It is early morning in the summer of 2010 and the staff at Tom Cruise‘s $35 million Beverly Hills, Calif. mansion are already hard at work.
Laundry is being pressed, food prepared and the everyday essentials of life for a multi-millionaire A-lister readied.
The football team of maids, cooks, gardeners and cleaners is as ever meticulous. After all, the smooth running of the 7-bedroom, 9-bathroom household is crucial to the well-being of Cruise, his wife Katie Holmes and their daughter Suri. Naturally, the staff is the best — specialists in their fields, diligent and exacting.
But one more thing unites them — most, if not all, are hand-picked and paid by the Church of Scientology, according to disaffected members of the faith who are now speaking out.
They claim Cruise has lived life in a gilded cage supervised by the leaders of his religion who has controlled every aspect of his life for more than 20 years, right down to designing and furnishing his house, providing a luxury SUV, caring for his children and running his finances. They even made sure he had slippers in a custom-built trailer so the carpet wasn’t damaged.
But this was not selfless generosity: their aim was influence. Cruise’s celebrity was Scientology’s greatest recruitment weapon, and the Church did everything within its power to protect its asset.
Interviews with former high-ranking Scientologists reveal a behind-the-scenes account of the super-secret organization’s deep connection to Cruise, whose role as the Church’s ultimate evangelist is in sharp focus after 33-year-old Holmes’ decision to file for divorce in a New York court, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Indeed those differences could well center on Scientology.
People close to the Cruises have suggested the religion was the breaking point for Holmes to walk out after almost six years of marriage. She had “grown tired of living the strictly controlled life of a member of the religion,” one insider suggested. She also “fears that if Suri remains a Scientologist, she will eventually be brainwashed into rejecting her own birth mother,” best-selling biographer Andrew Morton, author of Tom Cruise: An Authorized Biography, told Celebuzz.
One thing is certain. There were three people in the marriage: Cruise, Holmes and the Church of Scientology.
So what control and influence could the Church possibly wield over its best-known Hollywood adherent, 49-year-old Cruise?
“It is crazy,” former high-ranking Church executive Amy Scobee told me. Scobee joined the Church at age 14 and oversaw the recruitment of celebrities until she “blew” the organization — Scientology speak for an unauthorized departure — in 2005 after 27 years.
The Church allegedly began its iron grip on Cruise’s life more than two decades ago, when he married Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman. Everything was, of course, kept top secret. According to Scobee, she and other influential Church staffers were assembled to work on a hush-hush project for Church leader David Miscavige in the early ’90s.
Their mission, not that those chosen had a choice whether to accept it or not: establish Mission Impossible star Cruise’s home with Kidman, finished with the best staff Scientology dollars could hire and top-of-the-line gadgets and gizmos.
“It was a confidential project that I was not allowed to discuss with any other staff member… it was being run directly by Miscavige and his wife,” said Scobee. “To that effect, it was a privilege: an honor to set him and Nicole up. But the clear goal was to ensure that he was set up with Scientologists only around him. Now that I am out of the Church, I have discovered that it is against the law — because the Church was using members to give him special favors. Members working for him, directly. Putting together his sound theater, cooking, various work.” Everything was designed to put him “in debt” and obligated to the Church.
As a result of the extravagance bestowed upon him, Scobee said Cruise turned over multiple facets of his life to the Church.
She says he allowed a nanny who believed in the faith to supervise his and Kidman’s two adopted children, Isabella, now 19, and Connor, 17. She claims he permitted a Church-approved financial advisor to manage some of his investments, who when it was discovered he’d lost some of the actor’s funds in a failed scheme, the man named ‘Alan’ was sentenced to manual “hard labor.” She also says Cruise granted officials, including Scobee and the controversial faith’s spokesman Tommy Davis, free rein to enter his home even when the couple wasn’t there.
Davis, the head of the L.A. Celebrity Centre International and the son of Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer, did not return our request for comment.
For its part, the Church disputes Scobee’s history with its organization and even claims she was “expelled from the religion in 2005 for dishonesty and unethical conduct.” Undeterred, the Seattle-based Scobee — who admits she no longer believes in the devotion — has released a self-published memoir, Abuse at the Top, that alleges the Church engages in unpaid labor.
Indeed, some of those were the very best people the Church could provide. Scobee claims Cruise was given personal staff who once worked for the religion’s founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986.
“The Household Unit personnel were Hubbard’s staff that took care of his personal needs (cooking, laundry, cleaning) and after LRH [in the Church, he is referred to by his initials, LRH or as Elron] passed away, they became responsible for maintaining LRH’s personal possessions and spaces located at the Int base [the international headquarters of Church of Scientology, located on 500-acres in San Jacinto in Riverside County, Calif.],” Scobee wrote in Abuse at the Top.
She recalls how one member of the Household Unit showed her around Cruise and Kidman’s Pacific Palisades, Calif. house and briefed her on all of the functions she was “personally performing for them, which would need to be turned over to the new staff I was hiring.” The woman named Jenny showed her the “in-house theater and described how two highly trained audio-visual personnel (also from the LRH Household Unit) had put many, many hours into the A/V set-up to make it perfect.”
Scobee added, “I had no idea that one of LRH’s personal staff members was being used to service Tom Cruise. I thought I was one of the only Sea Org members off my own job to work for Tom Cruise, which was unusual enough. Come to find out, David Miscavige had several of us catering to Tom, behind the scenes.” (The Sea Org, or Sea Organization, is the body within the Church whose members wear maritime uniforms.)
