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Richard Belzer, and that time he got us in to see Tom Cruise roast Matt Lauer

[Belzer, center, with Jeff Ross, left, and Jim Carrey honoring Jerry Lewis on his 90th at the Friar’s Club in 2016]

We were very sad to hear about Richard Belzer’s passing. It was reported that he died in France this week at the age of 78 after some years there dealing with illness.

His last words were reported to have been, “Fuck you, motherfucker.”

Damn, that is so good.

For a short time, Belzer and your proprietor were pretty good friends.


We know that sounds odd, and it was.

The year was 2008, we were into our second year as editor of The Village Voice, and Belzer was, well, you know, Belzer.

He was one of those quintessential New York characters, a comedian known for his unconventional and disruptive and sometimes simply incomprehensible performances.

He sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie Scarface, for example, in a moment that feels totally beamed into the film from another planet.

And of course he got mainstream fame for his lengthy run as Detective John Munch in the Law and Order universe.

But we didn’t talk about any of those things. For some reason, we just liked hanging out and talking about New York and the Voice and national politics. And he would tell me about his JFK conspiracies and I would tell him he was full of shit and somehow a friendship grew out of that.

We were both pretty interested that Barack Obama was disrupting things and looked like he was going to win the election that year. So for that week, I put Belzer on the cover of the Voice, showing him coming out of one of those old-fashioned New York City voting booths, the kind that gave you a satisfying ka-CHUNK when you pulled the handle and submitted your vote.

Fucking Belzer, telling New Yorkers to go cast a fucking vote in the 2008 election. That was a good week.

But it was what happened a couple of weeks earlier for which I will forever be in Belzer’s debt, and that lightly touches on the subject of this website.

On October 24, 2008, Belzer got me into a Friar’s Club roast.

For some time, he had been bugging me about becoming a member there at the club on East 55th Street. Not because I was a comedian myself, but mostly I think because the membership was aging and dying off and they needed some new warm bodies. I demurred.

I knew about the club’s long history of roasts, and that October Belzer told me a big one was coming up when Today host Matt Lauer would be in the hot seat. I told him that I was curious about it, and he got me an invite.

Belzer himself was taking part and would be sitting at the long table on stage at the Hilton in midtown. I was relegated to a table far, far in the back with some people I didn’t know. And it had been made very clear to everyone that there would strictly be no filming or photography of the event. They wanted the people on stage to let their hair down, and a lot of big television network tight-asses would be taking place.

They read out the warning several times. But I had a secret weapon. I’d carried in a note pad and a pen. While the event was going on, I held the pad under the table, just in case they were so uptight they didn’t want a journalist even taking notes, and I rapidly wrote down as much as I could.


After the event I ran back to the paper and rapidly wrote it up, thinking there might be other accounts of the night showing up in other publications. But that didn’t happen. It turned out that such detailed reports from a Friar’s Club roast were actually a bit rare, and so my story got a lot of attention.

Belzer loved it.

Just before the night started, news had broken that Tom Cruise would be showing up, which made sense given his famously combative interview with Lauer in 2005. And so this is what I recorded of Tom’s contribution to the evening:

Cruise was brilliant casting, because the rollercoaster he’s been on the past few years over his space-alien-worshipping religion started over two big events — the way he jumped all over Oprah’s couch expressing his love for new babe Katie Holmes, and for a confrontational interview he did in 2005 with journalistic cupcake Lauer. The Lauer interview in particular made Cruise not only appear unhinged, but it also made him look like a bully for the way he criticized Brooke Shields for turning to medication to deal with post-partum depression. (Those wacky Scientologists believe the best way to treat all maladies, particularly those of the mind, is with maximum adoration of 30’s pulp fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard.)

But today, Cruise was not only a good sport for showing up to roast Lauer, he really killed. Guy was hilarious and self-deprecating. He joked about how he and Lauer were actually best buddies and went everywhere together, how they pranked Willard Scott, and how they talked on the phone four times a day (and he had slides to go with it).

“Matt has also given me some great advice,” Cruise said. Things in 2005 were going great, Cruise went on. He’d just made a movie with Spielberg, and he was going to go on Oprah’s show. Matt, he said, asked him what he was going to talk about. When he said he was going to talk about the movie, Matt made an “angry sigh,” Tom said.

“Tom, don’t be glib,” Cruise said, imitating Laeur, “You’re in love. Go crazy. Trust me, people will love you for it.”

