Jason Beghe is the bravest actor in Hollywood. He’s come clean about his 14 years in Scientology, the religion that Tom Cruise reveres. He says the purpose of Scientology is to create a "brainwashed, robotic version of you."
He also says that he spent about $1 million to work his way up the Scientology ladder to become what’s known as an "OT5 auditor," or someone who listens to new members and teaches them the ropes.
He was so successful as a celebrity auditor, he says, that David Miscavige, the head of the sect, referred to him as "the poster boy for Scientology."
But now that Beghe and his wife have left the sect, the actor has concerns. They can be, he says, a vicious and vindictive group. When he asked for money back that he had banked for future study — some $60,000 to $70,000 — it was returned and he was banished.
"Once you ask for refund and repayment, that’s what it’s called, you’re not allowed to take another course or speak to another Scientologist ever again," Beghe says.
On Tuesday, I told you that Beghe had posted a three-minute "teaser" video explaining a little about his exit from Scientology. A second, longer video will be going up on YouTube Wednesday or Thursday. It’s not to make money or to get publicity for himself, Beghe says, and I believe him. "If it helps people, that’s what’s important."
And that’s because Beghe says that most Scientologists are completely insulated from the criticism that we all read or publish. All the jokes, the "South Park" stuff, anti-cult stories, real data about people who’ve suffered inside the sect largely go unnoticed by the Scientology community. "They just say, 'You don’t understand.'"
Beghe is just beginning to comprehend what an impact his announcement has made. It should rock the world of celebrity Scientologists, the people Miscavige has counted on to carry the sect’s message to the outside world and make it seem plausible.
But Beghe says not all the celebrity Scientologists are completely "in." Kirstie Alley, he says, is a friend and "could be gotten out." Tom Cruise, he says, was out for several years.
"He was brought back in around the time of his divorce from Nicole Kidman. And then they put him through something called Ethics Cycle after Penelope Cruz left. That’s when you make amends for having not been in it for a while."
Cruise’s Ethics Cycle, Beghe thinks, would account for the campaign Cruise went on while filming "War of the Worlds," through the meeting, courting and recruiting of Katie Holmes, the fight with Matt Lauer on "Today" and telling Diane Sawyer what kind of Scientologist he was on ABC — not to mention the couch-jumping on "Oprah."
Beghe, for one, says he was not a good celebrity Scientologist. "They would ask me to come to parties for Tom or John (Travolta); I would say 'yes' and not go."
Indeed, Beghe says he’s spent the last eight years trying to leave Scientology. "It was good for the first three years or so. But then I got nothing out of it."
"Scientology," Beghe says, "delivers what it promises under the guise of tearing away falsity, neuroses, psychoses. It creates a brainwashed, robotic version of you. It’s a ‘Matrix’ of you, so you’re communicating with people all the time using Scientology. So we’re seeing you ‘via’ Scientology. And it creates an addiction, so you come back for more."
He says that he initially was recruited through acting teacher Milton Katselas’ class. Katselas has been cited in many publications, including The New York Times, for exerting pressure on his students to join the sect.
"He gets kickbacks," Beghe says. Among Katselas’ students have been at least half a dozen celebrity Scientologists, including Giovanni Ribisi (who is thought to have recruited "My Name Is Earl" star Jason Lee and, in turn, Ethan Suplee) and his sister, Marisa, Leah Remini and Anne Archer.
Beghe was brought to the Scientology center in Hollywood by Bodhi Elfman, husband of actress Jenna Elfman, who was in Katselas’ class. His appointment was for 10 a.m. He wound up staying at least 12 hours, as the sect’s auditors embarked on their "brainwashing." It was just before his career was taking off with a role as Demi Moore’s love interest in "G.I. Jane."
"David Miscavige loved me. He took me to Hemet" — the Scientology fortress in the California mountains — "and he came with me to the premiere of 'G.I. Jane.' He let me do voice-overs for Scientology instructional videos, which was unheard of. And it would take a year to do a 15-minute video; he was that meticulous."
But in a short time, Beghe saw that things were not going so well. "I was unhappy and depressed. They would say it was their fault, the way they were handling my ‘case.’ And I’d flip out another $50,000 for another course."
Beghe says the biggest question at Scientology is where all the money has gone. "You never get any answers about it," he says. "And it’s all about money."
It took Beghe and his wife, Angie — whom he’d brought into the sect and who also achieved the high level of OT5 — more than a year to negotiate their way out. (Their first child even endured the Scientology "silent birth" we’ve heard so much about.)
Beghe says during that time his relations with his family and friends — like childhood pal David Duchovny — were strained. "Things are much better now with everyone," Beghe says.
Clive Davis is like his own cult leader — only in the good way. This week he and his team "broke" U.K. singer Leona Lewis in America and got the No. 1 album. Leona’s "Spirit" sold around 205,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
There are some firsts involved here: Leona — winner of Britain’s "X Factor" show and thereby connected to Simon Cowell — is the first British artist of either sex to debut at No. 1, I am told. She also has the biggest digitally downloaded album for a first-time artist. She’s also very tall and beautiful.
Do you remember how this started? A year ago, Davis and his gang had Leona perform in front of the top songwriters in the world. Then they all went home and came up with ditties they thought would be good for her. When the album was ready, Davis had it released in the U.K. first and it broke a bunch of records. Then he brought it here.
This is called marketing.
Leona also has the No. 1 single in the country, "Bleeding Love."
So what’s next? Gavin DeGraw had a shaky start with Davis about three years ago. Then one of his songs became part of a TV show, "One Tree Hill," and "I Don’t Want to Be" turned into an anthem. Since then we’ve been waiting for a second album.
It’s here, I’ve heard it, and the good news is that the self-titled "Gavin DeGraw" album is gonna be big. The first single, "In Love With a Girl," should be a nice introduction, but what’s to follow are "Next to Me," "Cheated on Me" and "Young Love."
I ran into DeGraw recently and he’s still the same: a sweet kid from upstate New York who wears one of those dreaded caps (he has a full head of hair!)
Let’s hope he doesn’t change too much when this new album hits the stands. So, bravo for Gavin, Leona, Clive and the J Records gang. They’re keeping the flame of the music biz burning a little longer and brighter.