Tom Cruise claims to have been dyslexic before he was saved by Scientology.
Let's hope that he can read the fine print in a new agreement the religious organization is demanding its members sign.
The contract — called the "Agreement and General Release Regarding Spiritual Assistance" — makes it clear that the signee does not believe in psychiatry and does not want to be treated for any kind of psychiatric ailment should one befall him.
Instead, once the paper is signed, the agreement calls for the Church of Scientology to step in if there's ever a problem. The result would be total isolation and constant surveillance.
The question is: Will the stars upon whom Scientology has depended to carry its message — including Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Lisa Marie Presley and her mother, Priscilla — sign a new agreement that could potentially hand over their rights and personal freedom to the church?
The wording of the agreement is shocking, to say the least. If a member of the church becomes what we might call "mentally incompetent," he automatically agrees to be placed in the care of Scientology counselors, potentially barring family, friends or anyone else from interceding, including doctors and psychiatrists.
The new agreement seems to stem from a long-simmering wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the estate of Lisa McPherson against the Church of Scientology.
It alleges that McPherson died in 1995 after being held against her will by the church for 17 days. When she died, it is claimed, her body was covered with cockroach bites and McPherson was dehydrated.
By having members sign the contact agreeing to be isolated from family and medical professionals, the church apparently believes it would be immune to such lawsuits. The lawsuit, which has suffered several postponements, may come to trial in 2004.
Outspoken critics of Scientology — such as Carnegie Mellon professor Dave Touretzky, who uncovered the new agreement — claim the form is designed to protect the church from further litigation.
But will Cruise, Travolta, and others agree to the same wording that non-celebrity followers must in allowing themselves to endure something called the "Introspection Rundown?"
Calls to their spokespeople didn't help very much. Travolta and the Presleys' publicist referred my question back to the Church of Scientology. Cruise's office didn't have an answer.
An assistant in the Scientology office did tell me that she was a member of the church and had signed many different contracts.
The Spiritual Assistance agreement reads in part: "I understand that the Introspection Rundown is an intensive, rigorous Religious Service that includes being isolated from all sources of potential spiritual upset, including but not limited to family members, friends or others with whom I might normally interact."
"As part of the Introspection Rundown, I specifically consent to Church members being with me 24 hours a day at the direction of my Case Supervisor, in accordance with the tenets and custom of the Scientology religion. The Case Supervisor will determine the time period in which I will remain isolated, according to the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion."
"I further specifically acknowledge that the duration of any such isolation is uncertain, determined only by my spiritual condition, but that such duration will be completely at the discretion of the Case Supervisor. I also specifically consent to the presence of Church members around the clock for whatever length of time is necessary to perform the Introspection Rundown's processes and to achieve the spiritual results of the Introspection Rundown."
(Any isolation, of course, would be preferable to watching Travolta in "Look Who's Talking.")
What does this all mean?
Linda Hight, spokeswoman for Scientology, told me last night that the contract is self-explanatory.
"I'm sure you know the English language," she said, "and you know what it means."
She described psychiatry as "barbaric, harmful, and fraudulent."
"The contract is drawn up," Hight added, "for those who wish [to use it]."
You might think that Mary J. Blige or Hilary Duff would be the big stories on the charts this week because they finished at Nos. 1 and 2.
But the really big story is Warren Zevon, who sold about 38,000 copies of what will likely be his last recording, "The Wind." Zevon's previous album sold 7,000 copies in its first week, so that should tell you something.
But "The Wind," if you don't know or you've been living under a rock, is Zevon's farewell project. He has a rare form of lung cancer and was given only a few months to live when he was diagnosed last year.
The fact that he's still alive is a testament to his own strong will because Zevon has lived his life pretty much according to the lyrics of his famous song "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."
I first heard of Warren Zevon back around 1975 when Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne became professionally linked to him.
Ronstadt, who never gets enough credit for having launched countless songwriters, recorded a couple of Zevon classics. Browne produced Zevon's classic self-titled second album, which included "Poor Pitiful Me," "Carmelita," "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," "Hasten Down the Wind," "Mohammed's Radio," and my favorite, "Desperadoes Under the Eaves."
Two years later, Zevon broke through with the song "Werewolves of London," which as much as it provided perennial income was also a curse.
Flukey novelty hits can douse even the most serious recording career. Just look at how "Short People" negated Randy Newman's entire previous catalogue, at least for the public. It didn't help that Zevon sounded like Newman channeling Hunter S. Thompson.
I remember seeing Zevon perform in Boston circa 1978, completely out of his mind, just looking for a chandelier to hang from. He wound up releasing two more great albums and then sitting out most of the 1980s. When he returned, his audience was gone and Zevon was covering Prince's "Raspberry Beret."
It's not exactly groundbreaking of me to say "The Wind" is a masterwork. I confess I put off listening to the advance CD because I thought it would be maudlin. But once Frank DiGiacomo wrote his excellent piece in The New York Observer, I figured I'd give it a try.
The minute I heard him sing the line "I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair," I knew that was it. Zevon is back. And that's the saddest part of it. He's just back long enough to say goodbye.
"The Wind" probably won't get any Grammys (just throw it in with Steely Dan, Macy Gray, and a few other albums by adults ignored by radio this year) or sell a lot more than a hundred thousand copies altogether.
Even though VH1 has done a documentary about it, we all know that the music world is commandeered by the junk we saw last week on MTV's Video Music Awards.
Still, it's nice to know that "The Wind" had an impact on its first week out, and that like all of Warren Zevon's work, it will last far beyond his imminent departure.
In Tuesday's Fox411, I reported that Gigi Goyette, who claims to have had an affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the actor-turned-politician fired her from his company and has refused to speak with her ever since. The company, World Gym, denies this, saying she was not fired, and that Schwarzenegger was not an official with the firm and did not have the authority to fire her.