Friday, June 27, 2008

Chapter Ten: Rolling at Last

It was a warm August day in 1986. I was in my office on the third floor of the main building in the PAC Scientology complex in LA – "Big Blue." We had the windows open and the fans running, to try to suck in any vestige of a breeze that we could. Out the open window, I could see Fountain Avenue below me, and across the street, New York George’s, where I sometimes had a bowl of chili. A simmering haze hung over the jumble of two-story apartments to the south – mostly Armenian and Vietnamese neighborhoods.

But my attention was on the stat graph on the wall next to the window. Since mid-June, the sales of Dianetics had been climbing vertically. I had already added several extensions onto the graph, making it climb up the wall. Of course I could have re-scaled it, but it was more fun to just tack on the extensions so it got taller and taller. The numbers were amazing – we had gone from selling 3,000 books a week through the major chains to over 6,000 a week.

And this was real sales, too. Later, people would say it was all "Scientologists going out and buying the books." No, not on my watch. That’s not the way I did things.

Not that it hadn’t been suggested to me. They had done it for the launch of Hubbard’s fiction book, Battlefield Earth, in 1982. They mobilized Scientologists to go in and buy multiple copies to push up the numbers on the launch week, to try to get it on the bestseller lists. But I wasn’t interested in doing things that way. I was trying to get new people in to Scientology, I reasoned. So why on earth have Scientologists buy Dianetics books? They already have the book. Who are we trying to fool?

I knew the reasoning behind it. Anything and everything to push the stats up, to get on the bestseller lists. It was that "stat push" attitude I had been fighting for years. Because in the final analysis, it was all fluff. It made you look good for a week, or a few weeks, and then reality caught up with you. I wasn’t interested. I was in for the long haul.

So I did it the hard way, with advertising and PR. I guess that was manipulative enough in its own way, but at least no more so than Coca-Cola or any other advertising. And at least it was real books getting into the hands of real people. And people were buying Dianetics – by the thousands every week. I was able to get actual weekly cash register sales from the two largest bookstore chains in the country, B. Dalton Bookseller and Waldenbooks, and from the largest independent distributor in the country, Ingrams. I compiled these together and used that as my primary statistic. It represented about a third of the national sales, so if we were selling 6,000 books a week through Waldens, B. Daltons and Ingrams, it meant we were selling something like 18,000 books a week nationally.

The only question now was how to keep it going. And that was what I was trying to figure out.

Across the office, a phone was ringing. Where was everybody? I hated it when people just let a phone ring on and on. Finally I went across the room and picked it up.

"What?" I said irritably.

"Have you heard?" It was the voice of my PR Officer, Joanne Milan.

"Heard what?" I asked. My attention was elsewhere.

"We made the list," she said excitedly.

My mind was trying to cope with this information. What was she talking about?

"Are you still there?" she said. "The list, the New York Times Bestseller list. Dianetics is on the list!"

Finally my brain processed the information and the news washed over me like a hot flash. The New York Times bestseller list – the Pulitzer Prize, the Oscar, the Holy Grail of bookselling. And finally we’d made it.

It hadn’t been easy. A lot of research. A lot of testing. A lot of trying things out and seeing what happened. A lot of falling on our faces. But finally, finally, it was all paying off big time.

It had taken four years. When we first launched the campaign in October of 1982, the results hadn’t been spectacular. In that first week, we sold something like 500 books. But Hubbard, bless him, came to the rescue. He pointed out that campaigns of this sort have to be continued over time. They aren’t a flash in the pan. They have to build and build. "You have a winning horse here that is not being fed enough oats," he said in a dispatch to management.

In these heady days, I thought of Hubbard as my ally against the legions of stat pushers, an inspired leader who could see past the weekly stat graphs; who could see the bigger picture, the massive dissemination of Scientology through books, the booming Scientology Orgs, the broad acceptance in society as Scientology went mainstream. Sure, he stood to gain personally through the royalties on all the book sales. Sure he was not paying for all of this expensive promotion himself – it was being done at Church expense. But that wasn’t why he was supporting the campaign, was it? Certainly as the visionary Founder of Scientology, he was looking to the broader picture, the main game of Planetary Dissemination.

But whatever the reason, my Strategic Book Marketing Unit had broad air cover and we were left to get on with it. And no one was panicking or calling for my head if the stats dipped for a week. I got a clearance to attend weekly meetings at Scientology’s International Base – in a "confidential location." My old friend Ken Delderfield, now working at ASI, drove me up there the first time, and I remember driving on and on through winding desert roads and finally coming to a rather run down former hot springs resort in San Jacinto, California, near Hemet. For years, we had weekly meetings there where I would brief Scientology’s senior executives on my current strategy and actions.

So we continued to pour it on. And gradually the sales improved. Soon Dianetics was on the Ingrams bestseller list - that meant that the book stores were selling Dianetics and then reordering from the distributor. Then the book appeared on the bestseller lists of Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Bookseller, the two largest chains. We were rolling.

Len Foreman was hired on as a permanent publishing consultant. His contract was negotiated by ASI, and included a six-figure annual income. He was appointed as "President" of Bridge Publications, a title that was all but meaningless internally, but that gave him clout with the publishing industry – and gave Bridge a very credible public face. Len was given an office near to the building’s entrance where he could receive visitors. At this time, Bridge was on the west side of the "Big Blue" complex, fronting on Catalina Street. The front-lines "public areas" were poshed up to give Bridge a public façade.

Len advised that Bridge put together a sales force to handle the book trade. Don Arnow had been appointed the Trade Sales Manager, but he was a long-term Sea Org staffer and had no real experience as a salesman. Len wanted to hire a real publishing sales rep, and he recommended a guy named Bob Erdmann.

Bob fit the part. With his easy smile, his thin mustache, and his receding hairline, he could have been a salesman out of Central Casting. He always had a joke to tell. Bob had worked in the industry for years, and knew most of the buyers for the large book chains. He set to work right away negotiating with the chains to close big orders.

Len and Bob recommended that we work out a major re-launch of the Dianetics Campaign for the fall of 1983. This was to become a pattern – about every three months we’d introduce something new – a new ad, a new campaign, a new book cover – to keep the trade excited and buying. Every fall was a major new campaign, and we would hype the book trade on it at the American Booksellers Association Convention in June and take their fall orders.

In early 1983, I was visited by a Scientologist, Lon Tinney, who said he was a film director and would like to work on some new Dianetics ads. Lon seemed to be enthusiastic, and the idea of working with a Scientologist appealed to me at the time. With his blond hair and beard, he looked like an aging surfer, and he had a bit of a slacker-genius vibe about him. His claim to fame was that he had worked in some capacity on the original Star Wars film, and this gave him some cachet as a "Scientology celebrity." We became friends, and started working out ad concepts.

For one of the ads I wanted to feature a well-known Scientologist – a celebrity. We began negotiating with John Brodie, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was probably the biggest Scientology celebrity at the time. John graciously agreed to do an ad. For a second ad, we decided to do an anonymous dancer who would promote Dianetics, and for the third ad, we resurrected the marathon runner ad – one of the original ads that Hubbard had seen and rewritten.

Lon and I went up to San Francisco and filmed Brodie in an empty Candlestick Park. Brodie impressed me as a genuinely nice guy, and he and I sat in a rental car and worked over his success story until we were both happy with it, then drilled it over and over until he could remember it all. After a number of takes, he got through the whole thing smoothly – and he looked great on film.

The second ad turned into a debacle. The movie Flashdance had just come out and Lon’s idea was to do a testimonial story that would capture some of that dancing excitement. It started out as a dance rehearsal and then faded into the actual performance at the end, with flashy costumes and lights. We rented a big studio space in Hollywood to set it up. This was when breakdancing was big and the finale was supposed to be some sort of breakdance move, with the dancer flipping around on the floor, but the dancer couldn’t do it smoothly and just looked clumsy. Julia, my de facto senior at ASI, was at the filming and was soon a nervous wreck – she could see it wasn’t going well. Lon shot it over and over – then said he could "handle it in editing" – a phrase I later learned was director’s code for "it looks terrible and can’t be fixed." We ended up scrapping the ad.

We filmed the third ad, the marathon runner, in Griffith Park – in the midst of a real marathon. It was strictly a guerrilla operation – no permits. We shot the tracking dolly shots out the back of a moving car, and otherwise grabbed shots on the fly. For all that, it ended up looking pretty good.

Jeff, Julia and Lon Tinney filming in Griffith Park

So we had two new ads to put into the mix, and we played the ads against each other and watched the results in sales. The most effective one was the John Brodie ad, which we ended up playing for several years – until he finally left Scientology after a disagreement with management.

Meanwhile I kept building up the unit. After changing offices several times, we finally ended up on the 3rd floor of the main building, in a spacious office in the southwest wing – the proverbial "corner office." We had two large rooms – plenty of space. Nancy became my "Organizing Officer" and handled all the internal matters such as staffing, training, and finance.

I considered public relations a key part of the campaign, so got a PR Officer, Joanne Milan. Joann was a pale, thin, nervous lady with a bright mind and a knack for press agentry. She and I would cook up ideas for press releases and then take them to the "LRH Public Relations Bureau" to get articles placed and interviews scheduled. The LRH PR Bureau had been set up to handle Hubbard’s public relations, and they had offices all over the world. The central office was in LA. I argued that there was no more important action for Hubbard’s PR unit to be doing than getting his books on the bestseller lists, and pretty soon, Joanne and I were virtually running the PR Office, even hiring additional people to get on the phones, place stories, and book interviews with Scientology celebs or spokespeople. Soon they were placing hundreds of stories about Dianetics every week. Joann and I would write the releases and they’d get them out. My favorite was the "flying grandmother" who had, at 82, "cured her arthritis" with Dianetics and had then become the oldest person in the US to get a private pilots license. People loved that story.

The LRH PR Bureau also hired a small PR firm – Dateline Communications, run by Bill and Bev Widder. Bill was an old-time PR man and a joy to work with, always coming up with great ideas to get the word out. He wasn’t a Scientologist, but liked working with us. He had even met Hubbard in the early 1950’s.

My researcher was a bright young woman named Joanne Hawkins. She was no relation, but it became a standing joke in the office when people would say to her "Oh, are you married to Jeff?" She’d smile brightly and say "No, he’s my dad!" She looked young enough to pull it off. For years after that, even when we no longer worked together, I’d call her "daughter" and she’d call me "dad." When she joined the unit, I told her we already had a Joann and she’d have to choose another name. I was halfway serious – it’s confusing when two people in a small office have the same name. She said she had once had the nickname Josie, so from then on she was Josie. Linda Sukkestad, the surveyor who had worked with us from the beginning, worked under Josie.

My star researcher and "daughter" Josie Hawkins - researching the Sunday funnies

And there was a Canadian couple who joined the unit – Phil and Diane Anderson. Phil was a fast talker and a bit of a scamp – we took to calling him "Eddie Haskell" after Wally Cleaver’s smart-ass best friend in the TV series "Leave It to Beaver" – whom he resembled. His wife was a sweet lady, a former ballerina, and very bright. Phil took over as my "Project Manager" – mainly running the sales and distribution lines – while Diane took over the finance lines under Nancy.

And then there was the office cat. Nancy had found a bedraggled kitten in the Complex basement and had cleaned it up and adopted it. She called him Nougie, after his nougat-colored coat. He became an endless source of entertainment. He was convinced that he was a dog and would play fetch with me for 15 or 20 minutes at a time.

Nougie the Office Cat

There were others who came and went, but this was the basic team over the years. I later added two designers and a Media Director – all Scientologists who were professional in those fields, but not Sea Org. They were paid regular wages. The unit was fairly stable at 10 or 11 people.

But our influence was wider. Joanne Milan was running half a dozen people in the LRH PR Office who were sending out press releases and booking interviews for Dianetics full time. She was also directing a Bill and Bev Widder in their actions. Phil was directing the Bridge Publications trade sales force. Josie was running an ad hoc network of surveyors all over the US. I was running a media firm, Ed Libov and Associates, with several hundred staff. So we were really directing the actions of hundreds of people, who in turn were reaching thousands of bookstores, TV stations, radio stations, magazines and newspapers all over the US. It grew into quite an operation.

