of the story.

We’ve told the tale of the Cruise video several times, and we went into a lot of detail about it to mark the demise of Gawker. Here’s the meat of that chronology, to remind you of what an important event took place ten years ago. In many ways, Scientology watching has never recovered…

Tom Cruise had gotten involved in Scientology through actress Mimi Rogers in 1986, just a few months after founder L. Ron Hubbard had died. Tom and Mimi were then married on Dianetics Day, May 9, 1987, and, as we explained in our lengthy story revealing for the first time what really happened to bust up that marriage, church leader David Miscavige managed to use Tom’s growing interest in Nicole Kidman to lure him away from Rogers. But then, after Tom married Nicole and she initially got involved in Scientology, by 1992 she had grown disaffected and the two of them pulled away from Scientology for the next eight years, when they broke up. And that’s when Miscavige made it job one to get Tom back into the fold. With the help of his top lieutenant at the time, Marty Rathbun, they were very successful, and by 2004 Cruise was the most enthusiastic L. Ron Hubbard fanatic ever. So that’s why Miscavige, at the October 2004 IAS celebration, decided to reward Cruise not with a Freedom Medal, which had been the usual high award given at those events, but to bestow on Cruise a special Freedom Medal of Valor.


And before he handed the tchotchke to Cruise, Miscavige amped up the crowd in East Grinstead, England with a 35-minute recorded tribute to Cruise, which included a 9-minute interview of the actor, in a black turtleneck, talking about how much he loved being a Scientologist.

But here’s what Miscavige may not have been counting on: The video and the medal ceremony actually backfired. Scientologists who had dedicated their lives to the “Sea Org,” and had signed billion-year contracts and worked for pennies an hour around the clock, considered it a slap in the face to hear from Miscavige that Cruise, a friggin’ actor, was “the most dedicated Scientologist I know.”

We’ve talked to numerous former Scientologists who were in the audience that night, and they all tell us they carried resentment over it for years. And that’s probably why, in 2007, an anonymous Scientologist decided to smuggle out a recording of that night’s event to a woman in Connecticut named Patty Moher.

Patty has told, at length, what subsequently happened with the DVD, and we’ll just pull out a few highlights. She had actually been in attendance at the 2004 event, and in 2007 when she received the DVD recording, she remembered it as an event she had personally experienced. She’s admitted that she didn’t really have any idea what a pile of dynamite she had in her hands as she began forwarding copies of the event to some of her close friends. She even showed it at a party at her house, swearing everyone to secrecy. (By 2007, Patty was out of Scientology but not publicly, and she was still considered in good standing by the organization itself.)

One of the people she shared the DVD with, Patricia Greenway, was working with writer Andrew Morton on his unauthorized biography of Cruise, which was scheduled to be released on January 15, 2008, and NBC was going to be promoting the book. Greenway told Patty it would help Morton if NBC had the footage of Cruise, which would help prove what Morton was saying about him. But NBC said it didn’t want anything to do with a DVD that had been smuggled out of the church. That was a lawsuit waiting to happen. What it could use, however, was video that had already been posted online.

Patty had no idea how to do that, but she knew that Mark Bunker, a longtime critic in Los Angeles who ran “Xenu TV,” was well aware of how to upload video to the Internet. She sent him the DVD and asked him to post it as a downloadable file so the people at NBC could grab it. On January 14, 2008, Bunker posted the nine-minute interview segment to a YouTube channel he created for it, believing it was set for private.

Bunker has said he was away from his computer for some time, and when he looked at it again, to his horror he saw that the video was proliferating like crazy. Tens of thousands of views in only a short time. Panicked by the thought of what legal action might come from the church, he yanked it down.


Going to Plan B, they turned to journalist Mark Ebner, who was well known for his 1996 expose of Scientology in Spy Magazine, and who had also worked on the epic 2005 South Park episode that poked fun at Scientology’s “Xenu” story. Bunker gave Ebner access to the Cruise segment on the private YouTube channel.

Ebner then offered it to Nick Denton at Gawker, who posted the video at 10:18 am on January 15, 2008. Denton pointed out that the video had been uploaded the day before, briefly, to YouTube (by Bunker), and had been picked up by Radar and Defamer — but that each of those copies had been taken down as Scientology’s legal team jumped into action. “Gawker is now hosting a copy of the video; it’s newsworthy; and we will not be removing it,” Denton wrote.

The video was a disaster for Cruise. After the actor had been recovered to the church by 2004, the next year he made a catastrophic attempt to become a more open ambassador for it in 2005, with his bizarre antics on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, for example, and his combative interview on the Today show with Matt Lauer. But it soon became obvious that the new strategy was blowing up on him, and he went silent again. Now, three years later, with the release of the black turtleneck interview that had been taped in 2004, the public for the first time got to see Tom in full Scientology mode — in a video that was never meant for outsiders to see.

Scientologists consider themselves to be superhuman, and better than the rest of us, and it was on full display as Cruise made bizarre comments about, for example, a Scientologist being the only person who could help at the scene of a car accident, or that Scientology would so completely take over the planet, its enemies — known as “SPs” — would only be read about in history books.

Cruise looked absolutely insane.

Meanwhile, the legal threats by Scientology to have the video yanked down didn’t go unnoticed by Internet activists who were sensitive about online censorship.

A loose group known as Anonymous began to stir…


Make your plans now!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,993 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 139 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,202 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,976 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,750 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,096 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,590 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,630 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,342 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 868 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,957 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,097 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,417 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,392 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 748 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,050 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,156 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,559 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,431 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,013 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,518 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,762 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,871 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 13, 2018 at 07:00

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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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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