Idol Chatter

scientologycentre.jpgThe New Yorker magazine this week takes a peek inside the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre, the hulking but elegance Hollywood palace that serves as the church’s clubhouse for the likes of Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other Sci-celebs. Built by a silent-movie director’s widow as a swanky hostel for movie stars, the former Chateau Elysee was purchased by the Scientologists in 1973 and restored to its former splendor.

The piece attempts to shame the church for invoking its grand past, noting that a menu from its Hollywood heyday hangs in the modern day restaurant–featuring creamed turnips, gooseberry cobbler, and a $1.50 filet-mignon dinner. “It’s as if Falun Gong bought the Algonquin and advertised the gin Martinis that Dorothy Parker used to drink,” snarks author Dana Goodyear. She quotes industry types who claim they were proselytized at the Centre.
But Goodyear ends up gawking like a schoolgirl at the lush life, past and present, and try as she might, she can’t catch the Scientologists being duplicitous about their aims. ““Those seminars are absolutely, utterly, entirely an introduction to Scientology,” Celebrity Centre Greg LeClaire tells her. “They are an introductory service of the Church.” The best bubble-bursting moment is when tour guides wiggle their fingers at visitors and satirically hiss, ““Woooo, it’s so spooky, we’re Scientologists.”
Church officials also frankly admit that they use celebrities to build interest in Scientology. But the celebrity connection works both ways. The Celebrity Centre holds workshops and holiday parties that are target-rich events for networkers. As a Scientology official tells the New Yorker, “A huge percentage of Scientologists who are well-known weren’t well-known before Scientology.”

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