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Kelly Preston dies; Lisa Marie Presley loses son to suicide; Scientology remains useless

We had just finished writing a story late last night about the shocking suicide death of Lisa Marie Presley’s 27-year-old son Benjamin Keough when we were blindsided by the news that Kelly Preston, 57, has died of breast cancer. We didn’t even know she was sick.

Immediately after the news of Keough’s death began to spread yesterday, we were hearing from readers who wanted to know what his involvement in Scientology was, and we have some background on that and a report from a close family friend who tells us that just two months ago they heard Benjamin complaining about how much kids who grew up in Scientology were “fucked up” by it.

Preston’s death, meanwhile, catches us by surprise in part because of the timing. Her husband John Travolta reported in an Instagram post last night that she had been fighting breast cancer for two years, and he thanked the medical team at MD Anderson, a cancer hospital based in Houston but which also has facilities in Arizona, New Jersey, and Jacksonville.

We are not sure what to make of it, but our old friend Clay Irwin snapped a photo of Travolta Thursday night in downtown Clearwater, and we’d been looking for the opportunity do something with it but other stories had come up. Here’s Clay’s photo…


[CORRECTION: Clay now tells us this photo was taken on Friday night July 3, not Thursday July 9]


Travolta is a pilot and owns planes that enable him to cross the country at pretty much any time, so he could easily have been with his wife this weekend after being in Clearwater Thursday the week before, so we’ll wait to hear about what transpired the last few days in their lives.

[CORRECTION: Clay tells us this photo was taken a week earlier. This still has us wondering about Travolta being in Clearwater at this time, but it wasn’t so close to Kelly’s death as we originally thought. We regret the error.]

After the death of their son Jett in 2009, Travolta was extremely grief stricken, and we learned later that Scientology put auditors in his home for the next two years to help him get through it — but it was also suspected that they were there to make sure that he didn’t ditch the church after such a traumatic episode.

We can’t help wondering if that helps explain why he might be spending time in Scientology’s spiritual mecca as his wife lay dying. Travolta is a major ornament for Scientology, even if leader David Miscavige doesn’t think of him the way he does his best pal, Tom Cruise. A notorious homophobe, Miscavige nevertheless can’t afford to lose Travolta and have him come out publicly against Scientology, so the church will expend enormous effort to keep him in after this latest blow.

And then there’s the suicide death of a young man who grew up in Scientology.


[LMP with her daughter Riley, son Benjamin, and twins Finley and Harper in photo she posted last year]

To put Benjamin Keough’s death in context, allow us to remind you what’s been going on with his mother Lisa Marie Presley and Scientology.

For a 2016 story about Lisa Marie, we developed a source very close to her who told us the incredible tale of how she finally left Scientology for good after attempting to have an October 2014 showdown with church leader David Miscavige at Scientology’s “Spiritual Mecca,” the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida.

Miscavige chickened out and sent his two sisters, Denise and Lori, to face Lisa Marie in his stead. What ensued was a wild scene, our source told us, as Miscavige’s sisters ranted about their own father and brother (Ron Sr. and Ronnie Jr.) in a bizarre screaming session that was somehow intended to convince Lisa Marie that David Miscavige was justified in “disconnecting” from his own dad.


Instead, it had the opposite effect and convinced Lisa Marie to finally and utterly cut ties with David Miscavige and Scientology, which she had been brought up in by her mother Priscilla. When she got back to her hotel that day, she told her family members with her, “I’m no longer a Scientologist.”

It was Lisa Marie, we reported, who then vowed to expose Miscavige, and she did so by having an attorney deliver a police report to the Los Angeles Times. The police report detailed how Miscavige had paid a father-son team of well-armed spies to follow his father Ron in his Wisconsin town. The police report included the detail that when it appeared that Ron began having a heart attack while the spies were tailing him and they asked Miscavige what to do, he told them to do nothing: “If he dies, he dies,” Miscavige reportedly said. The story in the LA Times went off like a nuclear bomb, and until our 2016 piece few knew that it was Lisa Marie who had so deftly made sure it landed with as much impact as possible.

Lisa Marie was going after Miscavige and had pulled her entire family out of Scientology, our source told us. She was loaded for a big fight.

But since then, Lisa Marie’s life turned upside down. She and her fourth husband, music producer Michael Lockwood, have been locked in a bitter divorce and custody fight over their 11-year-old twins, Finley and Harper. Lisa Marie once again went into rehab with a recurring drug addiction, and has now reportedly got clean again. And it was becoming clear, we reported, that actress Riley Keough, Lisa Marie’s daughter, was back in Scientology. (Priscilla, meanwhile, has claimed through representatives that she never left the church, but our source was adamant that Lisa Marie had pulled her mother out with the rest of her family in 2014.)

More recently, we weren’t sure if Lisa Marie herself hadn’t been pulled back in as a result of the tumultuous couple of years she’s been through. But our sources told us they still believed that Lisa Marie had not gone back to Miscavige, and that Lisa Marie seemed to be feeling more confident going into the divorce trial with Lockwood, which is scheduled to begin soon.

But now, our source says, Lisa Marie is inconsolable. Yesterday morning Lisa Marie’s son and Riley’s younger brother Benjamin Keough, 27, ended his life with a firearm in Calabasas, California.

