This chapter was included in the original book manuscript after the Celebrity Centre chapters, before Peter and I went uplines to the Int base. No parts of it were included in the print book.
Los Angeles, circa 1988
CELEBRITY CENTRE PRESIDENT Sue Young McClay was sent to the prison camp (RPF). Her efforts were deemed just not good enough for the demands of International Management. I’m surprised I wasn’t held culpable for the same issues since her role fell under me. My guess for being spared has something to do with being married to Peter Schless, and how it would look out-PR to punish me through this extreme measure. I know Sue was repeatedly faulted for not enough bigger name celebs coming in, and for current celebs not giving more support to Scientology in the media and through our social reform programs. Sue did complete her RPF program, but left the Sea Org.
On a personal level, the months of 1987 blurred one into the next, and then into 1988 that held other issues. My Sea Org schedule of 16-hour long days, 6 ½ days per week led to a marriage in conflict as well as my physical illness. I was exhausted, lacked regular sleep, time off and exercise, and developed an immune deficiency. My latest blood tests showed me in the high-risk category for heart problems. I had to sleep in every morning and didn’t show up to my office until lunch—not a Sea Org routine, which led to a string of troubles between my seniors and me. Caring for health issues was not as important as being on post full time to clear the planet.
My Sea Org lifestyle plunged me into a more complex level of problems related to family issues and personal relationships that time would not allow me to care for. I could only take so many matters into my own hands during my waking hours. In writing this book, I’m also constrained by space, so I’ve included the unabridged text of this chapter in my book website.
My nephew Adam began calling me from out of the blue, trying to connect with Peter and me. As a musician, Adam hoped Peter could help him make connections in the LA music business. I was then functioning as only a shell of a person, and regrettably had no time or energy to give to my nephew. I made the terrible mistake of not being responsive to his efforts to connect with me. This was a mistake that I have never forgotten, and regret to this day. Adam’s attempts to reach out to me, and his short presence in my life faded away, like some of my contacts with family and friends. Adam’s father, Tom, had essentially abandoned his family, so my inability to be there for Adam when he was reaching out to me even worsened my regret about my own circumstances.
Before I joined the Sea Org and was living in Coldwater Canyon around 1984, my beautiful niece Krista had come to our home to visit from Chicago. I was thrilled to have a whole week with my niece. I told her about Scientology, and brought her to the Valley Org. She loved taking the communication course; actually, she stopped stuttering during that time. But when we called her mom and told her about it, Paula was enraged with me—understandably so. She demanded that Krista come home the next day. I had been wrong for not getting her permission first, since Krista was a minor and Paula was a Christian raising her kids as such. After that, I didn’t see Krista again until after 1998.
One benefit to being in the Sea Org at CC in Los Angeles, versus at the Int Management base where family members were never allowed, is that family could visit. Only my niece Krista and my mother came to visit me in LA during my Scientology years. Not that we got to see each other much, but there was breakfast, lunch, and dinner time, and then of course after post around 11:00 p.m.
While I was the CO CCNW, living in the Manor, my mother came to stay with us. Mom was willing to find out more about Scientology, once she saw the depth of my involvement. I was on post all day every day, so I wasn’t free to go anywhere with her. She would come up to my office and sit in the chair while I worked. CC staff would stop and talk with her for a few seconds, to be friendly.
Mom took some courses in the Division Six course room for new Scientologists. She started with the Hubbard Qualified Scientologist course (HQS), which covered the Scientology basics, taught communication skills, and some Scientology techniques such as how to give a touch assist. While in the basic course room, she wondered out loud (to the course supervisor) about something she had observed going on in Scientology at the Celebrity Centre. She doesn’t remember exactly what she observed, or exactly what she said to the person, but it had to do with thinking that the Sea Org controlled the lives of the staff members beyond what was normal control. She posed a question with a comment in the context of being a student of Scientology who was encouraged to observe and decide what was true for her.
The staff member told her to stay there, and walked away. Someone else came and escorted her upstairs to a little room with no windows. Inside was a person she was told was very powerful in the organization. I’m guessing it might have been an ethics officer. No staff member ever came to me to report anything about my mother getting into ethics trouble, or to tell me that my mother was going to be taken anywhere other than the Div 6 course room.