Nancy worked out a bonus system, based on sales, and got it approved. This enabled us to get a bit of extra money, which we stashed away, and soon Nancy and I could afford a car, an old used Honda we bought for $2000 cash. That made getting around town a lot easier. I never paid much attention to organizing things – at least not with the obsessive zeal that most Scientology executives demonstrated. The usual procedure when starting an activity was to write an extensive project, detailing every single thing that was to be done in great and meticulous detail. This project was then to be followed to the letter with absolutely no deviation. I considered this a grand waste of time for several reasons – one of them being that one never knows what one is going to run into, so one has to stay very flexible to succeed. It’s like in a battle – they say any battle planning goes out the window the minute the first shot is fired. You can’t set everything down in concrete before you’ve even started work and expect that you’ve covered every contingency. It led to rigidity and stupidity. I recall someone from the Commodore’s Messenger Org writing to us and asking for "a copy of our program." Nancy dashed something off and we sent it to them – but it had little relation to what we were actually doing – which was a lot of testing, improvising and trying things out.

Another point was "Organizing Boards." Hubbard was obsessive about drawing up elaborate organization charts and claimed to have made breakthroughs in the area that turned an ordinary org chart into a "philosophical machine" that would assure success. As a result, Scientology executives labored for hours over these ornate org charts, and they would eventually appear on large formica boards with lots of dymotape and colored lines. I didn’t have time for that – everyone in the unit knew what they were supposed to do and who they answered to, so I kept it loose and light.

But the idea of an overall "Planetary Dissemination Organization" that would encompass all of the various Church marketing units had never died. Hubbard had written to the CO CMO International in 1981 on the subject, and that dispatch was still floating around, never "complied to." In mid-1983, there was another attempt to pull all of the marketing units together under one umbrella organization. It was short-lived.

I, for one, had definite ideas about how to conduct the Dianetics campaign, and wasn’t about to let anyone interfere with my unit’s operation. This tended to put me at odds with any "CO Planetary Dissem Org" who attempted to come in, with no real knowledge or familiarity, and order my staff or tell me what to do.

And, with our success and our air cover, it was too easy to do an end run around such interference. At one point, I was actually "removed from post" by an overzealous CO PDO, a guy named Mike Eves. As I often did when I got mad, I went and saw my friend Foster Tompkins, who at this time was running INCOMM, the Church computer operation. I fumed and stomped around, and Foster calmed me down and we worked out a plan. He set me up with a computer and a telephone in a back office in INCOMM, a sort of secret headquarters from which I ran my unit covertly. I sent a report right away to the CO CMO International, Marc Yager, and within a few days was put "back on post." Meanwhile, there had not even been a hiccup in our operations.
Through my friends at ASI, I found out that Hubbard was very pleased with the campaign, and in late 1983, he wrote:

"All those personnel engaged in the promotion, sales and marketing which has led to the tremendous success of the National DMSMH Campaign (U.S.) are highly commended. These personnel, after 33 years, have created an affluence in the sales of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. This is a tremendous accomplishment. I have no doubt that this will continue into the future and we will achieve our goal of a cleared planet."

In 1984, I got interested in computer animation, which was the buzz in the LA film industry. Tron had come out in 1982, and everyone was speculating about the possibilities. I got the idea to do a computer animated ad for Dianetics, including an exploding volcano. I got approval to do it, and began work with one of the first computer graphics firms. They had one of the original Cray computers, a thing that filled a whole room and looked like a big circular airport lounge seat. It came with its own humans – guys in suits with buzz haircuts and black, rubber-soled shoes. The guys who did the graphics, on the other hand, wore plaid workshirts and had unkempt beards. The ad was simple – the camera zoomed through a scary-looking maze and then emerged from the maze as a volcano explodes and then morphs into the Dianetics book. It’s the sort of thing that today a 16 year old could make on his laptop in an hour or so, but then it was a big deal. It took eight weeks of designing, programming and rendering. The result was, for that time, pretty amazing and got a lot of attention.

Gradually, we learned the ebb and flow of the publishing industry. Sales always peaked at Christmas, but I found I could get even higher sales in January by punching the advertising. The ads were cheap at the beginning of the year, but the store traffic was still high. Spring was always a down period, but picked up in the summer with vacation reading. New titles were released in the fall, and sales would gradually increase to the end of the year. I also learned how to pulse the TV ads for maximum effect – on for four weeks and then off for three. By the time the sales started tailing off, I’d hit it again hard.

Soon, the campaign started having an obvious effect on overall Church of Scientology statistics. The income of Churches around the US started to rise significantly. One of our actions as part of the campaign was to collect More Information Cards (or "MICs" – everything in Scientology has to have an acronym). These were cards that were slipped into the Dianetics books and were then sent in by people to request more information about Dianetics. I calculated at one time that about five percent of Dianetics book buyers sent in the cards. It was a seemingly small percentage, but with 10,000 or 15,000 books being sold every week, that amounted to 500 to 750 cards every week – people who had actually reached to find out about the subject. The cards were sent to the nearest Org, and they followed up on them. I was told by many Org "Public Divisions" staff that this was their main source of new prospects. It was the cards that were driving the boom.

This fact was well known by management at the time. Once I was talking to Mark Ingber, who at the time was the CMO Watchdog Committee member in charge of the Sea Org’s Financial Reserves. I was asking about the possibility of increasing the advertising budget. He leaned towards me confidentially.

"Frankly, your budgets are a drop in the bucket," he confided. "This campaign is making us a lot of money."

So the unit was protected, and we were allowed to run the campaign pretty much as we saw fit. In fact, we were all allowed to stay on post when the rest of Scientology took off to Portland in May of 1985 for the Portland Crusade. A former Scientologist, Julie Christofferson, had sued the Church of Scientology for fraud, and had been awarded $39 million in damages, $20 million of that against Hubbard personally. David Miscavige, by that time running the Church, mobilized virtually the entirety of Scientology to handle this "flap," chartering planes and buses to take Scientologists to Portland for a massive "Religious Freedom Crusade." The PAC Scientology Complex seemed empty, as every spare staff member was sent up there, even the RPF. Skeleton crews were kept at the service organizations to keep delivering Scientology training and processing (and making money). And we kept the Dianetics Campaign going. We got our chance to march later, in 1986, when the Wollersheim trial came to Los Angeles. We spent a few hours at the LA "Religious Freedom Crusade" marching around the courthouse downtown.

Nancy at the LA "Religious Freedom Crusade"

For about a year, Nancy left the unit and became Marketing Executive International, working as the senior Church marketing executive under the Executive Director International. She worked at the Int Base near Hemet, and we saw each other rarely, but as I had clearance for the Base, I would sometimes drive up on a weekend and spirit her off to a fancy hotel in San Diego.

In 1985, we started branching out internationally. Len and I went over to Europe for the Paris Bookfair, and also visited my old org, the Scientology Publications Organization in Copenhagen, now called New Era Publications International, or NEPI. There, I started a "Strategic Book Marketing Unit Europe" and found an In Charge for the unit, Andy Kunzli, who had been the Director of Promotion for the Advanced Organization there and was chomping at the bit to get into broad public campaigns. I also met the man in charge of book trade sales at NEPI, Michel Moatty, who would be a good friend for many years.

Len and I also traveled to the south of France to meet an old publishing contact of Len’s, Oswald Boxer. He was the man, Len told me, responsible for introducing paperback books to Europe just after the war. We wanted to hire Oswald to be the publishing consultant for Europe. He happened to be vacationing in Nice, so Len and I had to go through the ordeal of spending three days on the French Riviera. Oswald was a wonderful old man, and he agreed to consult for NEPI. Our Copenhagen arm soon began running their own campaigns based on the one we were running in the U.S.

In 1986, I met another Scientologist film director, Mitch Brisker. Mitch had done some TV ads, and was eager to do work for the Church. He and I hit it off right away, he was funny and smart. His family was Russian Jewish, and he showed me the best Russian restaurants downtown. He and I also shared a passion for the new Apple Macintosh computers. In those days, they were slow and had a tiny screen, but were lots of fun. As Mitch put it, "why spend an hour doing something when you can spend three hours and do it on the Mac."

Mitch and I decided to do the "Stunt Pilot" ad – one of the original 1982 ads that had been rejected by Hubbard and rewritten by him. We hired a stunt pilot and an old biplane, and rented a helicopter. Interestingly enough, we filmed the final scene, of the pilot holding the book, from a camera fixed to the wing as he flew. When we looked at the footage, it looked fake - like it had been shot on the ground. So we ended up shooting it on the ground, with the cameraman weaving and bobbing, and the propeller blowing everything around. It looked realistic.
In the middle of that shoot, I collapsed, and was rushed to the doctor – Gene Denk’s local clinic where there were Scientologist doctors. They found I had a collapsed lung. I was bedridden for a couple of weeks and the Marketing Exec Int at the time, Caroline Mustard, came to LA to finish the ad shoot and help run the unit in my absence. I recovered fine, and took back over the unit.

In early 1986, we had shocking news. We were all ushered over to the Hollywood Palladium on Hollywood Boulevard for a "special briefing." No one could be absent. Scientology public were also required to attend. Whatever it was, it was important – and serious. I wondered if there had been another FBI raid.

We were ushered in to the Palladium, which was eerily quiet as the audience filed to their seats. A cheesy graphic of a golden bridge and a large OT symbol had been hastily erected on stage. The lights dimmed, and a tiny figure walked out on stage and up to the microphone.

"Hello," he said, "My name is David Miscavige."

Miscavige had arrogated for himself the position of Master of Ceremonies, something he was to do consistently in the coming years. I think he realized the inherent power of that position – after all, it was the Master of Ceremonies who brought others on and off the stage.

He began to describe Hubbard’s OT research, how he was charting the upper OT levels. "Two weeks ago," he explained, "LRH completed his research. He has now moved on to the next level of OT research beyond anything we can imagine. At this level, the human body is nothing more that an impediment. Therefore, on Friday, the 24th of January, AD 36, L. Ron Hubbard discarded his body." ("AD" was "after Dianetics," which had been published in 1950.)

Miscavige told us that we should not feel grief, but I found myself tearing up nonetheless. Like most Scientologists, I had considered Hubbard a friend and mentor. I knew nothing of the reality of Hubbard’s final years, of his decline into madness and illness. The impression I had was that he had been lucid and in control to the end. Now Miscavige was saying that he had voluntarily "moved on" to the next level – a sort of suicide – to continue his "OT research."

The rest of the event went by in a strange blur. The Scientology lawyer, Earle Cooley, went into great detail about how the body had been handled, and repeated that Hubbard had been in control to the end. He told us that Hubbard had great confidence that "the Church was in good hands." Then Pat Broeker spoke, the man who had been with Hubbard for the last few years, and again repeated that it was Hubbard’s "causative decision" to leave the body. It was a strange event, and the cheers and applause bothered me. I wouldn’t discover for many years why that event seemed so strange – it was a complete fabrication. Hubbard had died in madness and pain, what was left of his mind addled by drugs, with Broker and Miscavige fighting over the scraps of his religion. But I knew nothing of this, I only knew that the Old Man was dead, and it was now up to us.

I redoubled my dedication. I determined that in 1986, I wanted to do a major re-launch of the Dianetics campaign. The book trade was getting complacent, and the sales had leveled. I needed something new, a whole new approach. At that time I got to know a Scientologist, Rick Rogers, who had worked in the ad business, at Chiat Day. I hired him to work with me and we began brainstorming a new campaign.

I wanted, somehow, to get people interested in what was in the book. Not just flash slogans and images at them, but pique their curiosity. I sketched out a print ad that had a picture of the book with a bunch of questions around it, like "Why do you lose self respect?" and "What makes people unhappy?" and so on. Each question had a page reference saying what page to find the answer on.

