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Tonight, ‘Vanity Fair Confidential’ brings the Shelly Miscavige story to the ID network

Four years ago, Vanity Fair magazine wrote about the strange disappearance of Shelly Miscavige, wife to Scientology leader David Miscavige, a story we’ve also been covering closely since 2012.

Tonight, Vanity Fair Confidential is bringing that story to television on the ID network at 8 pm eastern, and we’ll be watching here in the Bunker with our great commenters. (We’ll also be keeping an eye on Scientology’s TV network, which is scheduled to spring to life at exactly the same time. We’ll be busy!)

In anticipation of the show, the ID network has been re-running some of its previous one-hour specials on Scientology featuring Nancy Many (2013), Elli Perkins (2014), and Marty Rathbun (2015).

Michele Diane Barnett married David Miscavige in 1982 when both of them were young “Commodore’s Messengers” in Scientology. Shelly had been in the church so long, she had served its founder, L. Ron Hubbard on board the ship Apollo in the early 1970s. Miscavige had worked with Hubbard as a camera operator in the California desert. Both of them were part of the CMO, the Commodore’s Messenger Organization, which was becoming a powerful force under Hubbard in the early 1980s.


In 1986, Hubbard died, and Miscavige soon consolidated his own control of the Scientology movement, adopting the title “Chairman of the Board” or “C.O.B.” Meanwhile, Shelly’s title became “C.O.B. Assistant” as she helped to rule the church empire with her husband.

For years, she was a tough as nails executive in her own right, although as Vanity Fair writer Ned Zeman pointed out, she had a way of being more approachable than her husband, and more reasonable.

In 2004, one of Shelly’s tasks was to find Tom Cruise a new girlfriend. It was Shelly who headed up the operation to audition young actresses for the part, eventually settling on Nazanin Boniadi, who dated Cruise from November 2004 to January 2005.

We’ve written numerous times about the circumstances that took place later that year, in late summer 2005, when Shelly then vanished. In 2013, we wrote these details about the weeks leading up to her disappearance…

[In 2005], David Miscavige announced that he was going to Los Angeles to work on a new set of re-edited L. Ron Hubbard books he wanted published. (They would come out in 2007 and be called “The Basics,” and every Scientologist would be pressured to purchase multiple sets, with lectures, for about $3,000 each.)

Shelly, however, said she was staying at Int Base. And she asked the young woman [an assistant to Shelly] to stay with her.

It was the first time in the young woman’s career that David and Shelly Miscavige hadn’t traveled someplace together.

The young woman did what she was told, and she stayed at the Base.

While Miscavige was gone, Shelly got to work. She filled the org chart with names, and then informed those employees that they had new jobs. [Miscavige had complained bitterly that an “org board” — a personnel chart for the base — had long gone unfinished.]

Finally, the org chart would no longer be an issue.

Miscavige also had continually groused that he was going to need to move out of his quarters in the “Villas” — three buildings on the north side of the property — so they could be renovated and turned over to CMO Int, one of upper management’s alphabet soup of entities. “I’m going to give you the Villas, you assholes,” Miscavige would taunt his top lieutenants.

So while he was gone, Shelly finally made that happen. She had COB’s things crated up and moved out of the Villas to a drab set of quarters known as the “G’s.”

At about this time, Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder arrived at Int Base after visiting Miscavige in Los Angeles. He was immediately cornered by Shelly as soon as he arrived.

“She took me to the back patio of the RTC building, which is really isolated. There was no one around,” Rinder tells us. “She asked me, ‘When you saw him, was Dave wearing his gold or platinum wedding ring?’”

Rinder says he thinks she knew it would have been too much of a giveaway to simply ask if Miscavige was wearing a ring at all, which is why she asked it that way. Rinder had no idea if Miscavige actually had more than one version of his wedding ring.

“Oh, you know, I didn’t notice,” he told her.

“The question was so out of the blue, and so bizarre,” he tells us. “I knew that she was in deep shit. She was worried that he was going to abandon her.”

Rinder wonders if, knowing that she was on thin ice, she was suddenly taking on the things Miscavige always complained needed to be done — the org chart and the renovation of the Villas — as a way of getting into his good graces. Shelly was trying to make things go right for C.O.B.

“That was the last conversation I had with Shelly,” Rinder says. (He was not around when Miscavige returned. He was later put into The Hole as a prisoner for more than a year, and then defected from Scientology while he was in London in 2007.)

By the time Miscavige did return to the base, a couple of months after he’d gone to LA, the org chart had been filled and the Villas were gutted.

