In which I contribute to Scholarship. Sorta.

Four years ago, I was flown down to Clearwater, Florida for a modeling shoot. The photographer picked me up from the airport. As we drove into town, we passed several small groups of pedestrians, all wearing identical blue shirts and khaki pants, and identical vague smiles.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“Scientologists.” He shook his head. “They own this town.”

At the time, I didn’t know anything about Scientology, but the photographer was clearly unhappy with their overwhelming presence. In his former career as a traffic-light repair person, he told me, he was often called to the scenes of car accidents. “Before I could even get there, they would be there with cameras, snapping pictures.” But the Scientologists’ strange fascination with wrecks was by no means the most unnerving thing about them. Some years earlier, he said, a young woman had been in a minor car accident. She wasn’t hurt, but she took off all of her clothes in the street, and was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The Scientologists came and got her, took her to a hotel, tied her to a bed, and starved her in the course of their “introspection rundown” – Scientology’s alternative to the Great Evil of Psychiatry. By the time she was finally brought back to a hospital, she was dead.

Suddenly, the vague smiles on the uniformed packs looked a little sinister.

I didn’t think much about Scientology after that – didn’t have any reason to – until I moved to Los Angeles. I discovered soon after moving here that Hollywood is, in a sense, Clearwater writ large. To my knowledge, in the City of Los Angeles alone (not including the Valley, Pasadena, Orange County, etc), we are blessed with: The Church of Scientology on L. Ron Hubbard Way, The Celebrity Centre, The Mission on Melrose; The Mission of Los Feliz, and at least three buildings dedicated to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. The last time my parents visited, we took them on a little tour of all the Scientology landmarks in town.

I’ll admit it right now: I’m a little obsessed. We’re talking about a church founded by a science fiction author, possibly started as a bet, which maintains a private naval fleet, teaches that everybody on earth is infested with aliens, engages in celebrity mind-control and infiltrates public schools in the guise of an anti-drug program. And here I am, right in the thick of it!

So you can imagine my excitement the other day when I was contacted about a photograph I took at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which I had subsequently uploaded to Flickr. The person writing the Wikipedia article on Dianetics wanted to use my photo! to illustrate! the article!

Small pleasures truly make life worthwhile.

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16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Gwen said,

    That’s awesome!

    I have been obsessed with Scientology ever since I saw their giant scary ship docked in Bonaire about ten years ago. They are soooo creepy.

  2. 2

    miss kendra said,

    not to mention the fact that though the “church” condemns the use of psychiatric medicine, the founder used anti-anxiety drugs for a good deal of his life.

  3. 3

    Kristin said,

    Congrats! I’ve kind of been obsessed too. When I was in High School (11 years ago), we did a unit in my health class about cults and we had a guest speaker that was a former student at my school and a former Scientologist. He spoke about what he went through, the mind control and the emptying of his bank account and separation from his family and friends, and it made me so mad. I was especially upset that Dianetics was advertised on TV and that they carried the book in my school library. Ever since then I’ve just been fascinated and disturbed by the fact that they have some sort of “legitimacy” in our society.

  4. 4

    bloglily said,

    Ms. U — I remember people used to call the Scientology building on Sunset (was it Sunset?) the Big Blue Suck.

    On another, semi-related noted, with regard to your photography. You seem to be the poet of Peeps. Is there an easter-related post I’ve missed? I must say, I cannot believe how many places the little Peeps family ended up.

  5. 5

    Andrea said,

    congrats! Your posterity is assured.

    Scientology creeps me right out.

  6. 6

    uccellina said,

    Bloglily: Ah, yes. It starts here. Subsequent chapters are linked at the bottom of each page. (Can you tell I haven’t yet figured out how to import all my old posts?)

  7. 7

    laurie said,

    I think I should join. Maybe then I could live forever. Or be famous. Or finally get rid of this damn alien growing inside my head.

  8. 8

    uccellina said,

    Laurie? Hello? You are famous, darlin’.

  9. 9

    dancinpistachio said,

    omg, you’re on wikipedia!!! sweet!!!

    that is SO much more than just a small pleasure…

  10. 10

    That Clearwater story is incredible. Was the woman in the accident herself a Scientologist? It sounds like she must have been. This is a story that needs to get mass circculation. I bet there are others of similarly alarming content.

    Kristen mentioned something about their degree of legitimacy. This is to be explained as being based for the most part on the number of celebrities they’ve been able to blackmail-er, I mean, “convert”.

  11. 11

    nocureforboredom said,

    A) Cool!;

    B) That stoy re: Ms. McPherson gives me serious willies;

    C) Are they gonna be after all us naysayers now?

  12. 12

    MonkeyGurrl said,

    When I was in college (those many, MANY years ago), my boyfriend was into scifi, dungeons & dragons and all that rot (can you tell he was a nerdy kid?) I studied L. Ron in HS, and I thought the boyfriend was *joking* when he told me about Scientology.

    I still have to believe it is some sort of huge, cosmic joke. Otherwise, I’d have to admit they exist. And I refuse to give them that power.

  13. 13

    Mahala said,

    Girl, I’d be completely freaked out living among those people.

  14. 14

    A said,

    They’re probably delighted to find a pictre in which they look normal. (Also, their grasp of irony is truly deficient.)

  15. 15

    Laurie Ann said,

    Hmmm, Celebrity matchmaking, unisex uniforms, cruise ships, free stress tests, and Battleship Earth–what’s not to love?

    Oh sure, we Catholics get a beer-drinking German pope who looks like the Emperor from Star Wars and Mel Gibson as our spokesman (even though he doesn’t accept the 2nd Vatican Council’s changes), but Scientologists get Xenu, John Travolta and countless others.

  16. 16

    […] 28, 2007 · Filed under kooks As we know, I am fascinated by kooks. Kooks of all kinds, but especially public kooks. Kooks who blog. Kooks […]


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