Rick liked the idea. "Why don’t we do it as a TV ad?" he suggested. We storyboarded it out. It was idiotically simple. A series of three questions appeared, white type on a black field. Each one listed a page number – but didn’t say what book. Finally, the announcer said, "The book? Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard." At that point we inserted the animated volcano from my "Maze" ad, and it morphed into the book. It was so moronically simple that people I showed it to didn’t get it. "That’s not a TV ad," they’d say.

Of course, since then, everyone has done white letters on black, and it’s become a cliché, but in those days no one had done it. We were, as far as I know, the first. And people just didn’t get it.
"Let’s just make the ad," I told Rick finally. "It will cost us nothing to put together, and then people can see it."

I hired two Scientologist musicians to do the background music, Geoff Levin and Chris Many. I had been listening to an electronic music group called Tangerine Dream, and told Geoff and Chris that I wanted something like that – something staccato and edgy. They made me the perfect piece – something that would get viewers wondering "what’s that?"

For the announcer, I hired a talented voice artist named Greg Burson. He asked me what kind of voice I wanted, and I said "The Voice of God." He nailed it, with a James Earl Jones basso rumble that dripped with Authority.

The final ad was just what I wanted – dark, edgy, mysterious. Something that would stand out amid the frothy TV clutter of the mid-1980’s, with its banal songs, color and glitter. This was minimalist and arresting. And when I showed it to executives, they finally got it – this would get attention.

I made another connection in 1986, a Scientologist who was a professional media buyer, Jan Gildersleeve. She had done a lot of work for Ron Popiel – the "Ronco" infomercial wizard – and knew a lot about direct response advertising. I explained to her my ongoing battle with my media firm, Ed Libov and Associates, how they wanted to just robotically total up Gross Rating Points, and I wanted to target niche audiences with specific programming. She got it right away. After a couple of meetings with Libov, she advised that we get a new firm, which we did, the International Communications Group, or ICG. Jan set about putting together the kind of media buy I had always wanted to do.

Ever since the beginning of the campaign in 1982, we had run what they call "spot buys" – individual cities. We ran anywhere from 10 to 20 cities at one time. We had never run a truly national campaign. One day, Jan came to me with some information about a new kind of television we could test out - cable. Of course, cable TV had been around in some form since the beginning of television, but 1984 deregulation had made it attractive to set up big commercial cable networks, and a lot of major players had jumped into the pool.

"It’s still very cheap," Jan told me, "because it’s not rated by Nielsen, and no one knows what kind of numbers it’s going to do. But the demographics of the cable viewer match our demographics exactly – young, educated, predominantly male. And it’s national."

I studied the programming. It was exactly what I was looking for. The demographics and the programming matched our target perfectly.

"Let’s do it," I told her.

"You want me to set up a pilot?" she asked.

"No, I just want to go with it," I told her. "The whole budget."

It was a gamble, but not a very risky one. The research said it was perfect. And I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. In six months to a year, cable would be too expensive. But we could do it cheaply if we acted now.

"The Gang" at an American Booksellers Association Convention: Jan Gildersleeve, Caroline Mustard, Michel Moatty, Foster Tompkins, and Jeff in front.

I pulled all the other ads and just went with the new "Questions" ads. I was going all out.

And it paid off. The minute we launched in June, the sales went vertical. I couldn’t believe the figures. And they just kept climbing and climbing. Four years of experience, four years of trial and error, was now paying off big time. Dianetics popped onto every major bestseller list, and in August 1986, went onto the New York Times Bestseller List – the prime list for the publishing world. It was to stay on that list for more than a year.

With the marketing of Dianetics rolling ahead, Int Management wanted to do the same thing for Scientology. They wanted to launch a big campaign that would handle the “Black PR” (negative press) about Scientology and make people think well of it. The decision was made to hire New York adman Jack Trout to put the campaign together. The reason they wanted to hire Trout is that Hubbard had spoken highly of him and his partner, Al Ries, when they published some pamphlets in “positioning” in the late 1970s. Hubbard loved the idea – it was simple and manipulative. He soon issued an internal directive calling for all marketing staff to read it, and adding in his own spin. The way Hubbard saw it, all you had to do was “position” yourself with something good, like an angel, and your enemy with something bad, like a devil (or a terrorist), and people would think well of you and badly of your enemy. In other words, it had nothing to do with facts or information, everything to do with image and manipulation. Trout and Ries had expanded on their pamphlets in 1981 with a book called Positioning: The Battle for your Mind.

So it was no surprise that when Scientology’s top execs wanted to hire an outside consultant, they decided on Jack Trout.

As I was considered the Church’s foremost marketer at the time, I was tagged to help set up the deal, along with Caroline Mustard, who was Marketing Exec Int at the time. Caroline and I flew to New York with Greg Wilhere, at that time Inspector General RTC. I’d known Greg for years and had a lot of respect for him. He was easygoing, friendly, and competent. We took a red-eye to New York, checked into an airport hotel for an hour, literally, to shower and freshen up, then took a helicopter into Manhattan. The Church was sparing no expense on this one. We met with Trout for several hours at his office, and briefed him on Scientology and what we wanted to achieve. He was provided with a huge volume of reading material to educate him on Scientology.

Trout agreed to the job, but stipulated several conditions. One was that no one would see his proposal beforehand. He didn’t want anyone monitoring or second-guessing his work. He said it would take him three months to prepare his presentation, then he would fly out and give his presentation to the Church hierarchy as one body. There were to be no previews. This was agreed to.

Three months went by, with excitement mounting. After all, the great Jack Trout, who had gained Hubbard’s imprimatur, was working on a campaign for Scientology!

When the long-awaited day came, a huge Marketing Conference was organized at a big hotel on Vermont, near the Complex. All of the key international Scientology execs came down in buses for the event. The hall was packed with Scientology brass and marketing people. Trout was the guest of honor, and, after some preliminaries, began his presentation.

“We were brutally honest,” Trout later told Time Magazine.

His proposed campaign advised that the Church step away from controversy, and focus on results. He presented some advertising messages which touted the beneficial results that people were getting from Scientology. And, most controversially, he advised to stop promoting Scientology as a Church and focus on its role as a self-help methodology.

He got a polite round of applause. And he was dropped like a hot engram. That was the end of Jack Trout’s Scientology campaign – it was never mentioned again.

Dianetics, meanwhile, kept going at a high roar. We rolled in to the Christmas buying season like a freight train, with over 30,000 Dianetics books selling every single week. It was a phenomenon. Churches were affluent and flooded with new, interested people. It looked like we were on the verge of making it – Scientology going mainstream.

I looked back on the past four years, and remembered my early trepidation about launching the campaign. I remembered my discovery that every single person who had ever run such a campaign in the past had been annihilated, shot from guns, blacklisted. It seemed I had not only escaped that curse, but had finally achieved the success that they had worked for. The future looked bright.

Little did I know that there was a bullet headed straight for my head.

And this time, I would have no way to dodge it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chapter Nine: Going My Way

Dianetics - going big time

Foster and I were in a state of semi-panic as we waited for Julia to get off the phone. We were in an isolated corridor in the American Saint Hill Organization, part of the Scientology Complex – the big blue building in LA. Julia, my de facto senior at Author Services, was huddled in one of the public phone booths, talking quietly, her back to us. Foster and I kept a respectful distance across the corridor, where we looked down at the courtyard below.

“Well, if it’s not approved, we can always jump out the window,” I joked. Foster gave me a nervous smile. We had stuck our necks way out on this one. But that wasn’t unusual for us.

Our preparations for the Dianetics Campaign were almost complete. The last piece of the puzzle was television ads. Scripts had been submitted weeks before, through Julia at Author Services International and up to the Old Man himself, L. Ron Hubbard. We were awaiting approval – but hadn’t heard anything back. Now was the last possible moment. As of 4 AM the next morning, a huge film crew would be moving out, driving 90 miles north to a location in Ojai. Cancelling the ad shoot at this point would be expensive, if not impossible. We had prevailed on Julia to please, please, make a phone call. Now she was talking with someone close to Hubbard – we didn’t know who.

We heard the phone click as Julia hung up the phone. Our hearts leapt into our throats.

“They’re approved,” she said.

The last five months had been a rocket ride, preparing everything needed to launch a huge marketing campaign for Dianetics – the biggest such campaign ever done by the Church of Scientology. And I had learned a lot in the process.

At the same time, it had been fun. At last I was doing what I wanted to do, and I was doing it my way – thoroughly and professionally. I was virtually autonomous, operating loosely under Author Services International. ASI was officially L. Ron Hubbard’s literary agency, with supposedly no connection to the Church. In fact, they were running everything. But I liked the people I was dealing with. They gave me great air cover and very few orders. I was mostly left to get on with it. Nancy and I kept decent hours, got enough sleep, and managed to get in our “study time.” I was mostly studying marketing and advertising.

We enjoyed being in LA after years in Florida. A Sea Org Member is supposed to get a day off every two weeks, called a “liberty” in the usual pseudo-military parlance. Nancy and I managed to actually take those days off, and saw the sights in LA – movies, the Universal City Walk, museums, or out to Venice Beach to see the crazy street performers. We often went to see my brother Kim and his growing family – my niece and two nephews. And Mom was living up in Santa Barbara – we’d go up and see her or she’d come into town. Thanksgiving and Christmas were once again family affairs.

Brother Kimball raises a family

But most of our attention was on getting the campaign launched. Nancy had her team of researchers and surveyors who were out every day. We had added a Public Relations member to the team, a young lady named Beth, who was working out how to get out publicity releases on Dianetics when the time came. She also got roped into a “confidential” proofreading project, which turned out to be Hubbard’s Mission Earth manuscript. He had completed Battlefield Earth, which was being prepared for publication, and this was his next work, a massive ten-volume science fiction series. Beth helped on the proofreading several hours a day at ASI, and came back increasingly disturbed. She was shocked by the graphic, and repeated, descriptions of gay oral sex in the book, and was appalled that such writing was coming from the Founder of a religion. She didn’t last long, and in fact soon decided to leave staff.

One did not criticize Hubbard.

One day, I got a strange phone call. After I picked up the phone and said hello, a strident and intense male voice came on the line.

“If I hear another report of any of your staff nattering about LRH Tech Films, they, and you, will be immediately sent to the RPF. Have you got that?”

I managed to stammer “Yes, Sir.” There was a click on the other end.

I had just had my first conversation with David Miscavige.

The “Tech Films” were Hubbard’s Technical Training Films. He had scripted a series of short, 20 to 30 minute films teaching various points of Scientology “technology,” from how to operate an E-Meter, to how to conduct an auditing session. Each film had a story line – characters who went through some drama to illustrate a point of technology. He had then directed the filming of a number of these scripts himself at his confidential location. Like his earlier photo shoots on the ship, they were strictly amateur hour. The sets were hastily thrown together, something a high school drama department would be ashamed of. The actors were all amateurs – staff thrown into costume for the occasion – and they would stumble their way through Hubbard’s overcooked dialogue.

But of course it was like the Emperor’s New Clothes all over again. No one wanted to admit that they didn’t see Hubbard’s genius in every detail. It was obvious to anyone with two eyes that they were pathetically amateur, but no one was willing to say so. One of my staff, Linda, had been so impolitic as to make a disparaging comment about the quality of the films within earshot of some other staff. The resulting “Knowledge Reports” had gotten to Miscavige, who took it as a personal affront. After all, he had been the “cameraman” on many of these early films. Hence the call. I took Linda aside and explained the facts of life to her. If one expected to survive in the world of Scientology, one did not say anything negative about the films, no matter how obvious their flaws.

We had enough to do without getting embroiled in politics.

For one thing, I had absolutely no idea how to get books into bookstores. But that was an advantage, too. At least I wasn’t under some delusion that I had all the answers.