Tom then explained that Lauer also gave advice to Jeff Zucker (the NBC Universal CEO who was also sitting on the dais) to dump Leno, and Lauer also ran into OJ Simpson on the golf course and gave him advice as well. “Juice. Look, if those guys got your shit in Vegas… don’t be a pussy, just go up to that hotel now and take it. Trust me, Juice, people will love you for it,” Cruise said as Lauer, and got big laughs.

Cruise then said that his life is “going from international movie sets to amazing parties. And then from amazing parties to international movie sets. But Matt, you found happiness doing the same thing every day.”

The diminutive movie idol then turned to leave, and Lauer jumped to the microphone: “Can you stay? We can get you a booster seat.”

Al Roker couldn’t help adding his own Cruise jab: “Tom can’t stay because the space ship has to leave soon.”

Hardy-har-har. All in good fun.

Things got a lot dirtier as the evening went on and such luminaries as Katie Couric and Meredith Viera and even Martha Stewart took their turns with such legendary foul-mouths as Jeff Ross, Bob Saget, and Gilbert Gottfried.

Please gird your loins and go read my entire account of the evening at the Voice website. You will not be disappointed.


(Several years later, that story got a new round of attention when the allegations about Lauer abusing women came out into the open, and questions were being asked about how much figures such as Couric and Viera had known about it.)

We’ll save the last word for Belzer himself, who of course killed at this event, just like he did at so many others. What a legend.

The inimitable Richard Belzer then followed Zucker, and as is his trademark, abused the audience as much as he told jokes. And the best moment came when he tried to tell his final joke and kept screwing it up.

“It’s not all fluff and fluffing,” he said about Lauer’s lightweight reputation. Lauer had also done serious reporting, he continued. “Who could forget the time when he tracked down the exact membership…”

And that was the wrong word. So he started the joke over again. Five times. Finally, he dragged Lauer himself up to deliver the punch line:

“Who could forget the time when he tracked down the exact measurement of Ann Coulter’s dick,” Lauer said to a roar from the audience.

Ah, Belzer. The best.

Fuck you, motherfucker. And thanks for all the laughs.


Technology Cocktail

“A term that really makes a psychiatrist feel like somebody is ‘schizo,’ their nickname for the schizophrenic. It is an odd misnomer in that it means split personality and the trouble with a schizo is that he needs splitting, not that he’s split. He’s in another’s valence, and what is required is to remove or split the preclear out of that other’s valence.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1957




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 as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

— The Underground Bunker Podcast

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— SPECIAL: Your Proprietor’s updates on the Danny Masterson trial

[1] Sep 21 [2] Sep 28 [3] Oct 4 [4] Oct 10 [5] Oct 11: Day One [6] Oct 12: Day Two [7] Oct 13: Day Three [8] Oct 17: Day Four [9] Oct 18: Day Five [10] Oct 19: Day Six [11] Special interview with Chris Shelton, Oct 19 [12] Oct 20: Day Seven [13] Oct 21: Day Eight [14] First week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [15] Oct 24: Day Nine [16] Oct 25: Day Ten [17] Oct 27: Day Eleven [18] Oct 28: Day Twelve [19] Second week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [20] Halloween special [21] Nov 2: Day Thirteen [22] Nov 3: Day Fourteen [23] Nov 4: Day Fifteen [24] Third week in review [25] Nov 5, Saturday special [26] Nov 6, Sunday special [27] Nov 7, Day Sixteen [28] Lisa Marie Presley breaking news [29] Nov 8, Day Seventeen [30] Nov 9, Day Eighteen [31] Nov 10, Day Nineteen



