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New Scientology escape book ‘Perfectly Clear’ leaves some important questions unanswered

Michelle LeClair’s book Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love got a nice boost this week as it was featured on the cover of People magazine ahead of its September 11 publication date, and we expect it’s going to continue to get a major media push. But now that we’ve read the book, we’re having some mixed feelings about that.

The basic outline of LeClair’s story, which emerged in press accounts over several years when she was known as Michelle Seward, is that she was a wealthy public Scientologist who made money selling expensive insurance policies, and she convinced some of her clients to invest their money in a failed movie project directed by another Scientologist, Israeli filmmaker Dror Soref.

The film, Not Forgotten, starred Simon Baker and actually got some fairly good reviews when it came out in 2009, but somehow it made only $142,000 worldwide and the people who backed it lost millions.

Two California state agencies investigated and sued Soref and LeClair, claiming that their financing of the film amounted to a Ponzi scheme, with early investors being paid with money brought in from later investors. And even after settling those lawsuits, Soref and LeClair were then indicted by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and each faced 75 years in prison for defrauding investors. While awaiting trial, Soref spent almost five months in jail.

LeClair claimed that as an insurance executive she didn’t really know what she was doing in the film business, and she blamed Soref for getting them into such a bad situation. She agreed to testify against him in the criminal prosecution. But then charges against Soref were dropped last year by a judge who criticized the DA’s office for taking too long to prosecute the case. Charges were then also dropped against LeClair, who has worked hard to get investors at least part of their money back. Soref is now suing the DA.

But many questions remained, and we were looking forward to this book answering them. How, with a well known actor like Simon Baker and some good reviews, does a film make only 140 grand? Surely there was a story there. And how, exactly, was that all Soref’s fault? What had he done, exactly, that caused them to be facing long prison sentences?

In Perfectly Clear, LeClair makes the case that she only faced state investigations and then criminal prosecution because she’d dared to come out as a lesbian, and so the Church of Scientology targeted her for ruin.

She claims that the state never would have been interested in her investment failures if Scientology had not dropped a dime on her to get her in trouble.

Knowing Scientology’s long history of homophobia, we’re certainly sympathetic to that claim. We’ve written about numerous people who suffered in Scientology because they were gay. Derek Bloch, for example, was kicked out of the Sea Org and his parents disconnected from him, which has been a very difficult thing for him to deal with. Keith Relkin, someone we wrote about several years ago, was crushed that although he was a huge public supporter of Scientology, he was not allowed to go to Flag to pursue upper levels because he was openly gay.

Gay people are kicked out, disconnected from, hazed, and denounced in Scientology, and that’s why we work to publicize its harsh homophobia. We don’t doubt LeClair’s account that she was criticized by her fellow Scientologists when they discovered that she was dating a woman. And also that the church spied on her after that relationship became known.

But on the other hand, investors had lost more than $21 million and part of the reason was, according to court testimony, that LeClair had encouraged them to invest in ways that were especially risky while she promised huge returns that never materialized. It’s hard to believe that state investigators wouldn’t have been interested in a loss that large even without the Scientology connection.

LeClair’s book, however, doesn’t begin to address those allegations — about her encouraging risky investing, for example. And a lot of other things seem to be missing as well.

We never do learn why the film flopped so badly. LeClair simply says that after a domestic premiere it failed to get distribution internationally, which doesn’t really explain anything.

She also doesn’t go into any detail about how, if Soref had caused so many people so much pain, he had managed to do that. The only thing she offers is that he had given himself a big raise, to $50,000 a month, without telling her.

Instead, the book is mostly a narrative about LeClair’s private life, and a skillfully told story about a woman coming to grips with the fact that she’s falling in love with another woman after being raised to believe that is a bad thing.

LeClair leaned on award-winning writer Robin Gaby Fisher to help her turn her story into a coherent narrative, and it certainly shows. It’s a captivating tale about LeClair’s struggle in her marriage to a man and then falling in love with a woman. It’s inspiring. It’s courageous.