One of the first things Foster and I did when we began the Strategic Book Marketing Unit in April, 1982, was to contact the sales staff at Bridge Publications to see what they knew about getting books into public bookstores. The guy in charge of sales was Don Arnow. He had been trying to learn what he could about selling to “the trade” and had talked to the manager of the B. Dalton Bookseller store on Hollywood Boulevard, a guy named Jim Levinson. Jim was a heavy, bearded man with a droll sense of humor. He and I would become good friends years later when he was the West Coast Rep for Publishers Weekly magazine.

“If you want to learn about marketing books to the trade,” Jim told Don, “talk to Len Foreman.” He gave Don a phone number. Jim would often remind me later, with a twinkle in his eye, that he had actually “started” the Dianetics campaign by linking us up with Foreman.

Don, Foster and I went out to see Foreman at his office in Brentwood. Len was a handsome, white-haired gentleman, friendly and courteous. He combined polished East Coast manners with a West Coast tan and smile, to great effect. The women in my unit would later refer to him as “the silver fox.” He had formerly been VP Marketing at Simon and Schuster in New York, and knew the business inside and out. And he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Foster and I rapidly took over the meeting and peppered him with questions, which he answered with a wealth of information. Foster and I started meeting with Len several times a week, and talked Bridge into putting him on a retainer as a consultant.

Foster and Jeff plotting over a beer, with Bev Witter, our PR lady

He laid out for us in detail how one got books into bookstores as a publisher. He told us about the large book chains, at that time B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, and who their national buyers were. And he knew them all personally. He knew all of the major distributors who kept the independent bookstores supplied, and the “IDs” – independent distributors - who got books into drugstores, supermarkets and all the other “non-book outlets.” He told us that we must never bypass the IDs and try to get books directly into drugstores and supermarkets, as some of the Orgs had tried to do. “These guys are Mafia,” he casually explained. “They’ll just throw your books out.” He advised schmoozing the IDs, buying pizza for their delivery guys and so forth.

Bridge had tried to talk to the buyers of the national book chains, but they had routinely refused to carry Hubbard’s books. They had had some very negative experiences, from the days of Doreen Casey’s “Mission International Books,” when she had sent staff in to local bookstores demanding that they take Hubbard’s books. As they had been under “do-or-die” pressure, the staff had been pushy and overbearing with the bookstores, and the book chains had had complaints. They had also promised the bookstores big promotion campaigns, which never materialized, and the books had moldered on their shelves. They wanted nothing more to do with Dianetics or Scientology.

But Len smoothed it all over. “That’s all changed,” he would tell his contacts in the book industry. “This is a different group, and they are serious about launching a major campaign.” If they still balked, he’d turn on the charm. “Come on, you know me. You know I wouldn’t bring you anything flaky. These guys are serious.” Bit by bit they came around.

Foster and I started having weekly Dianetics Campaign meetings at Author Services International, attended by all of the senior execs of Scientology. David Miscavige, the Chairman of the Board of ASI, would sit scowling at the head of the table, and all of the CMO Int Execs, as well as ED Int and his executives, would be ranked along the sides. All of the key ASI execs would also attend. On paper, ASI was Hubbard’s literary agency, and was not connected to the Church. In fact, Miscavige was running all of Scientology from his position at ASI, through regular meetings with all senior Church executives - like the weekly book campaign meetings.

In the beginning, these turned into briefings, and Foster and I prepared charts showing how the book industry worked. We brought Len to the meetings as well, and he explained the ins and outs of the publishing business. He briefed the assembled execs on the problems that had been caused by Scientologists randomly going in to bookstores and badgering them, and urged that the Scientology Organizations not contact any of their local bookstores. That order did in fact go out.

Foster and I had no love for Kerry Gleeson, since the days that he was the CO of Flag Bureaux. He attended the meetings, and had to listen politely to what we were briefing on. But he was still trying for some measure of control over a campaign that was, by then, way out of his control. He insisted, in the meeting, that Foster and I meet with his Division Six (new public) Executive, Peter Warren (whose wife I had once locked in a closet). Foster said we weren’t interested in meeting with Peter.

“I don’t understand why,” Gleeson complained, “Why won’t you meet with Peter Warren?”

Foster leaned forward until his face was a few inches from Gleeson’s, and enunciated slowly: “Because Peter Warren is a Suppressive Person.”

It was one of those moments that stay with you, just because of their sheer cheek. But I knew at that moment that Gleeson and his execs had lost any power to interfere.

It wasn’t long after that that we heard that Gleeson had been removed from post. He was replaced by an up-and-coming exec from Europe, Guillaume Lesevre. Guillaume stopped by to see me on his way to the Int Base and asked me to have lunch with him. He wanted me to come to Int with him and be his Marketing Exec International. I declined, explaining that I had a campaign to launch. But the man impressed me with his kind, intelligent demeanor.

Len knew people who did book cover designs, and we set them to work on the covers for some of Hubbard’s basic books – Self Analysis, Fundamentals of Thought, Problems of Work. They produced some attractive, commercial covers that I somehow managed to get approved. We needed some great covers to display at the American Booksellers Association Convention, which was going to be held in June at the Anaheim Convention Center. We had a lot to prepare by then, including an entire booth design.

ASI also wanted us to design a cover for the upcoming biography of L. Ron Hubbard, which we were assured was immanent. Omar Garrison, a writer who had done books for Scientology before, was at work on it. We prepared a cover design for that book as well.

We had decided to launch two books – the paperback Dianetics, and Self Analysis in the larger “trade paperback” size. There had been some pressure to release the books in hardback – Hubbard notoriously despised paperbacks as cheap, shoddy substitutes for “real” books – but I had successfully argued that if the objective was to interest lots of people in Scientology, then volume was key, and volume meant paperback.

On Len’s advice, I had set the launch date for September, as he said that this was when a lot of book campaigns were launched. The books were “sold in” to the book chains and distributors through the summer, beginning with the ABA Convention in June, and then the campaign launched in the fall to sell them through the bookstores to the public – that was called “sell-through.”

But this schedule didn’t accord with Hubbard’s plans. His new science fiction book, Battlefield Earth, was set for release that fall as well. It was going to be published by St. Martins Press. Hubbard had a strategy, which was to follow the pattern of 1950. At that time, he was a well-known science fiction writer, and it was his original article about Dianetics in Astounding Science Fiction magazine that first sparked off the 1950 sales of Dianetics. Many of his fans at the time – those who read his fiction – became the early Dianeticists. Hubbard wanted to repeat the pattern, re-establishing his reputation as a science fiction writer and then re-promoting Dianetics into that “fertile ground.” For that reason, he wanted to launch Dianetics later. But I knew it couldn’t be too much later. The books would be in the stores in the fall, and we had to deliver the promised campaign – the stores had already been burned by Scientology’s past failures to deliver a campaign, we couldn’t let it happen again. After some negotiation with ASI, it was agreed that Battlefield Earth would launch in September, and Dianetics (with Self Analysis) would launch in October.

At this point, I happened to see an ad for Dianetics that Hubbard had written. He had sent it to the Division Six Executive International, Peter Warren, who was ED International’s assistant for public dissemination. The ad included the phrase “Get rid of your Reactive Mind,” which Hubbard claimed was a very deep, pervasive “button” and would cause people to buy the book on a stimulus-response basis. Foster and I were discussing this ad once in a meeting with Len Foreman.

“Sounds like a good thing,” he said.

“What does?” I asked.

“The Reactive Mind. It sounds like something valuable, you know, it allows you to quickly react to situations…”

Foster and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. We were so used to the insider terminology that we hadn’t even thought about the impression that phrase might have on someone in the public, someone not familiar with Scientology’s lingo. I organized some fast surveys.

The surveys were very revealing. People did think that the “Reactive Mind” would be something valuable, and thought that if you “got rid of it” you would be a zombie. I went over the results with Frannie at ASI, and she asked me to do up a report right away.

A few days later, Hubbard wrote back that he was very pleased with the surveys, and said that they confirmed “something he already knew since 1950,” that people find the Reactive Mind very valuable. He called for a few more surveys to be done, which we rapidly carried out, and he determined at the end of this that the button should be “Learn to control your reactive mind.” He commended me for the surveys, and I thought nothing further about it. Little did I know that this minor incident would play a major part in my eventual demise, twenty years later.

As work on the campaign progressed, I started working more and more with Len. He knew people in publishing, marketing and advertising, and we would often race around town seeing different professionals –inevitably stopping for lunch at Len's favorite restaurant, Canters, where he would regale me with his vast store of Jewish jokes.

Len introduced me to a media company, Ed Libov & Associates in Marina Del Rey, and we began meeting with them to figure out how best to promote the books. And that depended on my isolating our “target demographic,” which I was getting rapidly worked out with a series of studies and surveys. I was able to get an OK to take our Scientology mailing list and run it through a demographic database. This resulted in a lot of tables, color-coded maps, pie and bar charts that I found fascinating. The best prospects for Scientology were young (25 to 35), some college education, urban, middle income. Men rated slightly higher as prospects, 60% to 40%. There was a lot of other information which I devoured, parsed and analyzed. We then started doing a lot of surveys, pre-qualifying the people we surveyed to make sure they were in the target demographic. Every day I would send the survey team out to do another survey. At night we’d tabulate the results and study them, then out they would go the next day with more questions. Pretty soon I was starting to know these people like they were family.

As part of my research, I studied every Dianetics campaign that had ever been done, from the first release of the book in 1950 to the present. They ranged from the mundane to the bizarre. I found out that, just over the past year, an abortive pilot campaign has been run in San Diego by marketing people from the Int Base – and apparently Hubbard had been calling the shots. They had made some TV ads on a space opera motif, with men in white space suits and helmets. Apparently the rationale was the same as when Hubbard had put such whole track symbols on the books – to manipulate the “wogs” with symbols from the OT III “Xenu” incident. They had also tried to sell hardback books. The results were apparently so embarrassing that the campaign had disappeared without a trace.

But I found one disturbing fact: everyone who had ever successfully run a big campaign for Dianetics had been destroyed – kicked off staff, declared Suppressive, and in one case, Diane Colletto, shot. She had run a campaign in 1979 that had gotten Dianetics on to the Ingrams West Coast bestseller list. She was killed by her husband in front of the Bridge Publications building on matters apparently unrelated to selling Dianetics. But this fact struck me as odd, and eerie. Why had every one of them been attacked? I resolved to keep my eyes open, and, while pushing ahead with the campaign, keeping my eyes open to see if anyone took a shot at me, and if so, where the shots came from.

But I found out some other things, too. Past campaigns, going back to 1950, had been successful when they narrowly targeted a certain public, what they call “niche marketing” these days. Conventional wisdom at that time was that you couldn’t sell books on television. This was 1982. No one had ever done it successfully. But I started thinking about it. Television was expensive, but in terms of cost-per-thousand (CPM), it was the cheapest medium. The problem was, it was a broad shoot, like a shotgun. You blared your message out to a lot of people who would never buy your product. That was what made it expensive. But suppose there was a way to hone in on your target public, to “narrowcast” the message?

I worked with my rep at the media firm, an older lady named Nancy. She educated me in such things as “gross rating points” and “target points.” I studied various types of media buys. It all seemed too expensive, too wasteful. The penny dropped one day when I was looking over a proposed media buy and saw Saturday morning cartoons listed.

“What’s this doing here?” I asked.

“Well, that gets you a lot of target points. There are a large number of your target demographics that are watching those programs.”

“But…” I tried to vocalize what was bugging me, “I don’t want to talk to people who watch Saturday morning cartoons!”

Well, which viewers of which programs would I be interested in talking to? I started going through programming lists. Soap operas, no. Old classic movies, yes. Stock car racing, no. Old Twilight Zone reruns, yes. It was all very subjective and not very scientific, but it was based on a lot of knowledge I had soaked up about our target demographic and what they liked. They weren’t followers. They didn’t watch what everyone else did. They were mavericks, iconoclasts, mold-breakers. They liked the odd, the intriguing, the quirky. They liked… well, the kinds of things that I liked, that most Scientologists I knew liked.

