As we were driving down Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, I noticed a large and beautiful old building on one side of the road. It was covered up by trees
and shrubs, and resembled a castle. At first I thought it might be an expensive hotel or condos, but my sister informed me that this was actually the
Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International. She told me that a few years back she and her friends decided to take a tour. They were curious
(much like myself) and wanted to learn what Scientology was all about. She told me that in the middle of the tour they decided to run for it,
literally. I laughed and wondered what could make them run. Surely she was being dramatic.
Naturally I wanted to experience it myself. I was in a weird place at the time, going through a rough divorce, between jobs, and I heard that the
Church of Scientology helped people out with their personal lives and careers, particularly if you were an actor or artist (I'm an
I talked her into going in with me, so we parked the car and started looking for the entrance. Soon enough we walked through the gate and into what
was a neatly manicured garden. The place was right next to the street, but the large shrubs separated it so well that you didn't feel like you were
in the middle of a city. It looked more like a relaxing, secluded park.
We followed the short stone path and came upon an open restaurant with a few people enjoying breakfast. Among those people was David Carradine (a few
months before his death), dressed in white, all alone. We looked at each other and couldn't believe it. We're not the star-struck type and living in
Southern California we get to see celebrities often, but we weren't expecting this. We stopped immediately and tried not to stare. He saw us
approaching and gave us that look which says "Can't you see I'm eating my breakfast? Please don't come over here".
We honored that look,
turned around and tried to look for a different entrance. We walked around the building until we came to the other side of the restaurant. We walked
up the marble (or stone) staircase in the front and entered the building through a small door on the side.
As soon as we opened this door we were greeted by two Scientology reps wearing dress pants and white shirts. They had big smiles painted across their
faces. At first I thought; "hey, they seem really friendly!". Little did I know that later in the day I'd learn the -chilling- truth behind those
smiles -insert scary sounds of doom-
Apparently the Scientology center had actor auditions that day, and aspiring young actors came to their doors to try out. At first they thought we
might be there for the auditions, but we told them we'd like a tour. They had us sit down in the nicely-furnished small office and fill out a short
survey. The questions ranged from "What do you know about Scientology and what area in your life you seek improvement in" to how old you are and
where you live. I can't remember it in detail, because this happened about a year ago.
We filled out the questionnaire and handed it in. They had us watch a short intro video while we waited for our tour guide. Based on our answers on
the questionnaire, they handed us books from their book shelves which they believed would be very helpful to us. I leafed through them to pass the
A few minutes later we were introduced to the woman who was going to give us a tour around the building. As we walked through the hallway she stopped
and pointed to the bust of L. Ron Hubbard. In short she told us all about his life accomplishments. I learned that this man wrote a LOT of books!!!
Too many in fact, some of them were required reading, and all of them were for sale!
She asked us if we had ever heard of Scientology, but what she was really interested in were the nasty rumors that were circulating about
Scientologists at that time. You had Tom Cruise "jumping the couch" a couple of months earlier, you had South Park mocking Scientology, and I just
happened to watch a program on Scientology in which a girl claimed she ran away from one of their live-in youth schools. She ended up being ostracized
by her family, because in Scientology you're supposed to avoid anyone who is branded a negative person by the church, including your own family
Her response to Tom Cruise was that he was a "unique" person who was a bit off the wall even before he joined their church, but when she heard the
story about the girl you should have seen her face. She immediately became defensive. First she said she's never heard of that story. Then she
continued to say that if the story was true, the girl was probably a heavy drug addict who lied about her experience in the church of Scientology. I
just smiled, nodded and let it be.
We continued through the hall and wound up in the front lobby in front of some sort of contraption called an "E-meter". I heard of it before but
never gave it a try. My sister passed on that opportunity. I tried to pass too, but the woman insisted. After two minutes of shaking my head in
refusal, next thing I know she had me holding the metal stick connected to the E-meter, and we watched the needle on the meter fluctuate slightly. She
told me that my thoughts (or feelings) influenced the needle movement. She started to ask me about my personal life, whether or not I was having
problems or issues, etc. Anytime the needle made a move she pointed to it and said; "You see? You're thinking about it now, aren't you?"
Thinking of these issues was supposed to make the needle jump to the right to show my strong feelings on the subject or person involved. Generally I
don't like sharing personal information, especially in situations when your weakness can be used to recruit you into cults, but since I was very
sensitive at the time I let something slip. That pretty much opened the flood-gates to more questions which didn't come until later.
After the E-meter experience we were led through confusing labyrinth-like hallways, and everywhere we looked it was apparent that these people had
money. Nothing looked cheap. We saw the gym along with other membership rooms and perks until finally we were shown into a small theater. The woman
asked us to sit down, left the room and turned off the lights. This was gonna be good. I would finally see the infamous intro movie to Scientology!