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How a decaying landmark became Scientology’s legendary Hollywood Celebrity Centre

 
Yacht Apollo, early 1974. “The Commodore says if you don’t handle this situation he’s going to punch you on the nose.”

I think it was Janis or her sister Terri who delivered this particular message, as usual without any social preamble such as a mere hello. I did a double take and clearly saw that she had dropped this nugget of verbal intimidation with a perfectly straight face. This was no joke. I knew that the messengers were trained to deliver every message with a tone of voice and demeanor which reflected the Commodore’s mood and intent. On this occasion, he meant business. And the business at hand was the recently acquired Fifield Manor in Los Angeles, known to this day as “the Manor.” I was in deep trouble, that much was clear, and I was sweating it.

It was my luck that LRH had recently transferred the entirety of the Estates Section within the Sea Organization under my care. This seismic change had occurred shortly after his return from the US in November 1973, seemingly by imperial decree – no published issue, no evaluation, no prior consultation with me. Estates now belonged in my Division 3, the Treasury Division, and no longer in Division 7, the Executive Division, where he evidently had been unhappy with their management. It was hard to argue against the fact that my aptly named Department 9, Records, Assets and Material, was a proper placement on the “org board” (as an organization chart is known in Scientologese) for these physical assets. I now literally owned every Sea Org building on three continents.

This added responsibility made the rest of my multiple and varied functions look like merely a side gig, despite the fact that I had barely been keeping my head above water. Denmark was in the process of buying buildings to operate the Advanced Org and to house its crew. The construction of the Saint Hill castle in East Grinstead was stalled. A couple of properties left over from earlier operations in Morocco still had to be disposed of. And in the LA area, known collectively as PAC (for Pacific Area Command), “estates” was a dog’s breakfast of small properties in sore shape and in bad downtown locations. Oh and all facilities and operations designated for the care and education of Sea Org children now fell under my purview. If I was secretly flattered by the confidence ‘the old man’ had shown me, I felt mostly fatalistic about the heap of trouble into which this new game was certain to land me.

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The Fifield Manor was a case in point. Back in mid 1973, the Aides Council had met around the large conference table in CIC, our pompously named “Control and Information Center” tucked into the Apollo’s refurbished Hold Number One, to review and approve the purchase of the Manor for a cool million dollars, a sum unheard of in those days for a Sea Org property. We, the seven Commodore’s Staff Aides, were the ones responsible for green lighting the purchase, and LRH had approved it based on our recommendation.

It seems he had since developed a bad case of buyer’s remorse. The Fifield, the Commodore noted as soon as he came back aboard in the fall of 1973, was a white elephant, a designation which he took pains to explain: a rare, expensive and useless gift you couldn’t get rid of, and one that would soon eat you out of house and home.

The edifice began life in 1927 with the name Chateau Elysee, and it already had a salacious background when it first opened its doors. Its original owner, Nell Ince, sold it in 1943, and it was then converted to a luxury retirement home with the name Fifield Manor in 1951.

Although the Fifield had in turn been purchased by a mission with input from Yvonne Gillham, who had planned to relocate her Celebrity Center in this gracious building, this was not to be. Soon after the purchase, the Guardian’s Office had claimed the top two floors. There was a separate one story annex building on the grounds, into which the Advanced Org promptly moved. And the rest of the 80,000 square feet former hotel was taken over for staff berthing, which allowed three staff houses in the seedy downtown area to be sold off. LRH made it clear to me that strict space allocation planning was a necessary function, for any group would automatically occupy however much free space it found available. It was human nature. He was right.

The problem was that collectively, all the delivery organizations in the LA area who provided services to Scientologists (ASHO, AOLA and CC) were generating nowhere near enough income to support their own operations, let alone to maintain a huge and lavish older building just for housing their staff. In addition there were ancillary organizations to support, such as a station ship, a Publications Org and the Continental Management Office. Plus, collectively, this PAC area was expected to send large sums to Flag for its own support and for Sea Org Reserves.

LRH had a “bright idea” for handling this clearly unviable and unsustainable situation. A bright idea was a specialized term in Scientology’s “admin tech” of evaluations, denoting a clever scheme or solution to use existing resources to remedy a situation and bring it closer to an ideal scene. The bright idea then, was to convert the Manor into a money making hotel reserved for Scientologists who came to LA from out of town to receive their upper level training and auditing. And by installing the Celebrity Center on the ground floor, the building would also provide a venue for an income generating, public facing operation.