I had a lot of arguments with the media firm, because some of my choices went against traditional media wisdom. They fought me tooth and nail, but I managed to cobble together some kind of a media strategy that I knew would reach the kind of people I was interested in talking to – people who would be intrigued by Scientology.

The ABA Convention went well. We had everything ready – a big booth with huge transparencies of the new covers, literature and catalogs, and media schedules for the fall campaign. The reception from the book trade was lukewarm, but Len was able to pump it up. Walking around the floor of the ABA Convention with him was amazing – he seemed to know everyone. Every couple of feet someone would call out “Lenny!” By the end of the convention, we had “sold in” 250,000 books – most of that to a national distributor, Ingrams, who had warehouses all over the US and supplied most of the bookstores. Waldenbooks and B. Dalton declined to order, but said they would watch the sales and order from Ingrams. It was a start, a foot in the door.

In July, Foster was called up to the Int Base, and was briefed on a new project he would be doing – the computerization of all of Scientology management. I was crestfallen – I had thought that he and I and Bruce Wilson would do the Dianetics Campaign together – the three Musketeers taking on all odds. But Foster didn’t feel that this was a project he could turn down. He assured me he’d be located right there in the Complex and he still considered the Dianetics Campaign to be his project as well. He was as good as his word, and in the coming months and years we met often, and he helped me out many times – unofficially. I was also able to help him a bit – designing a logo for his new enterprise, the International Network of Computer Organized Management, or INCOMM.

Another blow came when I heard that Bruce and Tina had blown the Sea Organization – left “without authorization.” They had taken Gwennie, now 12 years old, with them and fled to the US Virgin Islands, where Bruce’s family lived. According to the rules of Scientology, they would be “declared Suppressive” and I would not be able to talk to them or Gwennie. As it turned out, I was able to bend the rules somewhat, convincing various Ethics Officers that Gwennie had only been 12 when she left, and was therefore “not Suppressive.” In that way I was able to keep in touch with her over the years with infrequent letters.

So with Foster on his new project, and Bruce blown, I was on my own as the Strategic Book Marketing Unit I/C, the SBMU I/C, which was to be my post for the next four and a half years. I had plenty to do getting the campaign ready for launch. After the ABA sales, the pressure was on to get a campaign together. Don Spector was writing TV ads. He had been Creative Director for BBDO West and Foote, Cone and Belding, and seemed to know how to go about it. He studied the demographics and surveys and wrote three ads. They were in a testimonial format – one was a marathon runner, one a businessman, and one was an airplane pilot. Each ad ended up saying that they owed their success to Dianetics. They seemed straightforward and competently done, so I submitted them to Julia Watson at Author Services, who had taken over as my de facto senior from Frannie, and she forwarded them to Hubbard.

Hubbard hit the roof. They were awful, he said. He took particular exception to the ending of one ad where a businessman threw a wadded up ball of paper and hit a wastebasket clear across the room – a sort of slam-dunk. Hubbard said that you never end an ad with something being thrown away as it says to the viewer, subliminally, that they should throw the product away. He tended to look at all advertising as a series of subliminal messages and these, he said, were sending the wrong subliminal message.

He proceeded to rewrite them, dictating exactly how the ads were supposed to go. After Julia showed me the dispatch, I called Don and had him meet me. As it was late, I told him to meet me at Sarnos, a restaurant up Vermont Street. Julia and I met him there and went over the ads with him. It was not going well – Don was a veteran Creative Director and for him to have his work rejected like this was unusual. In the middle of the meeting, Julia had to go take a call, and when she came back, she was white. She pulled me aside and said that I had to fire Don, we could not work with him. I protested, but she was firm – that was the order from on high. I somehow managed to talk to Don, tried to soften the blow, but he was crestfallen and stormed out. I never saw him again.

We had to find someone new, and fast. Our projected launch date was just a few months away. Len Foreman made a few calls, and recommended an ad producer named Jim Kellahan. Julia and I drove out to see him. We showed him the Hubbard ads, but he said he did not work that way, he scripted his own ads. Julia got the OK for him to write new ads, and he wrote four – two for Dianetics and two for Self Analysis. Julia sent the ads up to Hubbard for OK.

The ads had to be shot right away, and so Kellahin assembled a crew and set a date for filming. But weeks went by, and still we had heard nothing back on the ads. It finally came right down to the wire and that fateful afternoon in the corridors of ASHO. The last minute approval of the ads was the last piece of the puzzle that had to fall into place.

Nancy and I went on the ad shoot, along with Len Foreman. The first ad was about two mountain climbers. One of the mountain climbers slips, and the other one, the girl, rappels down and rescues him. Then they ascend to the top. The shoot took place on a remote mountain road in Ojai, and the stunt work was done on the side of a cliff next to the road. At the end of the day, a helicopter arrived and did the final, sweeping shot of the couple on the top of the mountain. It was impressive.

That night, Nancy and I snuck away and had dinner with my Mom, who was living in Santa Barbara. The next day we got on a boat and went out to the Channel Islands, where the second ad would be filmed. It was about a “marine biologist” who was studying the seals on the island and, of course, recommends Dianetics. On the long trip, I got to know the cinematographer, Laslo Kovacs, who told me an amazing story about escaping from Hungary with rolls of exposed film of Communist atrocities wrapped around his body. Kovacs had filmed such classics as Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and Paper Moon.

Once back in LA, Kellahin and crew filmed two simple testimonial ads for Self Analysis, our second release.

The ads were all masterfully filmed and edited, and were instantly approved for use. By October, we had everything in place – the books were in the stores, thanks to Ingrams, the ads were ready to go, the media strategy was set. At the end of October, we would push the button, and the largest campaign for Dianetics ever done would be underway.

And with it would come the largest boom ever for the Church of Scientology, a boom that would mask, for a while, the grim fact that the Church was beginning to fall apart at the seams.

Just prior to the launch of the campaign, on October 17th 1982, a Mission Holders Conference was held in San Francisco by David Miscavige. It was a bloodbath. He and other ASI and CMO International execs berated the Mission Holders for hours, calling them criminals. They were not allowed to leave the room. Anyone who objected was declared on the spot.

These were many of the top figures in Scientology at the time, men and women who owned and operated Scientology’s franchise operations. Many of them owned whole chains of Missions themselves. They were responsible for funneling thousands of new people into Scientology weekly. Their names were almost legendary within Scientology – Kingsley Wimbush, Martin Samuels, Bent Corydon, Brown McKee. Yet they were all declared, their missions seized. Even those not declared were assessed extortionate fines, and if they refused, were given “gang bang” Security Checks, where they would be put on an E-Meter and a group of executives would shout accusations at them.

Some of this filtered down to us. Some on the rumor line, some the “official line.” We were told that the Mission Holders were criminals, and were “robbing the Church” and trying to take over Scientology. We were told that the key Mission Holders were Suppressives, and they had to be dealt with very forcefully. Miscavige was asserting his authority and “saving the Church from SPs.”

The whole thing made me sick. How could those people all be Suppressive if they were responsible for bringing so many people into the Church? I didn’t know who was right and who was wrong. To me, it was another thing to add to my growing list of mysteries. Why had every person who had ever run a Dianetics Campaign been destroyed? Why had most of the highly productive Mission Holders been declared? It made no sense.

I thought that the campaign would, in some almost magical way, help to resolve all this - sort of like taking an old car out on the freeway and just blowing all the crud out of the engine. It seemed that getting a huge inflow of new people would help to blow the petty politics and infighting out of Scientology and get everyone on track.

And I was about to hit the accelerator.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chapter Eight: Revolution

Pancho Villa Rides

It was well after midnight and the Tampa airport terminal was almost empty. Just a few late-night travelers sitting on the benches, reading, trying to sleep or, like me, watching the movie on the screen hanging above the waiting area. They were showing Pancho Villa, the 1972 Eugenio Martin film with Telly Savalas as Villa. I was identifying with Villa – his betrayal and imprisonment, his escape, his revolt against his enemy, Huerta. I could feel Villa’s hot outrage. ¡Viva la revolución!

I had a couple of hours before my flight back to LA, so I was killing time, keeping one eye on the entrances, half expecting someone from Flag to come and escort me back to the Base.

No, I hadn’t blown the Sea Organization. But I had left Flag after receiving specific orders from Kerry Gleeson, now Scientology’s Executive Director International, to remain at Flag. Kerry wanted me to do things his way. But I knew his short-sighted ways wouldn’t work. Not for what I had in mind. What I was planning had to be done thoroughly and without shortcuts for it to work.

I was returning to Los Angeles, whether Gleeson wanted it or not. I was going to continue the project Nancy and I had started. For once, I was going to do things my way.

I had first escaped from Clearwater in mid-1981, when Annie Allcock and I had been fired on a mission to locate and hire a public relations firm for the Church of Scientology. Military terminology permeated the Sea Org, so when a Sea Org member was sent to do something, they were "fired on a mission." It gave the activity a sense of precision and purpose.

"Big Blue" - The Scientology PAC Complex

Annie and I went directly from the airport to the "big blue building," the former Cedars of Lebanon hospital, which had been purchased by the Church four years earlier. It was a mixed collection of buildings – the original hospital was a hulking V-shaped relic from the 20’s with ornate deco trim, while the newer additions were 50s "modern" - bland blocks of stucco and glass. The entire thing had been painted a hideous shade of bright blue, apparently on Hubbard’s orders – since the color blue was associated with the spirit. Inside, it was bustling with Scientology activity.

The building complex was known within the Sea Org as the Pacific Area Command – again, the military frame of reference - or PAC for short, and housed the Los Angeles Organization (moved up from 9th Street), the American Saint Hill Organization, the Advanced Organization Los Angeles, as well as the Sea Org’s Continental Liaison Office for the Western US. The idea was to have the "entire Bridge" in one place – that is, all of Scientology’s levels from beginning public services all the way to the OT Levels and advanced training, as well as the continental management office.

The new Executive Director International, Bill Franks, had set up his offices in the penthouse of Lebanon Hall, a towering deco structure jutting up from the center of the building complex. It served as staff apartments. The penthouse was spacious, with cluttered desks placed throughout the large main room. A balcony looked out over the grey haze of Los Angeles.

Franks had just been appointed as Executive Director, a position last held by Hubbard himself in the 1960’s, and resurrected as part of the "new management" of the Church. In theory, he was the top dog. In fact, he answered to the Commodore’s Messenger Organization. He was taking his new position seriously, and the office was a hive of frantic activity. Franks sat us down at a long conference table, and briefed us on our mission, which was to locate a public relations firm that could be hired by the Church to repair its damaged public image.

Annie and I set up offices in one of the lower floors of the Main Building, and started calling around and setting up appointments. We got ourselves outfitted with proper business suits and got a couple of briefcases so we’d look the part.

Jeff in LA

For the next three or four weeks we went around LA, meeting with a list of PR firms, from some of the best-known A-list firms to lesser-known companies. At night, we compiled reports about each firm – what they had said, a summary of their firm, and a client list (to make sure they were not retained by drug companies, government agencies or psychs – the enemy!).

Then one day we got called up to Franks’ office. We were to collect together all of our information and turn it in – he was firing us on a different mission altogether, something that had become urgent. He briefed us that a Scientology celebrity, Cathy Lee Crosby, co-host of TV’s "That’s Incredible," was putting on an anti drug TV special called "Get High on Yourself." It would include Scientologists like John Travolta as well as non-Scientologists like rocker Ted Nugent. Cathy Lee wanted the Church to launch a big Purification Rundown promotional campaign coincident with the airing of the show. Her assistant, Cathy Wasserman, also a Scientologist, was organizing the whole "Get High on Yourself" program and was the one coordinating with Bill Franks (later the allegation was made that she and Bill were involved in more than "coordinating").

But the catch was this: the TV special was set to air in three weeks. We had three weeks to put together a complete and professional TV Campaign.

I was torn. On the one hand, this was exactly what I wanted to do – launch big public campaigns for Scientology. On the downside, this was more of the same panic mentality that was destructive of any proper planning or preparation. The excitement of actually doing a big campaign won out, and I went for it.

