Recently, prior to attending a reading by Janet Reitman of her book Inside Scientology, my date and I strolled down Vermont Avenue in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz, looking at the packed cafes and coffee shops. In contrast, I noticed one large, well-lit storefront was also vacant, save a couple of employees.
"What's this?" I said, reading a sign. "Kirstie Alley's Organic Liasion? It's as empty as a Scientology place these days." It was the Scientology celebrity's new weight loss program.
A passerby stopped and smiled. "It's always empty," she said. "I've never seen a customer in there. They filled it up at the opening, but that's it. And they ticked a lot of people off, too, shutting off the street like they did."
I told my date how I'd met Kirstie in the 80s. That was at a backyard party given by Mimi Rogers, when Mimi was still Mrs. Jim Rogers and a Scientology "field auditor," meaning a counselor operating outside of Scientology missions or churches.
I wasn't sure why I'd been invited other than that the Rogers were getting involved with the Scientology celebrity community. Mimi ushered me to the backyard where a volleyball game was taking place, and there was a tall, gorgeous, barefooted young woman. It was Kirstie, newly arrived from Kansas. I was wowed, but who wasn't that day?
Later, Mimi wanted to see something I'd written. Right then, right now. Odd, but I went to my car and brought back a screenplay "treatment" that had been optioned by a couple of neophyte producers. Mimi and Kirstie stood together, reading it intently. I asked Mimi if she planned to try some acting. (After all, I'd briefly met her when she was 18 at the original Scientology Celebrity Centre, and she was drop-dead gorgeous.)
"Something like that," Mimi said. "That's good," she said, handing me back my work. She and Kirstie walked away.
I next saw Kirstie at the wedding party of Scientologist Cathy Cade. She told me she was studying acting. I had a feeling. "You're going to be big star," I told her. She grinned and said, "Wow, I hope you're right!" The guy she was with glared at me. More time passed, and a mutual friend took me to a taping of Cheers at Paramount. I reminded Kirstie of what I'd told her. She didn't remember.
I next saw her at the screening of the movie Allie & Me, made by my friend Michael Rymer. Her boyfriend James Wilder was one of the stars. I was married then, and my wife and I sat directly behind Kirstie and James. I asked if she remembered me: Skip Press, the writer?
"Oh, the photographer," she said.
"No, I've always been a writer," I replied.
She shook her head. "Oh, I'm sure you were a photographer," she said.
I let it go. She was probably thinking of Scientologist and celebrity photographer Dick Zimmerman, whom I resemble, but why bother? The movie was about to start.
And back to now. The next day after the Reitman talk, my date and I looked up Organic Liasion on the Web. I had to laugh at one of the links to Phitter - "Giving Phitness a Phacelift" - a discussion site put up as a "gift from Kirstie Alley and Organic Liasion." It was typical of Scientology; invent words to make a subject seem special.
I'd been explaining a lot of things about Scientology to my date, including "ethics conditions formulas" which supposedly allow Scientologists to improve any kind of condition (including body image) at any time. They are (in ascending order): Non-Existence, Danger, Emergency, Normal, Affluence, and Power. Below Non-Existence were "negative" conditions often used as punishment (in descending order): Liability, Doubt, Enemy, Treason, Confusion. I said that Kirstie's business was almost in Non-Existence in Scientology parlance, and if she didn't improve business, it would become a Liability, she'd go into Doubt about it, etc. I suggested Kirstie had probably applied a lot of those conditions in her weight loss battles.
We found a video about the opening of the store on Mark Bunker's XenuTV on YouTube. At about two and a half minutes in, Scientologist actor Ethan Suplee of the TV show My Name Is Earl explains to Bunker that no matter what he hears about Scientology he won't look it up, even if someone sends him a direct link. Then Juliette Lewis arrives, chides Bunker a bit, making little sense, and stalks off. Another woman says she's confused about Bunker.
I couldn't disagree, because when I found out what Scientology was really about - making money no matter who got hurt - I left. And I quit hanging around with actors who work overtime at letting Scientology keep them confused. When people complain about actors not being very bright, I just shake my head, and I often think of those I knew while in Scientology, many of whom still remain... confused.