It also has some great insights into what it’s like to be a wealthy Scientologist. LeClair went “Clear” in 2002 and then did the expensive “L-11 Rundown” in 2003. Her huge donations — she estimates that she gave $5 million to the church over the years — gave her special access to Scientology’s celebrities. There’s the time, for example, that she was ushered into Kirstie Alley’s bedroom (LeClair had sold life insurance to Kirstie and was investing in her ‘Organic Liaison’ business) and found the actress naked on a massage table being prodded with wooden forks.

LeClair also has a detailed and dramatic account of a lengthy stay at the Fort Harrison Hotel which is one of the more harrowing looks inside Scientology’s Flag Land Base in a long time.

And, like other Scientologists we’ve talked to, she was ultimately driven away from Scientology because of its virulent homophobia. But the thrust of her book is that her decision to date a woman then led the Church of Scientology to turn the full force of its secret police force, the Office of Special Affairs, to “destroy her utterly,” in the famous dictum of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

But did the State of California and Los Angeles County investigate and try to put LeClair in prison because Scientology didn’t like that she was gay?

There’s a major problem with that theory that the book never addresses — if Scientology motivated government agencies to go after LeClair for being gay, how does that explain that those agencies went even harder at Dror Soref, who is still today a Scientologist?

Maybe part of the problem is the memoir form itself. LeClair is the heroine of every anecdote in the book, and she spends considerable time making others appear to be almost completely evil — without those people, of course, having the opportunity to respond.

Because her case is so complex, her story might have been better served if Fisher had written it as her own, with deep dives into the documentation of the state investigations and criminal prosecution to establish what really happened, and to show how Soref was at fault. Some reporting, from official documents, might also have helped illuminate what happened in the bitter divorce between LeClair and her ex-husband, and between her current partner, music producer Tena Clark, and Clark’s previous wife, which the book says ended in a vicious assault.

This book, as it stands, has two grand story arcs — LeClair’s private fulfillment in finding a loving partner and embracing her sexual orientation, and her public fall from grace as a film producer and former Scientologist. It’s just hard to go along with the idea that the one caused the other, and it leaves us feeling that we’re not really getting the full picture.

 
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Why the Freewinds is in Cartagena

After a month of harsh treatment in the Colombian press and a call for an investigation by the country’s Congress, Scientology sent its private cruise ship Freewinds to Cartagena, where it arrived on Tuesday morning.

What is the barge doing there? Well, only Scientology would think this was a good idea. According to one of the people with the ship, the Freewinds is in town for — get this — a “PR convention.”

 

 
Yes, Scientology continues to believe that founder L. Ron Hubbard was a genius of public relations, and charges its followers thousands of dollars to get steeped in Hubbard’s ideas about making a good impression on the public.

Clearly, Scientology PR is nothing but magic.

 
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The Bunker represented at Burning Man once again

Says our tipster: “We went to Burning Man and placed a Disconnection Memorial at The Temple. As you know, The Temple is a spiritual place where people bring their mementos, memorials and other personally significant messages. It is both a place of joy and sorrow. Most of the messages left deal with sad moments but also many weddings and celebrations take place within the structure. It’s one of the most visited pieces on the ‘playa.’ I borrowed shamelessly from your blog to compile the disconnection list. Thank you for maintaining it. I believe every bit of exposure helps to someday abolish this horrendous practice and I hope our small contribution brings that day closer.”

 




 
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MEANWHILE, AT FACEBOOK…

 

 
Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,231 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,834 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 377 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 265 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,440 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,214 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,988 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,334 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,900 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,568 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,828 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,868 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,580 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,106 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,195 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,335 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,655 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,511 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,630 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 986 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,288 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,394 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,797 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,668 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,251 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,756 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,000 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,109 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 8, 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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