I figured I had a little leverage at this point, so I insisted on a third missionaire, someone trained in market research and surveying – my wife Nancy. She was on the next plane. At least that part of my plan was in place.

We commandeered an office on the second floor of LA Org, and arranged for some desks and a conference table where we could have meetings. We contacted a Scientologist, Don Spector, who had worked as Creative Director for both BBDO West and Foote, Cone and Belding, and he agreed to work with us. He had a marketing researcher that he worked with, Janai Pringle, also a Scientologist.

We also had two more people added to our project, Steve Heard and Jack Dirmann. They were supposed to handle public relations. Steve was a former GO staffer, a very smart, very funny guy, and Steve, Nancy and I had each other in stitches half the time.

Steve had a clever idea to promote the Purification Rundown, which was to start a Foundation which would do scientific studies of the Rundown and thereby prove its effectiveness. He and Jack brainstormed the whole thing – it would validate the Purification Rundown, then go on to validate Hubbard’s "Study Technology." They decided to call it "The Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Education" or FASE. They actually did get it established, and it still exists to this day. If you look at their website you’d never know they started in that little office above LA Org as a bright idea to promote the Purification Rundown.

Meanwhile, Nancy and I did some fast research and surveys and assembled a campaign, with TV ads, print ads, and a surveyed slogan, which was, as I remember, "Bring them back to life." It was aimed at parents whose children were addicted to drugs. I ended up presenting the whole campaign to three executives: Bill Franks, Kerry Gleeson (who was still CO Flag Bureaux and visiting from Clearwater), and John Nelson, the Commanding Officer of CMO International. I felt like I was giving the presentation to three department store mannequins. None of them moved or changed expression throughout the presentation, which went on for an hour. There were no smiles, no nods, no questions. It was eerie. At the end of it, they got up and left.

And that was the end of the Purification Campaign. It was never mentioned again. Probably they had other things on their minds, as I was soon to discover.

One afternoon in December 1981, I got a call from Bruce Wilson in Clearwater. He was all excited about a meeting that had just happened there between management and the Mission holders. Not to be confused with Sea Org "Missions," these were people who owned and operated Scientology’s franchises. Scientology had used the term Franchise for many years, but in an effort to pump up "religious image," they had been renamed "Missions." These were smaller organizations, privately owned, that delivered basic Scientology courses and auditing. They had long been at odds with the GO, and some complained that their missions had been illegally taken away from them. A few had even sued the Church to try to get their missions back. With the collapse of the GO, the Mission holders saw a chance to right some of these old wrongs, and wanted a dialog with management. They were looking to the new Executive Director International, Bill Franks, to put it all right. After all, he was Hubbard’s successor and could do something about it. Franks, however, arrived to the conference under CMO Int escort. It was clear that they were really pulling the strings, not Franks. The Mission holders just saw this as more shenanigans, and demanded answers. They challenged the executives who were present.
Bruce was enthusiastic about the meeting. He felt it was part of a bright new era for the Church, where ordinary Scientologists could have a voice in Church operations and a dialog with management.

I called Kim and told him about it. By this time, he was out of the Sea Org and was a "public Scientologist." With three small children to care for, including a newborn baby, Kim and his wife Deborah had found it impossible to live with the limited time and money they had in the Sea Org, so had routed out and were now living in the Valley. Kim had worked his way back into good standing with the Church. He was happy to hear that there might be some reforms. He had had his own bad experiences on staff.

But the "powers that be," the CMO Int hierarchy, saw the Mission Holders conference differently. They saw it as a mutiny against their authority. Scientology, after all, wasn’t a democracy, where people could publicly air their grievances, it was a top-down authoritarian rule, and one did not question those in power. Within weeks, Bill Franks was off post, under guard, and Kerry Gleeson, still in Clearwater, had been appointed as his successor.

For me, all of these internal politics and power plays were a distraction. If we really were to put the past behind us and begin a new era for Scientology, then we had to get out into the public eye and make the subject known to people. That was what was ultimately important.

Jeff and Nancy - loose cannons in LA

Nancy and I discussed what we should do next, and we decided to make our move. I wrote a long petition to the CO CMO Int, laying out a plan to once and for all get a major public campaign for Scientology launched. I laid out the exact steps, which included exhaustive marketing research, isolation of publics, surveys, studies to find the most effective media, research into the book market, and so on. I estimated it would take six months to a year. Amazingly, the petition was approved, and Nancy and I launched the Market Research and Advertising Project.

We started systematically, working with Don Spector, the Scientologist adman. My first question was: what kind of people would be most likely to get interested in Scientology? So we started with a survey of existing Scientologists to find common demographics at the time they had gotten into Scientology – age, education, income, many other factors. And we started surveying broadly for current public attitudes towards Scientology – attitudes we would have to overcome and change. And at the same time, we began researching religious and spiritual trends in society that might work for us. I kept senior executives briefed with weekly newsletters. I knew that unless I kept up a constant flow of valuable information, my project could be cancelled in an instant. As it was, we began to be known and our work valued.

It was all off the cuff. We had the office over LA Org that we had been using, so we just kept that. We had no authorization, we were essentially squatters. The head of Bridge Publications, the Scientology publishing firm that handles all of Hubbard’s books, was a friend of mine, Edy Lundeen. I briefed her on the project and got her support. With that, I was able to slip her Purchase Orders and get a little funding for operating expenses. I managed to get our food and berthing covered from the Continental Liaison Office. So with a bit of scrabbling and negotiating, we managed to stay afloat.

Getting staff was another matter. One day, a girl named Linda walked into the office.

"I heard you’re going to be doing a big raw public campaign," she said. I told her that was right.
"I’d really like to work on that," she said hopefully.

"Great!" I said. "Sit down there, that’s your desk. Nancy will train you on how to do surveys."

A few days later, Linda’s senior showed up.

"I’m looking for Linda," he said. "She’s my staff."

"She’s working here now," I told him. Amazingly, he left, and I never heard another word about it.

Staff continued to wander in, and I would put them to work. Soon there were five of us. I let Nancy run them as a survey team, and spent most of my time researching publics, trends, and the ins and outs of the book industry. Gradually, the bones of a campaign began to take shape.

I never paid much attention to "organizing." I just worked out what needed to be done and then had people do it. But "organizing" things and putting everything on elaborate org charts was an obsession in Scientology, and particularly with Hubbard. At the beginning of 1982, management attention began to swing in the direction of marketing activities, and the first thing that had to be worked out by management was "how to organize it."

Hubbard had started mentioning this problem in a series of communications to John Nelson, the CO CMO Int. He stated that while he had always been able to do "seat of the pants" marketing for Scientology – putting out new courses and auditing rundowns when income needed a boost – real formal marketing required an investment of people, time and money. He seemed to be echoing what I had been saying. He told Nelson how to go about setting up a central marketing unit for the Church. He said to first start a small unit, without touching any existing units, train that unit in "wog" marketing tech, and then gradually pull all other units under that seed unit. It seemed like a simple plan. The only problem was that it actually required setting up and training a starter unit – and no one was willing to put the time or effort into actually doing that.

So the confusion about "how to set up a central marketing unit" rolled forward, getting more and more confusing and complex the more everyone avoided that first step.

Finally, in desperation, Nelson called for a conference at Flag to settle the matter. All of the heads of the existing marketing units would attend – me, the Dissem Aide Flag Bureau, the marketing people from "Golden Era Productions" and others. I flew to Clearwater for the conference, bringing Don Spector along as a professional advertising guy who had worked in agencies and might be able to throw some light on how to organize up a central marketing unit.

The conference soon degenerated into utter chaos. No one could agree on anything. I tried to present what I considered some sane ideas for setting up a marketing function, only to have them shouted down. For every suggestion I made, there were a dozen insane ones. I finally left the conference room in disgust, and sent Spector back to LA. It had been a colossal waste of time. I wanted to get back to work.

It was not to be. I was ordered to Kerry Gleeson’s office in the West Coast Building. He lit into me right away.

"Your project is a failure," he said. "You’re a failed Missionaire. You will never, never, get a campaign launched that way."

When I was still working at Flag under Gleeson, I would have caved under this kind of pressure, and agreed to whatever he wanted. But I was still frustrated and angry from the insanity of the "marketing conference." I was in no mood to agree with Gleeson, or to go along with any more crackpot ideas of how marketing ought to be done.

"You’re wrong," I said, surprising myself a little. "What I’m doing, real research and planning, is the only way to get an effective campaign going."

He looked at me oddly, shocked that I had dared to challenge him. "You’ve changed," he said, narrowing his eyes. "There’s something different about you…"

"You’re not going back to LA," he told me flatly. "You’re going to remain here as my Marketing Executive International. If you want to launch a big campaign, fine, you can do it via the Continental Liaison Offices to the Orgs."

That, I knew, was the sure route to disaster. The CLOs and the Orgs were caught up in Gleeson’s week-to-week stat machine. They would never, never devote the time and resources to running such a campaign that didn’t show immediate weekly stat results. No, the campaign needed to be centrally conceived and centrally funded and run – direct to the public.

"I’m not staying," I told Gleeson. "I’m going back to LA to do my campaign."

He was furious. "You are not to leave Flag. I demand a solution from you before you go anywhere. If you won’t be Marketing Exec Int, then who will? You’d better have a solution by tomorrow!" With that he dismissed me.

I left his office, seething. Factually, Gleeson couldn’t recall me – I was under CMO Int, not ED Int. I headed for the Dissem Bureau offices. I knew that I had friends there, and that one of them, Charlie Updegrove, had a car.

It was after midnight, but I could see lights still on. I banged on the door and peeked through the blinds. There were about five staff in there, staring at the door in a frozen tableau of fear. "Open up!" I shouted, "it’s me, Jeff." Finally they let me in.

"Charlie, I need a ride to the airport," I told him. Graciously, he didn’t ask any questions. We collected my luggage and headed out to Tampa International Airport. I booked the next flight to LA, an early morning flight.

Back in LA, Nancy and I set about consolidating our position. A new organization had been formed at the end of 1981 called Author Services. They were officially not a part of the Church, but were supposed to be L. Ron Hubbard’s literary agency. In fact, like everything else in Scientology, they were run from the top. As my future campaign would involve selling Scientology books, and that would mean royalties to Hubbard, they took an interest in what we were doing, and in fact began running us directly. I sent my weekly reports to Fran Harris, and she started having weekly meetings with us to go over project. She would report on our campaign progress to Hubbard, and would let us know what he said back. He seemed to be pleased with the progress we were making.

Gleeson made one final attempt to stop us. He had been spreading it all over Flag that I was "blown" and sent two missionaries, Debbie Vincent and Aledia Warren, with instructions to take over our market research project and reorganize it. When they arrived and briefed me on what they were going to do, I was furious. I tried to reason with them, but they were determined not to listen to me.

Somehow, I lured them into a supply closet, on the pretext that there was something important in there to inspect. I then closed the door on them and locked it, went to a nearby desk and called Frannie at ASI. I briefed her on what was happening.

"Don’t worry," she said. "I’ll call you right back."

I waited, listening to the pounding and muffled curses coming from the closet. Ten minutes later, the phone rang.

"It’s handled," Frannie said. "They’ve been recalled."

I unlocked the door and let the two furious women out.

"You’ve been recalled," I told them. "Now get the fuck out of my office."

And so we carried on, the surveys and research data piling up. I was getting a pretty good idea of who we should be marketing to and what their attitudes and needs were. It seemed that those most likely to be interested in Scientology were young and well-educated. They were people who were looking for change in their lives. I called them "seekers."

One afternoon, I went to the local drugstore to pick something up, and ran into Bill Franks. He looked hollow, tired. He was, I gathered, out of Scientology altogether by then. We talked for a minute, and I told him what I was doing. He wished me luck. That was the last time I saw him.