When news of his death started spreading yesterday afternoon, we began receiving questions from readers who wanted to know if Benjamin had been a Scientologist. He was certainly raised in it, just like his sister and his mother and his father Danny Keough, Lisa Marie’s first husband, who is still an ardent church member. And Scientology publications show that Benjamin completed the “Purification Rundown” at the end of 2013.

Another source who was close to the family and specifically Benjamin, having known him since he was four years old, tells us that he was definitely out of Scientology and badmouthed it to his friends. Just this past May, they tell us, “Ben had been talking about how fucked up kids get in Scientology.” They also told us that Ben struggled with alcohol and drugs, and had recently been in rehab (a non-Scientology program), battling his own addictions. This source also points out that Benjamin had been staying at his mother’s home in Calabasas, but we haven’t seen any of the news sources covering this indicate whether he shot himself in his mother’s own home. [UPDATE: This has been confirmed, that Benjamin died at his mother’s estate, but she was apparently not there at the time, thankfully.]

Our original source, who had been very close to Benjamin as a boy, answered the question about his Scientology involvement this way: “The important thing is that the entire family was shaped by Scientology, and it’s paying the price because of it.” They said that Scientology’s involvement in their lives had meant what it does for so many other families: a destabilizing force between parents and children, and of course no chance of proper mental health care.

Lisa Marie had brought her entire family out of Scientology in 2014 after her attempted showdown with Miscavige. We found solid evidence that Riley is associating with Scientology celebrities today, which seemed to confirm what we’d heard, that she was back in. Each of our best sources on the family tells us they have a hard time believing that Lisa Marie herself has gone back to Miscavige after the way she rejected him in 2014, even with the chaos she’s been through in recent years. And our new source tells us that Benjamin, at least, was definitely out of Scientology.

And one thing our original source says they know without any doubt, and that’s Lisa Marie’s connection to her son.

“Ben was her baby. More than Riley. More than the twins. This will be beyond inconceivable for her. I really worry that it might be too much for her,” our source says.



Source Code

“Faith is a very fascinating subject. Faith can be artificially installed. You can take a person as a clinical experiment, hypnotize him and install the Great God Motaw. You tell him that the Great God Motaw is now taking care of his life, safeguarding him, looking after his concerns, will see that the future is all arranged for him, will see that all goes well and that everybody loves him, and will, beyond everything else, give him absolutely correct data every time he asks for it. The Great God Motaw, installed in such a circuit, more or less takes the whole computer, moves it over, and now he has the Great God Motaw sitting there. You can even install it so that the Great God Motaw has sonic, which is strictly hallucination.” — L. Ron Hubbard, July 13, 1950


Overheard in the FreeZone

“You don’t turn someone who is seeking to rehabilitate himself to the authorities. Otherwise, there is no point in being a church, don’t you think? Involving HCO, OSA, etc, that’s perfectly OK and, in fact, expected for the protection of the group and to really get to the bottom of the situation. But the whole idea besides protecting the group first is to rehabilitate. I don’t see how the ‘authorities’ are going to rehabilitate anybody. Throwing somebody in jail and locking the door hasn’t rehabilitated anybody as far as I know. Do you know of anybody who did? There are ways to deal with any situation with the correct Ethics tools and to take full responsibility for scene (with every dynamic involved) without playing the cop. We are ministers, not police officers. We are a Church, not a police enforcement agency.”


Random Howdy

“Scientologists believe that the Narconon treatment can cure you of alcoholism and once completed you can drink in safety again. In fact from what I’ve read they sometimes make you drink before you leave to prove this.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Arraignment scheduled for September 18.
Jay Spina, Medicare fraud: Sentencing is set for August 27 in White Plains, NY
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Next pretrial conference set for January 12 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments set for August 30 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Hearing on motion for reconsideration set for August 11
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Sept 4 (CSI/RTC demurrer against Riales, Masterson demurrer), Oct 7-19 (motions to compel arbitration)
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach bankruptcy appeal: Oral arguments were heard on March 11 in Jacksonville
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Alanna Masterson, Terry Jastrow, and Marisol Nichols]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Scientology’s targeting of children is only getting more blatant as the church struggles
[TWO years ago] Scientology scrambles to keep Miscavige out of forced-abortion trial
[THREE years ago] Pastor’s ‘premature’ announcement of July 22 event causes A&E to cancel ‘Aftermath’ taping
[FOUR years ago] Hey, thetan: Scientology has a few questions for you
[FIVE years ago] Hey, Star magazine, why is Tom Cruise afraid of Aussie journo Bryan Seymour?
[SIX years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology lets slip the reason it still produces L. Ron Hubbard’s bad fiction
[SEVEN years ago] Leaving Scientology: Jon Atack Navigates the Labyrinth of Paranoia
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Gets a Smooch from the L.A. Times
[NINE years ago] Scientology’s Spy Program: Anatomy of a Covert Operation


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,997 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,501 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,021 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,041 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 932 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,239 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,107 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,881 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,685 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,001 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,567 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,486 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,654 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,235 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,496 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,534 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,247 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,772 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,302 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,862 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,002 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,322 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,177 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,297 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,652 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,955 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,061 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,463 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,335 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,918 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,413 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,667 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,776 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 13, 2020 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 14 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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