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With Jason Lee out, what does it mean for Scientology’s tightest celebrity clique?

jason_lee2

[A man and his camera]

Well, we told you this was probably the case. Jason Lee confirmed yesterday to a Denton, Texas blog that he and his wife “don’t practice Scientology” and aren’t interested in opening any Scientology centers in their new adopted hometown.

In other words, Jason Lee is out, joining Leah Remini, Lisa Marie Presley, Paul Haggis, and Jason Beghe in the growing tide of celebrities ditching the celebrity-obsessed organization.

In October 2011, Jason told us that he wanted to have a sit-down with us after the new year to talk about Scientology. We never heard from him again. But it stayed with us: How committed to Scientology could Jason really be if he were interested in discussing it with a merchant of chaos?

“Merchant of chaos” is what Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard called newspaper reporters, and he didn’t mean it in an endearing sense. Sure, maybe Jason was just blowing smoke up our skirt, and he really had no intention of talking about his involvement in the church. But over the years, we heard other things suggesting to us that Scientology’s hold on Jason was a tenuous one.

In 2008, he had married a Turkish-Australian actress, Ceren AlkaƧ, and a month later she gave birth to a daughter, Casper. Ceren was not a Scientologist, and in 2012, when they had their second child, a boy they named Sonny, one of our better sources told us that the couple had Sonny baptized at St. Thomas the Apostle, an Episcopal church in Hollywood. And then, last year, the Lee family moved to their ranch outside Denton, which was about as far as you could get from Hollywood — and from Scientology.

A bogus-sounding report surfaced in December that Jason and Ceren were splitting, and that it had to do with Jason’s commitment to Scientology. Naturally, the tabloid report contained no citation of any evidence.

We didn’t buy it. If Jason and Ceren were having problems (and we doubted that), there was almost no chance that it had anything to do with Scientology.

And then, in April we quoted a source who told us it was “pretty clear” that Jason was out of the church.

That quote appeared in our story about Lucia Ribisi, daughter to actor Giovanni Ribisi, who had gone on a radio program under the name “Carole” to talk about how she was the daughter of a famous Scientology actor, but that she had left the church after having a breakdown.

We confirmed that “Carole” was actually Lucia through five independent sources. One of them was a longtime family friend of the Ribisi clan who is a member of the Church of Scientology and its Hollywood Celebrity Centre.

Our Celebrity Centre source has given us very detailed information about the Ribisi family and its larger Scientology clique, including Beck Hansen, the Masterson clan, and Jason Lee.

We called him up last night to tell him the news about Jason, and told him that he had been right.

“Yeah, it was pretty obvious that he was out,” our source said. And he told us that Jason’s defection raises interesting questions about an entire wing of Scientology’s precious celebrity chattel.

“This really makes you wonder about that entire clique. The Ribisi clique. What’s happening to it?” he said.

He remembered running into Jason Lee and Giovanni Ribisi at the Celebrity Centre in the early days, before either of them were famous, and they were very tight as friends. “They were recording. They were writing music. They had a band — it wasn’t professional, but they spent a lot of time together working on it.”

Jason had been a professional skateboarder from Orange County. He was born on April 25, 1970 in Santa Ana, and grew up in Huntington Beach. A month shy of his 19th birthday in 1989, Jason turned professional. Two years later, he moved to a loft in Los Angeles, and another skateboarder who had done TV commercials introduced him to a talent manager named Gay Ribisi.

“Gay Ribisi — the mother of Giovanni and Marissa Ribisi — is my manager, and has been since the very beginning. So I met the Ribisi family and I dated Marissa for about four years when I was still a skater,” Jason said in a 2000 interview.

It was the Ribisi family that brought Jason into Scientology. In our April story, we described how committed Gay and her former husband Al Ribisi are to the church. They are not only 40-year members, but they’re known for being particularly aggressive about their commitment to the organization. And their children are part of an extended group that includes the Masterson kids and Beck, who married Marissa Ribisi in 2004. Giovanni and Marissa, who are twins, have a younger sister, Gina. Through her boyfriend, Jason Lee met another aspiring young actor named Ethan Suplee.

After quickly souring on commercials, Jason asked Gay to get him a film role. She introduced him to the casting agent for the 1995 film Mallrats, Kevin Smith’s sophomore directing effort after Clerks. Meanwhile, Gay was also managing her own children, whose acting careers were also blossoming.

“The extended Ribisi-Hansen clan became one of the most well known in Scientology and Hollywood, and helped fuel the notion that getting into Scientology was a legitimate way to advance a career in the entertainment industry,” we wrote in April.

But now, according to the interview he did this week with The Dentonite blog, Jason has pretty much given up acting altogether and is working full time at his newer passion: film photography.

He has a book coming out this month of his instant-film images, and he regularly posts photos to his Instagram account. Photography, over the last 15 years, has increasingly become his most important pursuit.

We asked our Celebrity Centre source: Is this all of one piece? Leaving Hollywood, moving to Texas, dropping his acting?

“He wants to be with his kids and raise them. He had a huge success with My Name is Earl. That series gave him plenty of money. And if he’s still signed with Gay, it might have made it less attractive to him to continue acting, because he’d have to deal with her,” our source says.

“People who marry non-Scientologists, they’re looked at in the church like they kind of screwed up. It’s a really quick way to get out of Scientology — fall in love with a non-Scientologist,” he says, but then adds that the opposite is also true: Marrying another Scientologist can make it very hard to leave.

“Ethan Suplee is very laid back, but he’s married to one of Geoffrey Lewis‘s daughters, Brandy, and she’s as militant a Scientologist as it gets. Ethan’s not leaving any time soon.”

But Jason not only married outside the church, he moved away to lessen its influence. “And where he moved to is perfect. An artist community where Scientology could never get a foothold. If you’re not in Los Angeles or in Clearwater [Florida], you’re really in the Scientology boondocks.”

We couldn’t help wondering if Gay Ribisi might suffer some consequences. Isn’t it possible, knowing Scientology, that she’ll get hauled in for a “sec check” — an interrogation — because of Jason’s interview this week?

“That’s possible. That could happen. If she did not inform the church about what was going on, and this blindsided them, she’ll be in trouble.”

Our source also wondered about Jason’s relationship with Giovanni. Increasingly, the Avatar actor appears to be in a dicey situation. His parents are hardcore, unrelenting Scientologists, but his 19-year-old daughter went on a radio show to talk about how over Scientology she is. And now one of his best friends, Jason Lee, has moved away and left the church.

Our source says he assumes this has put a strain on what was once a very close friendship. But we noticed that in May, Jason posted a photo of Giovanni he had taken years before on the set of My Name is Earl.

 
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Is Giovanni staying connected to the Scientology defectors in his life? After our story came out in April, Lucia recorded a podcast in June and said that she had a “tumultuous relationship” with her father, and that they weren’t talking.

We asked our source to redouble his efforts. What’s happening in the house of Ribisi? He says he’ll report back to us about it as soon as he can.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 17, 2016 at 07:10

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 and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

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 | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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