He was not pleased.

“He had a total psychotic fit,” one eyewitness tells us. “He said we were a bunch of treasonous fucks.”

A week later, Shelly Miscavige vanished.

And from a story we wrote in 2015…

Since we wrote that story in 2013, we talked to two new sources who were at the base at the time, who filled us in on a new detail we haven’t seen reported elsewhere. Over the course of that week between Miscavige’s meltdown and Shelly’s disappearance, something telling happened. Our new sources tell us that Miscavige went back to Los Angeles, and then Shelly, apparently knowing she was facing oblivion, took the unusual step of driving from the base to LA to see if she could patch things up with her husband. Apparently, that mission didn’t succeed. And someday, we’d love to know how that scene unfolded.

Shelly soon returned to the base, and then she vanished.

We know now, from multiple lines of evidence, that she was transferred from the International Base near Hemet to a super-secret compound near Lake Arrowhead in the mountains above Los Angeles. The compound is the headquarters for Scientology’s most secretive entity, the Church of Spiritual Technology. We’ve written extensively about CST and its underground vaults, where L. Ron Hubbard’s works are stored so they can survive a nuclear holocaust. For the past ten years — except for a couple of days in the summer of 2007 when she was let out to attend the funeral of her father, Barney Barnett — Shelly has been living and working at CST’s headquarters compound, which Scientologists call by numerous different names, depending on whom you ask: Twin Peaks, Rimforest, Rim of the World, or Crestline.

Whatever you call it, it’s a small complex that houses maybe a dozen people who work on the project to archive Hubbard’s works. Since she was transferred there, Shelly, who once was a major figure in the church and even helped select girlfriends for Tom Cruise, has attended no public church events and has not even been allowed to see her own family. Is Shelly happy working there? Is she being held against her will? Would she take the opportunity to escape if she could?

We reported in 2013 that Shelly does have some limited communication with the outside world, and was asked by a family member how she might be able to leave the base. “There’s only one way,” she responded, and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder told us he interpreted that to mean that only another family funeral would allow Shelly to go outside the confines of the compound.

That same year, Leah Remini made her missing-person report about Shelly to the LAPD on Monday, August 5. By Thursday afternoon, August 8, police told a reporter that they had checked on Shelly and considered Leah’s report “unfounded.” What happened? Well, LAPD Lt. Andre Dawson sent two of his detectives to meet Shelly. A missing-person report has a very narrow goal — to find out if a person is, well, missing. When Dawson’s detectives found that Shelly was fine and that she didn’t want to make a public statement, the case was over. But we asked Dawson — had his detectives questioned Shelly in the presence of other church executives?

“That’s classified,” Dawson said to us. (Since then, we’ve noticed that Lt. Dawson has been a participant in numerous Church of Scientology activities.)


[Since 2005, Shelly Miscavige has lived and worked at the secretive CST headquarters compound near Lake Arrowhead. Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters, “Big Blue,” is to the west and Int Base — home to “the Hole” — to the east.]

Two more stories bring us up to date. In December 2016, we reported that a woman who lives near the secret CST base believed that she and her husband had twice spotted Shelly Miscavige in the nearby town of Crestline. We’re taking the sighting seriously.

And last year, our mysterious drone pilot went back for a closer look at the CST compound itself, giving us unprecedented looks at the places where Shelly may be living and working.

It’s pretty incredible to think that David Miscavige has gotten away with banishing his wife to a small mountain compound above Los Angeles for almost 13 years, and that she’s been unable to leave it even to see her own family.

Last year, on Leah Remini’s show, John Brousseau, who once worked closely with Miscavige and Shelly, told Leah that Shelly would never appear in public again: “He’ll do everything he can to keep her wherever she is until she dies.”


Scientology TV launches tonight, and we’ll be watching

Although we’ll be distracted by the ID show on Shelly Miscavige, we’ll also be keeping an eye on the launch of Scientology’s TV network, which will start at the same time, 8 pm eastern. We expect that Scientology’s channel will largely consist of the same kinds of “Meet a Scientologist” propaganda that has been on its YouTube channel for years, but we’ll hold out some hope to be surprised by David Miscavige’s programming.

And once again, we’ll point out what Scientology TV should be airing but won’t dare to.


Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,051 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,654 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 197 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,260 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,034 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,808 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,154 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,648 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,688 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,400 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 926 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,015 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,155 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,475 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,450 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 806 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,108 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,214 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,617 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,489 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,071 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,576 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,820 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,929 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 12, 2018 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, 1995-2017 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

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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