Then in April 1982, several things came together at once, like planets aligning. My old friend Foster Tompkins arrived on a mission to Bridge Publications, the Scientology publishing house for Hubbard’s books. There was going to be a major book convention in June in Anaheim, the American Booksellers Association Convention. This was a yearly national convention where publishers showed their wares and made deals with the book chains and distributors. Foster was to arrange for Bridge Publications to have a booth at this fair and sell Hubbard’s books.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wilson had started a new activity at Flag called the Library Donation Project. Its aim was to get Scientologists to buy books which would then be donated to public libraries. The profits were to go to major book campaigns.

At the same time, Hubbard had written a long memo to the CO CMO Int called "Planetary Dissemination" (later issued as a Policy Letter). In it, he stated that Scientology Organizations would continue to be small and static if they only sold to their existing public of Scientologists. In order to really expand, we had to reach out to new people, and the way to do that was with books. He called for a big book campaign to be launched.

The path ahead seemed clear to Foster and I. We would join forces, along with Bruce, in one overall project. That the three of us were good friends, and that all of us tended to be mavericks, only increased the appeal. I would handle the market research, advertising and media; Foster would handle the book trade sales, and Bruce would handle the funding. We would launch the biggest public book campaign anyone had seen.

We discussed what to call the combined project. "Book Marketing Unit" seemed obvious, but I could see an immediate problem.

"If we call ourselves the Book Marketing Unit," I told Foster, "then pretty soon they’ll have us running the orgs’ week-to-week book sales, and that’s all we’ll end up doing."

"Well, that’s tactical," Foster pointed out. "We don’t do tactical; we do strategy."

So the Strategic Book Marketing Unit was born.

And over the next four and a half years, the SBMU would reach a level of success none of us had envisioned.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chapter Seven: The Land Base

The Fort Harrison Hotel, 1976

I could see them from two blocks away – the protesters, holding their signs above their heads in the Florida sun. They were clustered on the sidewalk outside the Fort Harrison Hotel, where I was headed for lunch. So I would have to run the gauntlet. I felt a mix of emotions – anger at the protesters, embarrassment and awkwardness at having to walk past them, frustration that we were disliked by the locals.

We were instructed to just ignore them. It was the job of the Guardians Office to handle "the enemy," and that included these protesters. We were to just carry on doing our jobs, "Clearing the Planet." The GO would handle everything, so they told us. The only problem was, their handlings didn’t seem to be improving the scene. And some of their their tactics seemed to me to be boneheaded – like the time they decided to march on the local newspaper offices, the Clearwater Sun, dressed in Nazi uniforms. They were trying to say that the Sun was being Nazi-like. But for Clearwater residents, many of whom were retirees who had survived WW II, many of whom were Jewish, some of whom were Holocaust survivors, the appearance of Nazi uniforms on the streets of Clearwater was just upsetting. I found such attempts at "PR" to be just embarrassing.

But still, I had to walk past the protesters. I just wanted to get to the staff dining room, have lunch, and get back to work. And here they were, in my path. Who were they, I wondered? We had been briefed that they were local rednecks who had been riled up against Scientology by corrupt Clearwater politicians.

As I edged past them, a young guy, who looked like he could be a ringleader, leaned towards me.
"Is Dianetics working today?" he sneered. I felt an angry retort boiling up inside me, but I tamped it down. I just kept walking, eyes straight ahead. Don’t let him get to you, I told myself.

I found myself tense and scowling as I entered the cool of the lobby and climbed up the stairs to the staff dining room. I breathed deeply, tried to relax and enjoy my brief lunch break.

It had all started after we arrived in Clearwater at the end of 1975. After the Apollo docked in the Bahamas, more than a dozen missions had been fired from the ship, each one handling a different facet of the move to shore, and all of them, we were told, personally run by the Commodore.

A temporary "staging area" was established in Daytona Beach, Florida. There, in a big motel, the Neptune, delivery of Flag training and auditing continued, with Flag’s paying public living in the upper floors of the motel, and course rooms and offices set up on the ground floor. Hubbard checked into another hotel just down the road, and supervised operations from there.

There was a huge demand for Flag auditing, now exploding with the move to a Land Base. On the ship, the number of public who could come for training and auditing was severely limited. But with a Land Base, there were no limits on how many could come. After all, these were the highest trained Scientology auditors in the world, the Class XIIs, personally trained by Ron. And all of the sessions were supervised by LRH personally. "We can crack any case that walks up the walk," bragged Hubbard.

Four of us from the Dissem Bureau were sent to Daytona to continue putting out the Advance magazine – vital to Advanced Org stats. David Ziff was in charge as Editor, I was the designer, Annie Allcock handled typesetting and layout, and Andre Clavel was sent with us to do any needed artwork. We set up operations in one of the rooms, and Annie and I, both inveterate swimmers, managed a swim every day at noon in the cold Atlantic.

Meanwhile, there was a bustle of comings and goings as the permanent land base was readied in a confidential location. But nothing stays confidential for long, particularly if you’re alert. One day I heard a couple of Missionaires talking, and one of them mentioned that the city where the new facility was being set up was "appropriately named." A few minutes with a Florida map and I had it – Clearwater.

At the beginning of December, the entire Daytona facility moved across Florida to the new location – in just a few hours – with delivery of Flag services continuing uninterrupted. The public literally got up that morning in Daytona, were driven to Clearwater, and had their auditing sessions for that day.

We were briefed before we arrived that we were not to mention Scientology on the streets of Clearwater. No one was to know that we were Scientology. If asked, we were to say that we were with "United Churches of Florida" – a Hubbard brainstorm – supposedly a pan-denominational group setting up the hotel for training and conferences.

We were used to keeping our real identity secret, as we had to do it on the Apollo. Then, we were the "Operation and Transport Company." We had to remain "fabian," the Commodore has said, referring to the Roman general Fabius Maximus, who advocated victory by delay and harassment rather than by a decisive battle. Sea Org operations had to remain confidential, so that "the enemy" would not get wind of our locations and plans. Hubbard frequently used military terms to describe our ongoing struggle with the enemy – the psychs and the government agencies who were after us. In fact, our daily "to-do" lists were referred to as "Battle Plans."

I settled in to life in Clearwater. Florida was hot and muggy. It seemed to be a city that had stopped moving in time, preserved from an earlier decade, but preserved without refrigeration, so everything seemed to be in moldering decay – the cheap, boxy buildings, the aging cars, the elderly citizens.

But with all that, I was glad to be back in the US and enjoy simple things on my off-time like getting a decent hamburger or visiting the mall. The Fort Harrison Hotel had a swimming pool in the back, and a group of us spent our lunch hours swimming. We would run up to our rooms, change, and race down to the pool. Then when it was almost time to go back on post, we’d dash up and change, then race through the kitchen and grab some fruit so we wouldn’t starve. I heard later that the locals’ picture of Scientologists was "people with wet hair running through the streets carrying fruit."

Jeff at work in the Dissemination Bureau

In Clearwater, we were of course not allowed to wear any Sea Org naval uniforms; we had to dress in "wog clothes" so we would blend in – as if hundreds of oddly-behaving strangers suddenly descending on a sleepy Florida town could ever blend in.

I didn’t have any "wog clothes" so went to the local clothing store and got a nice white summer suit. We were supposed to dress as "upstat" (successful) business people – no jeans and t-shirts. When we first arrived, we were supposed to wear ties – that didn’t last long once the weather started warming up.

The Church had purchased five buildings in Clearwater. There was the Fort Harrison Hotel, an old eleven-story structure built in 1924. That was allocated to public service delivery as well as accommodations for both public and some crew. Two motels were purchased to handle the rest of crew berthing – the Heart of Clearwater motel on Cleveland Street, and an old Quality Inn, about eight miles from downtown. The Clearwater Bank Building, or "CB," on the corner of Cleveland and Fort Harrison Streets, and the West Coast Building, or "WB," housed the Flag Bureaux. We had, in essence, taken over downtown Clearwater, a fact which was not appreciated by the locals, especially when they inevitably learned that both "United Churches of Florida" and "Southern Land Development" (the company that had originally purchased the properties), were both fronts for the Church of Scientology.

It was hard not to notice the local hostility towards the Church. After our front groups were exposed, negative articles started appearing in the Saint Petersburg Times (gleefully dubbed "SP Times" by the GO) and the Clearwater Sun. A citizens’ group, led by Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cezares, was critical of Scientology’s attempted takeover of the town, and soon there were protests, with crowds of locals picketing in front of the Fort Harrison.

We’d been briefed on the demonstrations, on why they were occurring. The reason for the local attacks, we were told, was that the Mafia, in collusion with corrupt city officials, had planned to depress property values in downtown Clearwater, buy up all the property, then set up gambling casinos. When we bought the Fort Harrison and started fixing it up, that thwarted their evil plan. We were the good guys. But the politicians were stirring up the local citizens with lies about us. It was all part of the enemy cabal against Scientology.

At least, that’s what the Guardian’s Office told us. And they were the ones dealing with it. They discouraged us from reading the local newspapers. They were just full of "entheta" they said. "Entheta was a Scientology term, short for "entubulated theta." Theta was the word for the life force or spirit, and when that life force was disturbed, it was called "entheta." Colloquially in Scientology, the term referred to anything that was critical of Scientology.

We weren’t allowed to watch TV either. An order had come from the Commodore, who at that time was living a few miles up the coast in Dunedin, that staff were not to watch television. "An unproven why of crew disinterest in their posts is that what we’ve got is TV zombies who are not interested in life," he proclaimed. All of the staff television sets were immediately removed from rooms and put into storage. From that point on, we were cut off from the zombifying effects of TV – and also, incidentally, from any possible negative news broadcasts.

After we arrived, I went back to the post I had had on the ship, designing and writing promotion. In March, 1976, the Photo Shoot Org became Universal Media Productions, or "Unimed," and started making films as well as doing still photography. It was planned that they would do some promotional films to get more Scientologists to come to the Flag Land Base, as it was now called, for service.

Even though we were now on land, the location was still confidential. But we were allowed to tell our families that we were in the U.S. I eagerly called my mom, who had returned from Paris and was now living in Stockton, California. She was elated that I was now so close, and I told her I would get a leave and come visit.

There was another reason I wanted to visit. My sister, Susan, had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and my mother was caring for her. Susan had followed me and Kim into Scientology, and had ended up marrying a Scientologist, Bob Blanchard, who ran a mission in Hayward, California. She had reached OT III, but then had been diagnosed with cancer. Her Case Supervisor at the Advanced Org had advised some therapies that were only available in Mexico involving massive vitamin dosages.

I got my leave approved and flew to LA, where I met up with Kim. After he had left Copenhagen, Kim had joined the Sea Org in LA and was now staff at the Advanced Organization, which at that time was on Bonnie Brae in downtown Los Angeles, just a few blocks from LA Org, where Kim and I had first contacted Scientology. Kim had gotten an OK for a leave too, but was afraid it would be revoked at any second, so we got out of LA as fast as we could, feeling like a couple of kids playing hookey. We drove up 101 to Sacramento, driving through the night in the rain to get there.

It was great to spend a week with family, although Susan was in a lot of pain, but was happy to see us. Mom was trying to make things as comfortable for her as possible. Kim and I ended up taking apart his carburetor, spreading the parts out all over Mom’s living room on newspapers.

It was over all too soon. An image that remains in my mind is Mom and Susan standing out in front of the house as Kim and I drove off, waving frantically. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the image of my sister, growing smaller and smaller as we drove away.

Two weeks later, back at the Fort Harrison Hotel, I was checking my mail box to see if I had any letters. There was a scrap of paper there, printed on one side. The printing made no sense. I turned it over, and there, scrawled in the childish handwriting of the Receptionist, was one short sentence:

"Your sister has died."

I called Mom right away. We cried together on the phone. I asked if I should come back out, she said no. My brother Kim raced up from LA to help her.

There was nothing else to do but carry on. And there was lots to do. The location of Flag was no longer confidential, and Hubbard had launched tours to LA, New York and Europe to get more people to Flag. Each tour had a Class VII as main speaker, and a salesman-type, a "Registrar" as they were called in Scientology Orgs. They held huge events and promoted Flag auditing. And people started flooding in.

