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.


Cathy said...

Oh. My. God. You know you have to post the next chapter tomorrow. Because this is like crack -- I need more.

Thanks for telling your story. We love you.

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Anonymous said...

Great story - a very compelling read. The fact that somebody decided to make a detailed write-up of a lifetime of experiences in the Sea Org - brilliant!

I knew very little about what transpired in the 70s and early 80s in Scientology. Your reports are most illuminating. Thank you!

Keep up the good work! I'm looking forward to the next chapters...

Ms. Taggart if You're Nasty said...

I agree w/ crack! I was hoping to read a new chapter during lunch, and here it is.

As always, thanks!

Cheryl said...

Jeff, your story is amazing. So well written. I have been reading non-stop. I too am an old-timer from 1972. However I've never beenon staff. I remember many of the people you mentioned -- Bill Franks and Otto Roos to name a few. All such colorful charismatic people. So much has changed since then. I can't wait for your next chapter. Thanks again.

Cheryl said...
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karlo said...

marvellous written, perfect background history for me ( I was from eary 70ies in EG on lines, one of the 79ers, the first people on NOTs on FLag). Red your ADVANCE, vwd. Looking forward to your story about finance police. Got it full, because my partner ( she had a perfect swiss mission in the 70ies, got in heavy trouble those days.

karlo said...

I left the church 2000, but still must say, what I got out of my auditing was excellent, do not regret one step.....the round about, the craziness, you name it...that made me leave !!!

Unknown said...

Its 2am here and I have been working for the past few hours doing a shedload of IT stuff - and reading this .... I am working far away from home and I normally take a book with me - this is better than any book.


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LightPath said...

Another few hours, and another few paragraphs behind my belt! I find myself in agreement with the other folks who commented, especially Cathy!

Your journal is helping people. It reminds those who have left why they left and warning new parishioners what might be in store for them under the leadership of the current "CoB" thug-in-charge.

Thank you.