Mom said that he asked her some very personal questions about who she really was and why she was here. She said that he began to interrogate her by asking such questions as, do you think Scientology is bad? Does your family consider Scientology bad? Are you a suppressive person? Why did you make that statement? Do you intend to harm Scientology?
No one had explained to my mother that she had done something wrong in the eyes of Scientology by asking her question or making her comment. She also hadn’t been informed that she was going to be interrogated, nor had anyone gotten her consent to participate in such a dialogue beforehand. In her eyes, she had been involved in a conversation as a student one moment, and then the next moment found herself being treated like an enemy. Evidently this issue was laid to rest because the staff member “let her” leave the office.
Though this incident had upset and confused her, she was nevertheless interested in improving her health and physical activity, and got past it. She was 64, and decided to do the Purification Program at Peter’s and my recommendation. Mom told me it was a little strange taking all the oils and vitamins and sitting in the sauna several hours a day, but she loved the physical activity. She was twinned with a girl on the program about 25 years younger, yet Mom was proud that she was able to keep up with her running and walking during their exercise hours. Mom finished the Purif within a few weeks, happy with how she felt afterwards.
Mom was sent to the Registrar to sign up for another Scientology course, but she put on the brakes and decided to stop doing any more Scientology. When I asked her why, she said, “Too many things happened that I saw in daily living around here that made me not want to go on.” To clarify, she said, “I saw it in you, Karen, and in Peter, and in the staff members I saw every day. It was the complete takeover of a Scientologist’s life. You really have no freedom. It seems like Scientology controls your thoughts. You guys are kind of losing part of yourself, changing over into their lifestyle.” And she reminded me about being hauled up into that little room and interrogated. “And they scare me.” I had hoped my mother would become a Scientologist. I could understand why she didn’t.
Peter had also started getting letters from Dixie, his former high school girlfriend in Florida. Since he was not in the Sea Org yet, no one read his mail. Dixie had been writing him about the baby they had together, who was now a teenage girl who Peter said he had never seen. Dixie told Peter that Heather had become more than she could handle alone. Peter shared the story about how he had been in denial for years, or at least unsure, about being Heather’s father. Now Dixie was asking for help with Heather. Dixie claimed that it was time for Peter to step up to the plate and be the father his daughter needed.
Wow. We talked about this for days, deliberating over the options as well as consequences whether we would say yes or no to this request. I suggested that Peter start writing letters to Heather, and exchange pictures to get to know her. From the first batch of pictures we got, it was easy to see that Heather was Peter’s daughter, with his facial shape, his eyes, nose, smile, and curly hair.
I was in favor of giving it a try, and having Heather come live with us. I had never been able to have children, and we had talked about adopting or fostering a child. This could be a great chance for both of us. Peter made the arrangements with Dixie on the terms that if Heather wasn’t happy living with us, she would go back to her mother’s home. Peter picked up Heather from the airport and I met the two of them in our apartment later that night after I got off post. Heather was beautiful, with thick wavy ash blonde hair, had gorgeous eyes and smile, a delightful laugh, and a creative imagination. Her bubbly personality seemed to be in contrast with the troubles described in letters from her mom.
Our seventh-floor suite in CC’s Manor Hotel only had one bedroom, so we created a makeshift sleeping area in the living room for Heather. Luckily there was a second bathroom and a closet that we set up for her. Peter began to spend time with his daughter getting to know her, which mostly involved her hanging around his recording studio in the CC basement. But on my Sea Org schedule of 16-hour days, six and a half days per week, I had little opportunity to do the same. Here was a chance for me to finally be a mother, yet Sea Org conditions put this out of my reach.
The next few months were a blur. I knew that Heather had gone out looking for jobs, but mostly spent time in Peter’s studio getting to know musicians and singers, while we also enrolled her in Scientology courses. She met a cute French musician, Christoph Marchand, a brilliant pianist and composer, like Peter. Christoph was also former staff at CC Paris and had gotten out of his contract by telling them that he wanted to build his career and eventually return, but I made no issue of this. Before long, Christoph proposed to Heather, they got married, and moved into their own apartment. I felt utterly negligent about Peter and I not providing more love and guidance that helped Heather build a life. But she seemed extremely happy to find a talented musician for her husband.