And if things had been tense on the ship, they were even more so within the office buildings of the Flag Bureaux. Kerry Gleeson, the Commanding Officer of the FB, continued to run the org by harangues, criticism, and threat. We had crew musters twice a day, and often specific staff would be called out and dressed down for their failings. Gleeson swore like a sailor, and soon his rough language spread to other execs and staff, and the level of profanity commonly used rose to a high that I had never experienced before, with female officers (who we also had to address as "Sir") vying with their male counterparts in the use of four-letter words – particularly when dressing down their juniors.

Gleeson was notorious for what was known as a "stat push." That meant doing anything and everything to "get the stats up." Unfortunately that usually meant doing things the easy way, which often consisted of just putting more and more pressure on existing Scientologists to pay more and more money, rather than putting time and effort into attracting new members. The stat-push mentality discouraged any longer range planning and fixated attention on immediate emergencies, superficial handlings, and the right-now actions of getting this week’s stats up. The pervading atmosphere was one of week-to-week panic, with dire consequences for those who did not "make it go right" to get their stats up that week.

The stress only intensified in early 1977 when staff began disappearing suddenly. The MAA (Master at Arms) would tap them on the shoulder, and they would be escorted away, not to return. We were told that they were "List One R/Sers."

"List One" was an auditing assessment list that included the top names in Scientology, like L. Ron Hubbard, Mary Sue Hubbard, and top execs. The person would be put on an e-meter, where he would be holding the electrode cans, and this list would be read to him. If the e-meter needle erratically slammed back and forth across the dial, it was referred to as a "Rock Slam," and it meant that the person had evil purposes towards the principal figures of Scientology. They were to be immediately sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force – no questions, no appeal.

One day, the MAA walked into the Dissem Bureau offices. It was like the Spectre of Death arriving. Everyone watched with dread as he walked across the room, hoping that he wasn’t coming for them. He walked up behind David Ziff and tapped him on the shoulder. David turned and saw him, and his face went white. He rose without a word and walked out with the MAA.

That’s how I became the Advance Magazine Editor.

I had to do some fast study to learn how to put one of these magazines together. There were some key recorded briefings from Hubbard and I listened to these. In addition to an article by Hubbard in each issue (edited from one of his recorded lectures), there was always to be an article about "Man’s Spiritual History." Hubbard laid out exactly how these were to be written. You took a spiritual subject, like divination, ghosts, alchemy, tarot cards, or a religious subject, like Sufism, Gnosticism or whatever, and researched the subject, then wrote an article about it, laying out what they believed. Then you summed up the article with a statement that "these people were searching for the truth about life, and they would be gratified to find that their long search for answers has at last culminated in the truths of Scientology." It was a formula, every article ending more or less the same. I would spend days at the Clearwater Library researching the article, then pound it out on a little Brother portable typewriter.

In addition to a lot of ads for books and lectures and the "OT Levels," there was something called "OT Phenomena Success Stories," which were stories from OTs about the abilities that they had gained on their OT Levels and how they had exercised their "OT abilities." These were solicited from the Advanced Orgs. A lot of them were things like finding a parking place with extrasensory perception, or sending a "theta" communication to a loved one over a long distance, and then having that person suddenly call. They were wild and weird, and very popular with Advance readers. Some I received were so bizarre I couldn’t even publish them, like one "OT" who claimed to have gone exterior one afternoon while sitting in an easy chair, gone to a distant planet, and Cleared it all by himself! I had to draw the line somewhere.

I wasn’t OT myself, so I shared with Advance readers the sense of mystery about these levels. And that probably helped me to build an aura of awe and wonder in the Advance magazines. Meanwhile I arranged to get onto the Solo Auditors Course so I could progress to OT. This was the course where you learned how to audit yourself. I eventually made it up to Clear, then went on to OT III at Flag, reading all about the evil galactic overlord Xenu and the creation of the "body thetans" in a courseroom in the Fort Harrison Hotel. So that was the big mystery, the "secret incident from 75 million years ago" that I had been writing about. Of course it was far-fetched – but in a way I expected it to be something that wild. I audited the materials and, frankly, didn’t feel all that different. But I figured my "OT abilities" would manifest themselves over time as I got used to my new state of being.

Working on Advance Magazine at last gave me the chance to create artistically, and I really enjoyed it. I did virtually everything on the magazine – illustrations, hand lettering, cartoons, as well as making props and directing the photo shoots with Unimed. Sometimes I’d spend an entire day just executing an illustration. I bought an airbrush and taught myself how to use it.

I was also running the publication lines for getting the magazine produced and distributed. To do this, I had Assistant Editors at every AO. As my brother Kim was the Director of Promotion at the Advanced Organization in Los Angeles, AOLA. He was my Assistant Editor there, and I depended on him to get me photographs, success stories and other items from AOLA, and he also got it printed. So we corresponded frequently – even if it was all business. He had just gotten married to his second wife, Deborah, who worked at Celebrity Centre. We talked about them moving to Flag – but it never happened.

In July, an alarming story spread through the Base like a panic. They were saying that the FBI had raided the Guardian’s Offices in LA and Washington D.C. Everyone was buzzing with the news but details were sketchy. No one seemed to know exactly what had happened. Finally we got a briefing of sorts – the raids were illegal, we were taking legal action, all the GO had done was "steal some paper" from government offices. It was all a tempest in a teapot, they assured us, and would soon be handled victoriously.

I was concerned that this negative press would get to Mom and that she would be worried or upset, so I wrote her long letters, explaining how we were only being attacked as we were "exposing their crimes," and that what they were saying was "all lies." It felt odd to write to Mom this way, but these were the things we had been told. Even to my ears it sounded strident, defensive.

In August, Mom came to Clearwater for a visit. After returning from Paris, she had been teaching in Idyllwild, California – ironically just a few miles from the future Int Base in Hemet. But she had another job offer from International Schools, this time in Tehran, Iran. She decided to drive across the country to bring me her car, which I would care for while she was abroad. As luck would have it, my daughter Gwennie was just returning to Copenhagen after a visit with Tina’s mother, so they decided to drive across country together to see me. I was elated – I hadn’t seen Gwennie for two years – since I’d left Copenhagen.

Mom and Gwennie visit Jeff at the Fort Harrison Hotel

She was eight years old now. I was able to get time off and we had a wonderful time together, went to the beach and saw the local sights. Then they flew together to Copenhagen, and my mom went on to Tehran and her new job. She was to stay there for two years – and become one of the last Americans to leave the country, six months after the Khomeini takeover.

In late 1977, Unimed left the Flag Land Base and moved to the confidential location where Hubbard was. Years later I would learn that this was at La Quinta, near Palm Springs in California, but at the time we just referred to it as "over the rainbow." They became a film production company, Source Productions, later renamed Golden Era Productions.

Hubbard was always releasing new auditing rundowns and procedures, and these would then be promoted broadly to get more and more people coming in for services. The "Sweat Out Program" was one of these. It was supposed to be a way to sweat out toxins and drugs with a regimen of vitamins and exercise. The original pilot program had us running out the causeway towards Clearwater Beach in rubberized sweatsuits. I refused to wear one. I said that if the purpose was to generate sweat, then I was already sweating at maximum, just by running in the Florida sun.

One advantage of the program was that I got in great shape. At first I couldn’t run more than a block without wheezing, but I gradually built up my stamina until I could run all the way to the beach. Even after the program was finished, I kept on running, rising early and jogging out to the beach before breakfast – a four mile run. Gradually I worked it up to eight miles a day. Late at night after post, a bunch of us would put music on in the main auditorium and do disco line dancing for an hour. It was the ‘70s after all.

Between the running, dancing and swimming, I got in great shape. I started "dating" again, although at Flag in those days it was strictly platonic. Necking or kissing could get you in big trouble, even an RPF assignment! But I managed to spend my days off with one girl or another, going up the coast to Tarpon Springs, down the coast to Sarasota, or just to the beach. I had my mom’s old Dodge, so I was able to get around.

In mid-1978, "entheta" once again struck. Eleven Guardian’s Office staff, including Mary Sue Hubbard, were convicted of burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. Again, few details were forthcoming from the Guardian’s Office. We heard vaguely that the GO had been "infiltrated" and "set up" to fail in its mission to protect the Church, that those involved were "purged" from the Church, and that, after all, they "had done nothing more serious than steal photocopier paper." It was all fine, in other words, was under control, and the GO was handling it. It was all starting to sound a bit thin – it was pretty obvious that the GO wasn’t handling anything and was just making matters worse. The conviction was followed by a rash of "bad press" on Scientology. Again, I wrote to Mom reassuring her that it was all lies, that everything was OK. But it was pretty obvious everything was not OK.

In 1979, Bruce, Tina and Gwen came to the Flag Land Base from Copenhagen. Gwennie was ten by then, and it was great to be able to see her all the time. I was still on great terms with Tina, and Bruce was a good friend. I spend Christmas 1979 with them, and it was like being with family in a way.

Bruce became the Dissem Aide, so was my senior. We often talked about how great it would be to launch a big public dissemination campaign to counter all of the GO "entheta" and let people know what Scientology was really like. I was studying "wog" textbooks on advertising and marketing, trying to learn all I could about the subjects. After post time, some of us would gather in the Lemon Tree Café in the Fort Harrison - the staff after-hours hangout - and have long bull sessions about the big public campaigns that we should be doing.

But it was all just talk. In reality, no one was interested in broad public dissemination of Scientology. It required resources – staff and money that would be taken away from the right-now push for the weekly stats. It would take time to plan, launch, and ramp up a real campaign – time that no one had with the day-by-day emergencies. I became increasingly frustrated and sick at heart.

In late 1980, I found a new romantic interest, Nancy Pierce. She worked in the research and survey area of the Dissem Bureau, and was sharp and funny – a sort of blonde Carol Burnett. We began hanging out in our off-time – one of our first "dates" was going down to a jazz festival at Coachman Park over a dinner hour. Nancy could get me laughing like no one else – and she shared my passion for public dissemination of Scientology and my hatred of the Gleeson "stat push" mentality. We found we had a lot in common and became fast friends.

Soon we were sharing other passions – sneaking off after post to find a secluded spot. Of course, we couldn’t take it too far without getting in trouble, so we decided to get married. I called Mom and gave her the news, and she said she’d come out for the wedding, which we set for New Years Eve. Nancy’s mom, Eva, came down from Pennsylvania and the two moms had a great time. The wedding was lavish, held in the Chapel of the Fort Harrison. Deld was the minister, Bruce was best man, and Gwennie was the flower girl.

The wedding, with Maid-of Honor Brigitte, Nancy's mom Eva, Nancy, me, Mom, and Best Man Bruce.

We settled into married life, moving out to the Quality Inn, about eight miles from downtown, and driving back and forth in the old Dodge, now named "Lizzie." We continued to work at the daily grind in the Dissem Bureau, daydreaming in our off-time about someday running a big public campaign to promote Scientology, someday when we would be free of Gleeson.

In late 1981, the chance came. The Guardian’s Office had finally been dismantled. Mary Sue Hubbard and ten other Guardian’s Office staff had gone to prison. The Commodore’s Messenger Organization, located at a confidential location in California, had taken over all of management, including the functions previously handled by the GO. They had set up a "Watchdog Committee" (WDC) to monitor all of Scientology. Bill Franks had been appointed as Executive Director International, and had a council of executives, the "Senior Executive Strata," to directly plan and carry out Scientology expansion. It was a new era, a new leaf.

Part of the GO functions now taken over by WDC and Exec Strata was Church public relations. It was time to mend the "bad PR" generated by the GO. There was to be a mission sent to LA to find and hire a professional PR firm which would then be retained by the Church. Annie Allcock and I were named as the Missionaires.

I told Nancy I was going, and added, for her ears only,

"Pack up everything we own and put it in storage. Be ready to come to LA when I call for you."

She looked at me quizzically.

"I’m not coming back," I told her.

It was time to revolt.