Sinar Parmen, another ex-Church staffer who was once a member of the Sea Org, told me how Miscavige personally ordered him and his ex-wife to attend Cruise and Kidman’s Christmas Eve wedding in Telluride, Colo. in 1990. “We were Church staff and not paid by Cruise,” he said.
In another instance, on orders of Miscaviage, Parmen “had to go to an interior designer to go over the details of their new kitchen being built to make sure the appliances and layout was correct. I know others who also did jobs to establish audio visual facilities, cinema facilities at the time,” he told me.
There is more. While Scobee and Parmen’s account of the Church’s links to Cruise pre-date the star’s six-year relationship with Holmes, Miscavige has continued to maintain a close friendship with the star.
In a clear indication of just how close the Church was to Cruise, 52-year-old Miscavige even served as his best man at the 2006 wedding to Holmes, held at a 15th century Italian castle before a Church of Scientology minister.
Other discharged Church members, like 30-year veteran John Brosseau, paint a portrait of a kind-of factory line of Church staff pandering to its biggest star. Having been denounced by the Church after participating in an explosive Feb. 2011 The New Yorker report, Brosseau has released a secret dossier of work he completed for Cruise — complete with photos showcasing the Ford Excursion limousine he built for the actor. (Celebuzz obtained copies of the images, which you can view here.)
Brosseau, the former brother-in-law of Miscavige, also says he worked on two custom motorcycles and an airport hangar for Cruise.
According to Brosseau, he spent six months and “2,000 man-hours” creating the limousine “like no other ever built” so Cruise could accommodate a pregnant Holmes — all while being paid just $50 per week in wages. “The truth is that DM (Miscavige) had Sea Organization staff spent thousands of hours doing personal projects for Tom Cruise while being paid $50 per week as their salary,” Brosseau wrote, in the document seen by Celebuzz.
Both Cruise’s attorney and the Church have said Brosseau and Rathbun’s stories are fabrication. “Whatever small economic benefit Mr. Cruise may have received from the assistance of Church staff pales in comparison to the benefits the Church has received from Mr. Cruise’s many years of volunteer efforts for the Church,” a spokesperson said last year. Cruise’s lawyer added, “the Church of Scientology has never expended any funds to the personal benefit of Mr. Cruise or provided him with free services.”
Retorts Brosseau: “Fortunately, I took a lot of photos of things I worked on over the years.”
The extravagance and attention to detail knew few bounds. The Church also gave Cruise a custom-built trailer-style bus called Silver Screen, claims Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun, another former top lieutenant to Miscavige who left the Church in 2004 and now runs a blog that exposes some of Scientology’s innermost secrets.
Cruise used the luxury vehicle as a base for Holmes to begin her “Purification Rundown Program,” a controversial detoxification and introductory program to the religion, claims Rathbun. He suggests the work amounted to “slave labor” — nearly 9,000 man hours for wages as low as $50 a week.
According to an email he says was written by Yvonne Gonzalves, the Director of Vehicles at Sea Org, an unabashed Cruise even asked Silver Screen be fitted with a drawer for slippers because he didn’t want people ruining the carpet.
“Mr. Cruise arrived at the Bluebird (a temporary bus for Cruise while he waited upon completion Silver Screen) yesterday on set and said that it was awesome — the interior upgrades and audio visual,” the email read. “He requested that a space be figured out for placement of slippers in the front of Silver Screen as he does not want any shoes on the carpet. This is figured out; there is a drawer right at the entrance which can be used for this.”
Said Rathbun: “While Cruise paid the costs of material and non-Scientology core structural labor, many hundreds of hours of Sea Org labor and craftsmanship coordinated, designed and executed the plan to deliver a one-of-a-kind product, from Dave (Miscavige) to Tom with love.”
The claims uncovered by Celebuzz suggest this “small economic benefit” could be greater than the Church would have people believe. Which begs the question, what is Miscavige’s motivation to shower three-time Golden Globe winner Cruise with luxurious goods and Church personnel?
For one woman, there is a simple explanation. “So that everything about their life was Scientology… that no other influence was dragging them out,” said Scobee, who watched from Scientology headquarters when Cruise received the organization’s “Freedom Medal of Valor” at a ceremony in 2004. (See video, below.)
“Celebrity is almost everything to the Church. It is one of the most important things… a celebrity will give Scientology credibility. People would come in to inquire about the Church, because a star followed it (and) once they were in the doors, they had them. Celebrities have influence. It was therefore really important to treat them perfectly.”
It seems to have worked. When a Church of Scientology video was leaked onto the internet in 2008, the world was left under no illusion about Hollywood’s most bankable star’s devotion to the controversial faith. “When you’re a Scientologist and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you’re the only one who can really help,” Cruise declared.
“We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures.”
Scobee is unrepentant. “My purpose is not to smear Tom Cruise. My purpose (in writing the book) was to show how dedicated a Scientologist he is, that he even wanted to join the Sea Organization,” she told me. “I am determined to get my story out and I’m dedicated to exposing their abuse to hopefully prevent others from getting hurt by this so called ‘religion’. I think people should be allowed to believe in whatever faith they wish – and that’s why you don’t see me badmouthing that aspect of Scientology, even though I no longer consider myself a Scientologist because of the damage that group is causing to so many good people.
“I have lifelong friends who still believe in the technology (Scientology’s religious doctrine) and I respect that – it is when that organization stands behind the mask of ‘religious freedom’ to justify blatant violations of civil and human rights is where I draw the line. It must be exposed, and it must be stopped.”
Whatever Scobee achieves, some things will not change any time soon. Cruise’s religious allegiances will remain and two broken marriages are unlikely to change his devotion to Scientology, nor Scientology’s devotion to him.