I often wished that I had never left my role as an independent, artistic woman pursuing my design career alongside my husband pursuing his. My work schedule was out of control, with sixteen to eighteen-hour days, six and a half days a week, with no personal life, no time to be a wife or enjoy our marriage or family, or Peter’s daughter and fiancee. To that extent, I didn’t fit the mold for a Scientology executive. I often asked myself why I joined the Sea Org. Didn’t I realize that I was expected to relinquish my life to the control of Scientology? My only answer to that was my weakness for seizing opportunities and adventures without thinking through the consequences—my nemesis.
At the time, I was also unaware of what I would now refer to as undue influence exerted by Scientology and other cults. Through threats, control of behavior and information, regulation of freedom and mobility, and control of thought processes and emotions, one loses awareness of the growing degree of influence the group exerts.
I also didn’t like what I saw in Sea Org treatment of its staff. On paper throughout Hubbard’s writings, we were the elite corps of Scientologists. In the real world, CC staff lived in squalor housing, in the old Wilcox Hotel, a few blocks away in a dumpy area of Hollywood. The place was in desperate need of renovation with leaky pipes, mold problems, walls in disrepair, poor lighting, varmints, and on. Staff were provided rooms along with three meals per day and Scientology services, with a $45 per week allowance. They were also provided uniforms, but most staff only had one, maybe two skirts or pairs of pants to wear for seven days, plus only one or two shirts, and one pair of uniform shoes. Staff were expected to show up every Sunday at 1:00 after having had a few hours Sunday morning to clean their rooms, do their laundry, spend time with their children, and come to post looking like a million bucks to pass uniform inspections. Most of our staff kept a positive attitude, but were usually exhausted after working sixteen-hour days. At one point, I implemented exercise time for staff, but the crew were so tired in the mornings from lack of sleep that few of them could keep up. As a Celebrity Centre executive, I had had dreams of creating such success at CC that my staff would live in far better conditions and even receive bonuses.
For me, the most grievous aspect of Sea Org staff life that I observed first hand was the Sea Org member family. Childcare provided by the Sea Org was substandard. Children stayed in poorly staffed and furnished Sea Org day care centers or schools (Cadet Org), and only saw their parents at dinner, if the parents were free to leave their posts over dinner. Unhealthy, slovenly Sea Org children were a black mark on the Sea Org. I would never order staff to work over dinner, and encouraged parents to pick up their kids and eat dinner with them. Many of the CC staff who had children would bring their kids into CC and clean them up, change their filthy diapers, and give them food from the dining rooms. If I had had children, I would never have joined the Sea Org.
I loved the purpose of Celebrity Centre, but didn’t love being an executive for the church. Left to my own choices, my leadership style would use inspiration and ways of drawing out the best in people to motivate them to achieve the goals of their job. I couldn’t function as the ruthless, pitiless product officer they wanted me to be. I wanted Celebrity Centre to flourish, but I didn’t enjoy seeing our followers pressured and coerced to spend money that many of them didn’t have. Our registrars (the sales team) worked out every solution possible for the celebs to pay, such as taking out loans, maxing out credit cards, getting new credit cards, using other people’s credit cards, taking out second mortgages, selling cars, borrowing from family and friends, getting extra jobs in order to pay for Scientology training and auditing. The groupthink favored them paying the money, since Scientology would help improve their careers and thus the celebs would earn more income and be able to pay off the debts. Big League Sales training taught our sales staff to not listen to excuses from people becoming more entrapped by financial debt and thus more stressed and loaded with problems, as had happened to Peter and me.
I was becoming more disaffected about management’s treatment of Sea Org staff, and harbored opinions that I couldn’t tell anyone. The pressures on Celebrity Centre were driving it toward being a highly commercially-driven enterprise, a retail “religion” selling the promise of immortality. I’d seen hundreds of people coming into Celebrity Centre to develop creative abilities, who ended up on what was looking more like a narcissistic route of self-knowledge and self-determinism alluding to personal revelation of godlike abilities. Financially strapped or even broken, my friends and other Scientologists, including me, had become dependent on Scientology for “spiritual freedom” while our lives were falling under the control of Scientology regulations. Non-believing loved ones were discarded. Here I was, harboring these dissonant thoughts about Scientology in my life, but moving forward with it anyway. I didn’t understand my own contradictions.