I was the IT girl to make this bright idea into a reality. But there were several moving parts in this grand scheme and as many potential pitfalls. I would have to first locate and acquire a separate building, centrally located and at an affordable price, dedicated solely to housing most of the 300+ strong contingent of Sea Org members in the LA area. Then these crew members would have to move their berthing out of the Manor and into this new building overnight, all without causing any disruption whatsoever to their respective org’s production statistics. That was understood as an absolute requirement in the Sea Org, and I for one was not interested in having a “stat crasher” label hanging around my neck from here on out.

Next, the rooms in the Manor would have to be cleaned up and furnished to receive guests, and meanwhile a promotional campaign would urgently be needed to invite Scientologists from outside the LA area to come and stay at the newly branded “Manor Hotel”. And an Estates Service Organization would have to be created from nothing and staffed up to cater to these guests, maintain and restore the property, and vigorously handle promotion and registration services to keep the place full and profitable, going forward.

Meanwhile, the main floor of the building would be set up to accommodate the Celebrity Center, which delivered Scientology training and auditing to local celebrities. That too would have to happen overnight without any service disruption. The CC would close its doors as usual at 10 PM one night in its old cramped building downtown, and would reopen the very next morning for business as usual in the new glamorous location. Little elves would take care of the moving all through the night.

The whole lot would be accomplished by two Flag missions, for which I wrote detailed mission orders. Once these MOs were approved and sent down to the Action Bureau, it would be their job to select, brief and fire the Missionnaires, and to “run” them, monitoring their progress on their specific targets via daily telex reports, while I kept an eye on happenings in LA.

The first surprise was that the Action Chief proposed sending my own husband as Chief Missionnaire of the berthing building mission. He had a track record on logistical missions and a knack for public relations, and he was familiar with LA, so objectively he was a good choice. But naturally that pitted the needs of my job against my personal life, and I hated to see him leave the ship for several weeks, when we had already endured so much separation for various reasons since our recent marriage. It was sort of like shooting myself in the foot. But so be it, I was desperate for success, and I approved it. In the event, he did an excellent job. He located and swiftly acquired the “Hollywood Inn” building right on Hollywood Boulevard, a former hotel going out of business, and moved all the crew berthing out of the Manor and into it. It was by no means luxurious but it was certainly a leap up from the old crew berthing houses in the unsafe downtown area, although certainly not as elegant as the short lived staff accomodations in the Manor. To this day, the place is still known as “the HI” and as far as I know it’s still used for Sea Org berthing. He also set up the PAC Estates Org, which was to continue taking care of various buildings on a more permanent basis.

The second mission was assigned to Rheva Spence. A diminutive Jewish New Yorker, with frizzy sandy hair, dark blue eyes and an impish smile, she was a “can do” firebrand. She was married to tall Texan cowboy Mitch Spence, who stood somewhere around 6’ 3” to her 5’0” or so, and the couple cut an impressive figure together. I thought her task was exceedingly difficult and I was worried. But I need not have been. In no time, she tore through the Manor and had it reset as a hotel. By the time she returned home to the Apollo several weeks later, the Manor Hotel was fully booked and occupied, with SO members in the new Hotel Organization providing the needed services. Her mission was assigned Affluence or Power, I do not recall which.

Meanwhile, the Celebrity Center Org was moved into the Manor, although I do not remember the logistics of who exactly deserves the credit for executing this tricky operation, besides obviously Yvonne herself and her CC staff. I think the elves turned out to be new recruits under the supervision of the newly formed Pac Estates Org.

As for me, I heaved a huge sigh of relief when it was all over and done. No kudos came my way, particularly, but my nose remained intact. I took that as a win. On the plus side, it meant that LRH had given me the problem to handle instead of by-passing me and doing it himself, despite the perceived urgency, which saved me from a lower ethics condition, and I had come through. And the Commodore’s threatening opening salvo turned out to be the only verbal abuse I ever endured from the irascible old man, who otherwise continued to refer to me as “honey”, as per his usual.

