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Fifty years later and post-Scientology, 60’s band People! aims for a comeback

[Back in the day, Geoff Levin (right) and People! hang with Paul McCartney at Capitol Records in 1968]

For Geoff Levin, the final thing holding him back came tumbling down a few weeks ago: His daughter, Savannah, 21, informed him that she no longer wanted to be a part of his life.

Last July, his son, Collin, 24, had “disconnected” from him in the Scientology way. And now that news of Geoff’s disaffection from the church was gradually spreading to more and more people, he heard from “Sav,” who told him to stop calling and texting her.

Trying to preserve his relationships with his children was one of the things that had kept Levin from being more public with his disaffection. He’d actually fallen out with Scientology a couple of years before. But like so many, he’d gone along “under the radar,” hoping to avoid the kind of breakups from family and friends that were now occurring.

So now, with nothing left to lose, he was ready to go public, and in a way that was pretty unique for ex-Scientologists.

Geoff Levin is getting the band back together again.

Back in the late 1960s, Geoff and his brother Robbie were founding members of People!, a band that had a devoted following and at least one radio hit, and which eventually was made up of only Scientologists. In fact, its members even all joined the Sea Org at one point, and became the first band to do so, dedicating themselves to the church by signing billion-year contracts…

 

[People! with Yvonne Gillham and a helmeted Scientology crew; Geoff is seated on the right]

Geoff and Robbie had grown up in San Jose, and by the mid-60s were making music. Geoff’s first band was the Piney Creek Ramblers, a bluegrass outfit. But under the influence of a heady mix of Bay Area musicians, People! was formed, and had its one big hit with a Zombies song, “I Love You,” which charted at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 — and got the group on American Bandstand

 

[The original lineup (l to r): Gene Mason, Al Ribisi, Robbie Levin, Denny Fridkin, Geoff Levin, Larry Norman]

But just as success seemed to be coming their way, Scientology intervened. By the time of their hit, the Levin brothers and two others in the band had fallen hard for L. Ron Hubbard’s “technology.” And when lead singer Larry Norman refused to go along, they kicked him out. They also moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the church, and then all joined the Sea Org.

“When I joined Scientology I became a zealot and helped kill the group’s success, and our memories of that were bitter and sad,” Geoff says. “To give you some idea, when we met Paul McCartney, I tried to turn him onto Scientology. What a fucking boob I was.”

Robbie quit Scientology long before Geoff did, and it came between them for some 30 years. But each of the former bandmates continued to have healthy music careers, as Geoff notes in a new press release…

John Tristao toured with Creedence Clearwater Revisited for over two decades. Robbie Levin played bass with Rick Springfield, Denny Fridkin performed with Larry Norman, Gene Mason has been performing continuously since People! in San Jose bands, Carousel and Bandanna. Currently he is with the Dave Holodiloff Band. Geoff became a composer for film and TV and founded CELESTIAL NAVIGATIONS with actor Geoffrey Lewis. They released eight albums and charted on Billboard.

Once before the band reunited, in 2007 for a single concert. At that point, however, Geoff wouldn’t perform with his brother until Robbie temporarily got back into the good graces of the church. But it was “strange and strained,” he says. “It was weird, I had not talked to my brother for 23 years, and Larry Norman was still bitter about the injustice of being kicked out of the band, and now we had to practice and perform together.”

Sadly, Larry Norman died in 2008 and won’t be a part of this newest version of the band. And one former member remains in Scientology and also isn’t part of the new reunion lineup: Al Ribisi, the father of actor Giovanni Ribisi (and grandfather to Lucia Ribisi).

 

[Geoff Levin and his son Collin and daughter Savannah, before they disconnected from him.]

Now, with 50 years passing since their lone hit, and with Geoff finally openly out of the church, the band is beginning to record again, first with a new cover of the 1965 Barry McGuire hit, “Eve of Destruction.”

“There is so much joy in the band now, and such creative talents. I had buried my past because I knew deep down inside that following the disconnection policy was hurtful and destructive to all the members of the band,” Geoff says. “I’m so happy that I can now speak freely about my 50-year journey in Scientology that almost killed me. It was your blog that turned me around. I know that someday my kids will be out. I hope the band’s story reaches those still in. Our message is, it’s never too late for a do-over.”

Today, the band is launching an Indiegogo campaign to get an album recorded. We asked Geoff, besides an excuse to work together again, is the project a middle finger to the Church of Scientology?

In response, he sent us this photo…

 

 
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Make your plans now!

HOWDYCON UPDATE

Wow, we’re now less than two months out, and Chee Chalker is working hard to make sure things are going to run smoothly at this year’s HowdyCon in Chicago, June 21-23. As in past years, we’re looking forward to meeting readers of the Bunker, culminating in Saturday night’s main event.

The biggest difference this year is that our Saturday night event is separate from that evening’s dinner. Chee is setting up an inexpensive pizza dinner that you don’t need to pay for ahead of time, after which we’ll walk over to the theater where our event, hosted by Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte, will take place. Because it’s a separate event, we’re asking that you pay $10 each to get into the Saturday night event, which will help us recoup what the Bunker paid for the venue. (We have never made a penny on our HowdyCon meetups, we only try to break even.)

Please email your proprietor (tonyo94 AT gmail) in order to reserve your spot for Saturday night’s main event. Seating is limited, and we’re going to have some really interesting people on stage and they may make a few announcements that you don’t want to miss.

 

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,102 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,705 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 248 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,311 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,085 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,859 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,205 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,699 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,739 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,451 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 977 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,066 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,206 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,526 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,501 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 857 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,159 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,265 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,668 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,540 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,122 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,627 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,871 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,980 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 2, 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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