Published April 18, 2008
Is it a conspiracy or just bad luck?
The anti-Scientology video we told you about on Monday afternoon featuring actor Jason Beghe has been removed from YouTube. Sort of.
The original video, put up by videographer Mark Bunker, is gone. YouTube pulled it late on Thursday. In the video, which Bunker made, Beghe describes his 13-year membership in the sect and why he left.
Bunker thinks YouTube took down the video under pressure from Scientology. It’s possible, of course, but unlikely. The video is still up on YouTube in other forms, including here (warning: contains offensive language). It’s also easily found just by typing Beghe’s name into most search engines.
Bunker says YouTube cancelled his account because of previous copyright issues with other videos he’s posted. He says those issues have been cleared up and he should have had time to prove that before they removed the Beghe interview.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, is not the easiest place to get an answer from. Ricardo Reyes, the head of public relations, told me Thursday night, "There’s no conspiracy here." He would not say if Scientology had pressured the video posting site into taking down the Bunker/Beghe video. Reyes e-mailed the official YouTube stance to me later on: "We do not comment on individual videos."
Despite this little flap, Beghe’s video has taken off like a rocket. The Village Voice newspaper here in New York as well as several video outlets have picked up the story about his brave escape from the sect. Some have even taken our original stories without credit. C’est la vie in this case. It was just important that Beghe get his story out to the widest audience possible.
Beghe has more to say, and a longer video, some of which we’ll see here next week. The more he describes the Scientology experience, the scarier it sounds. As he told me the other day: "A Scientologist who’s ‘clear’ believes he’s no longer a Homosapien. He’s Homo-novis, a new race. They believe they are the only hope for this section of the galaxy, starting with planet Earth."
Yes, Tom Cruise and John Travolta evidently believe this, Beghe says.
And, yes, Beghe did confirm with me what he’s talked about on the videos: All Scientology sessions are taped. Every one of them, including those of Cruise, Travolta and all celebrities. Does Beghe care if his tapes ever get out?
"Hell, no," he told me. "They won’t do that anyway because then the whole thing comes out and everyone knows there are tapes. They can’t do anything with them."
Beghe also told me that one possible theory for why the careers of Scientologists tend to go south is that the famous actors, such as Jenna Elfman or Juliette Lewis, "get so involved in thinking only they can save the world" that the sect overwhelms them.
This may be true: Elfman has had little luck since the cancellation of "Dharma and Greg," Lewis gets little acting work, Elfman’s husband, Bodhi, is only known because of Jenna and rocker Beck hasn’t had a real hit album since "Odelay" back in 1996.
As for Travolta, his career had a brief revival in 1994 with "Pulp Fiction." But he’s headlined a series of flops since then from "Be Cool" and "Ladder 49" to "Lucky Number," "Swordfish" and the Scientology-based sci-fi film "Battlefield: Earth." The rare exceptions were non-leads in "Hairspray" and "Wild Hogs."
Singer Ashlee Simpson didn’t deny being pregnant when I asked her about it Thursday night.
The occasion was the Conde Nast Hot Party at Mansion (formerly CroBar) sponsored by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Other guests included frequent Oscar nominee Joan Allen, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, Denise Rich and what seemed like hundreds of good-looking young people.
The "tip sheet" also mentioned Alison Becker. I’m so old I thought they meant the famed restaurateur. Nope. It’s someone else. She’s the host of MTV Top 20 Countdown.
Ashlee, younger sister of Jessica, was sporting a new short red hairstyle and wore a black cocktail dress and what looked like pearls (not poz, they were real). She looked elegant.
When I asked her, jokingly, if she were "married, pregnant, divorced" — as in, what gives with her shotgun engagement to singer Pete Wentz, she winced. Her publicist flew into action, announcing, "We’re not doing press."
Ashley then responded with: "That was an inappropriate question."
You know, if she weren’t with child, you’d think she’d laugh it off. I actually asked her because I did believe it to be true. Another publicist commented, "So far, she hasn’t had any liquor."
Ashlee did show me her engagement ring, and it’s a whopper. I mean, big.
Wentz is the eyeliner-wearing lead singer of the rock group Fall Out Boy. I know, you don’t know who they are or what they sound like. Neither do I. He was born in 1979, his father is a lawyer. Wentz, according to Wikipedia, NPR and Rolling Stone, may have some sexual preference issues, too. He is not Bruce Springsteen.
Ashlee’s new album, "Bittersweet World," hits stores on Tuesday.
Clive Davis got kicked upstairs on Thursday at Sony BMG. He’s going to be emeritus. The 76-year-old was replaced by 49-year-old Barry Weiss, who ran Jive/Zomba Records, as head of the BMG side of the company. Clive, says BMG, will be called chief creative officer.
To cinch Davis’ power status change, BMG dumped Clive’s much-liked lieutenant, Charles Goldstuck, who’s worked diligently at the company for years plugging holes in the dikes.
Haven’t we been here before? Didn’t BMG try to offload Davis in 2000, only to have him start J Records and beat them at their own game?
Barry Weiss is a nice guy, and he comes from the biz thanks to late, beloved dad, Hy Weiss, who produced a lot of cool pop singles in the early '60s.
Still, when you stack J/Arista Records against Zomba/Jive, the results are very 2008. The former has consisted of Alicia Keys, Santana, Gavin DeGraw, Leona Lewis, Rod Stewart, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, etc. — all real musicians, no artifice. Even the "American Idol" winners — Fantasia, Carrie Underwood — can actually sing.
Zomba/Jive is a triumph of style over substance: Britney, Justin, *NSYNC, what’s left of the Backstreet Boys, dancer Chris Brown and a potpourri of indistinguishable hip-hoppers.
I don’t know if Clive Davis wants to go another round with BMG, or if he’ll just be happy as the company’s standard bearer. I do know that the record business is just about over, and that with Clive removed from the picture on a daily basis, the end is one step nearer.
Alan G. Lafley has been the much-praised CEO of Procter & Gamble for seven years. Last year he made $16.8 million. He’s made a total of $41.3 million in the last five years, according to reports.
According to one, Lafley made his name at P&G by launching Tide and Liquid Tide with Bleach.
But Lafley has a problem. Every day, P&G produces the worst-looking, most poorly executed TV show on the air: the CBS soap, "Guiding Light."
Alan, you’ve got to do something. Since "Guiding Light" switched to handheld video cameras on Feb. 29, the show looks like someone’s very badly made home movie. It has not improved since it began. It’s only gotten worse.
"Guiding Light," now 70 years old since it debuted on radio, used to be a real gem in the P&G crown. Now it’s so tarnished it’s unrecognizable. The sound echoes. Most of the scenes are shot in the outdoors. As I’ve said before, it resembles "Bowfinger," the Steve Martin movie about an out-of-work director who makes a movie by shooting unwitting people.
Certainly, Alan Lafley, you can do something about this. You have a Harvard MBA. You have millions and millions of dollars. You can’t possibly think this show, which is seen by 2 million people every day, is up to P&G’s standards of excellence.
Please: Put the actors back in a studio. Don’t make them work in the rain anymore. Pull back from those extremely tight, discomfiting close-ups before a dermatologist has to be called in.
And one other thing: Turn off the music. Someone at the production has found the worst, most dreadful pop music — so undistinguished it can’t be heard on the radio — and thrown it into every scene. Bring back the pump organ if you must. MTV, this ain’t.