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— Louise Shekter

In 1977, a few years after Louise’s involvement with the building, the Manor was included in the massive FBI raid that also targeted the Big Blue headquarters as well as church offices in Washington DC. It turned out that those top two floors of the Manor controlled by the Guardian’s Office were prime targets of the FBI’s search. Informant Michael Meisner had even drawn detailed pictures of the Fifield offices so agents would know where the most sensitive Snow White Program documents were stored. And some of the most important records used in the subsequent prosecution were found there. — ed.

 
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Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.

 
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Source Code

“In the final analysis, everything is a postulate. Everything came about by postulates. We just could make postulates the end-all of everything, and we’re very safe on it. Everything rationalizes out very nicely. And postulates if treated as a topflight goal bring about a very, very fine condition on the part of the preclear. What are you trying to get him to do, in essence? Change his mind. He has a bad leg, he’s crippled; you won’t get that leg well unless he changes his mind about having to have a bad leg. Believe me, you won’t. The doctors can saw and hew and use axes and materia medica and Morris Fishbeins and everything else on him, and by George, his leg will not get well until he has made up his mind for his leg to get well.” — L. Ron Hubbard, April 28, 1954

 
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Avast, Ye Mateys

“UK is in the mystic band. That’s the last stop this side of Hades, when an empire decides to go, Man. The basic law on this is: When dealing with unknown dangers over which he has no control and against which he has no defense, Man becomes mystic as to cause and effect. Reaching a population in that condition is quite a problem. It can be done, but only on the gradient of tiny cause and effect. By coaxing small reaches and giving very light effects it can be done.” — The Commodore, April 28, 1970

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Overheard in the FreeZone

“I’ve decided to leave the other Scientology groups I belong to or have been added into. What I’ve been observing and why I’m actively leaving those other groups is while this group has seemed to come together out of common interest for the betterment of ourselves and other members with Ron 2.0 at the head, and now seems to be forming a high-level group, those other groups are filled with snakes in the grass luring people in on a pretext in order to influence and actively put people off doing not just new processes but any form of auditing.”

 
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Past is Prologue

1997: The St. Petersburg Times published the results of a police survey on the problems of downtown Clearwater. Scientology was rated as worse than prostitutes. “The top six responses listed as the most important issues were: transients, traffic, drugs, parking, Scientologists and prostitutes. Other concerns included: redevelopment, traffic, safety, vacant buildings, opening more shops, landscaping and the general cleanliness of downtown. Many of the comments were complimentary toward police. In others, someone suggested merchants have a sticker to tell people they aren’t Scientologists, while someone else said having the Church of Scientology downtown helps reduce crime.”

 
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Random Howdy

“‘Malcolm In The Middle’ was so good I broke my rule for watching TV shows with Scientologists in them.”

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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next pretrial conference May 31. Trial scheduled for August 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference May 20 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for May 5.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Valerie’s motion for reconsideration denied on March 15.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Next hearing scheduled for June 29.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.

 
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THE PROSECUTION OF DANNY MASTERSON

We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.

SCIENTOLOGY: FAIR GAME

After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.

LEAH REMINI: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE AFTERMATH

An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.

SCIENTOLOGY’S CELEBRITIES, from A to Z

Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

 
Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Two Scientologists win seats on Los Angeles neighborhood council
[TWO years ago] Scientology admits that it numbers ‘tens of thousands’ not millions, as we’ve been saying
[THREE years ago] Leah Remini and Mike Rinder dare Scientology defenders to go on camera
[FOUR years ago] A new ex-Scientologist memoir provides a journey through extortion in the rank-and-file
[FIVE years ago] With Scientology at war in Clearwater, religious studies types still seeking its warm & fuzzy side
[SIX years ago] MONIQUE RATHBUN BLAMES FORMER ATTORNEYS AS SHE PLANS TO DROP LAWSUIT
[SEVEN years ago] Secretly taped Scientology executive complains about cheating on the ‘Survival Rundown’
[EIGHT years ago] Chris Shelton on the origins of Scientology’s notorious ‘Fair Game’ policy
[NINE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Baby We’re Amazed!
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Critics Find That Someone Wants Their Cellphone Records

 
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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 2,648 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,153 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,703 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,693 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,584 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,891 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,759 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,533 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,864 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,337 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,653 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,219 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,138 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,306 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,886 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,148 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,184 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,899 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,424 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 779 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,954 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,505 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,654 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,974 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,829 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,948 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,304 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,607 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,713 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,111 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,987 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,570 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,065 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,319 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,428 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on April 28, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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, 15 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

 

Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast

 

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