Source Code

“This idea of somebody full-armed from the brow of Jove or something like that, coming down and helping man, and so on, that’s an old story. That isn’t even news. But somebody by his own bootstraps, even as you, pulling himself up through this thing, that is news. And whatever you have done and been on the Whole Track, or whatever I have done and been on the Whole Track, it still amounts to the fact that a guy just like you made this. And has made it, and also ‘physician heal thyself,’ has been broken all ways from the middle. Because it never happened before. That’s what’s news. I suppose my bank to a large degree’s been keyed out but over a period of time has been keying in harder and harder and harder and about knocked my head off, and I was working out technology by which you could get Clear, and I hadn’t had any auditing to amount to anything for a couple of years, actually. Mary Sue rolled up her sleeves and there we went and here we are. And this is a very satisfactory, well, I won’t say an end to the story, because the story is a long way from ended. But I will say it’s a very satisfactory denouement on the question, ‘Can one lift himself by his own bootstraps and beat all the laws of God and men in this whole universe from one corner to the other?’ And the answer, of course, is yes.” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 21, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“The UKLO WW SH team, Phyll Stevens, Linda Parselle, Anne Tampion, Darlene Regenas and Margaret Hodkins are leaving today. They have worked hard and done very well. They graduated from the FEBC and attained Grade Clear OT. The Flag Bureaux has totally replanned SH spatially and have re-integrated the successful ’67 pattern. WW is now the UKLO Management Bureau. We wish them very well. The officers and crew have worked very hard completing the entirety of this very extensive project. Now it is up to them to put a UKLO and SH and SH Foundation there and bring SH back to its former glory. Good-bye, god bless, good luck. We wish you well. This is a major completion. A great one.” — The Commodore, February 21, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“In 1980 or so Diana Hubbard proclaimed that the World would be Clear in 1987. Putting the dream of a Clear planet into reality will take centuries or possibly longer. The Sea Org contract of a billion years meant being here for however long it takes. I am going to be around for those centuries or the full billion years if that is what it takes. Are you? My opinion is that when LRH said that ‘Orders of Magnitude’ was the awareness level of a level above OT8 then he was talking about getting people up to a state where they could accomplish his levels of speed of particle flow and continue at that level for however long it might take.”


Past is Prologue

1996: A first-hand account from the Apollo was posted this week which counters Scientology’s claim about the cover of Hubbard’s book ‘All About Radiation.’ As Scientology spokesman Andy Milne posted, Scientology says that the book’s claim that Hubbard was a “Nuclear Physicist” was invented by book editor Lauren Sullivan. Neal Hamel responded with his own remembrance. “Andy, I was on Flag with Hubbard, something you did not have the opportunity to do. While I was there, Laurel Watson was there. I observed an incident with Laurel where she was preparing a book cover for a new release of one of Hubbard’s books. He read her the riot act for a mistake she had made on a book cover (I forget which one). I remember her coming down the ship’s corridor in tears and quite upset. Hubbard dictated every damn word on the book covers that were released. He also specified and approved the cover art. Your story simply has no credibility.”



Random Howdy

“Pleasure and pain are what motivates everyone on the most basic level. People do things because they make them feel good, whether it be dope or Scientology. Even after drug addiction becomes destructive, people keep doing it because it’s become their way of life and people fear change (and pain) more than anything.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Retrial scheduled, jury selection begins March 29. Next pretrial hearing: Feb 16.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Next pretrial hearing Feb 13.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next status conference Feb 13.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2. Hearing November 17 to argue the arbitration motions, awaiting ruling.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: March 15, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through February 7.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior 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.



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.


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.


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?


[ONE year ago] After a court restored the Danny Masterson suit, Scientology is apoplectic with rage
[TWO years ago] Scientology social media: The world’s coolest religion is on fire!
[THREE years ago] Thanks to some Scientology OTs, you can now rent a cabin only a mile from Shelly Miscavige!
[FOUR years ago] If you thought Scientology’s ‘Axioms’ were dumb, the ‘Logics’ are even dumberer
[FIVE years ago] Hubbard’s ‘Brainwashing Manual’ — how a crude Scientology hoax became a far-right touchstone
[SIX years ago] As Scientology shrinks, its leader dreams up new ways to convince followers otherwise
[SEVEN years ago] When Scientology was in trouble in 1955, L. Ron Hubbard told prosecutor he was a ‘psychologist’
[EIGHT years ago] When Scientology was pouring on the ‘religious’ angle very thick: A video mystery
[NINE years ago] Federal judge dismisses Georgia class-action lawsuit against Scientology and rehab network
[TEN years ago] Narconon Staff Certifications in Jeopardy After New Whistleblower Comes Forward
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Hip Hop: The Melbourne Day Rap Battle Team!


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 2,947 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,452 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,002 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,992 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,883 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,187 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,058 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,163 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,640 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,952 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,518 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,437 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,605 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,186 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,447 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,484 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,199 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,763 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,078 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,253 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,804 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,935 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,273 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,128 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,247 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,603 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,906 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,012 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,410 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,286 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,869 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,364 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,618 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,727 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 21, 2023 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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