Johnny Lewis in Sons of Anarchy
As I write this article, actor Johnny Lewis is ranked #1 on the STARmeter on the Internet Movie Database Pro version. At #2 is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, currently appearing in the #1 movie Looper with Bruce Willis (who is ranked #19 on the STARmeter).
Unfortunately, the ranking won't help his career, because Johnny Lewis is dead, at age 28.
Lewis died on September 26, 2012 in Los Feliz, California, after terrorizing neighbors, apparently murdering his landlady, 81-year-old Catherine Davis, and mutilating her cat. For days, the news was about Lewis's descent from working actor who dated music superstar Katy Perry to criminal with a continuing drug problem. Then actor Taylor Negron wrote an article describing Davis and how she was beloved in the Hollywood community and suddenly it became clear that Lewis's victim was a beloved Hollywood legend.
Shortly thereafter, ABC News did a report that stated Los Angeles police suspected the street drug 2C-I—known as "smiles"—was to blame. I knew better. I knew it was all Scientology.
Tom Cruise, the most prominent Hollywood Scientologist, whose divorce from his third wife has been a personal public relations nightmare for months, must have cringed when he found out about the Lewis debacle. After all, Cruise's next movie is entitled All You Need Is Kill.
The Hollywood community can be astonishingly interconnected. I met Taylor Negron in the 1980s, when he appeared every Monday night with The Comedy Store Players at the laugh palace on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. The Players included Robin Williams, Marty Short, Jim Stahl, Lucy Webb, and others, and improv comedy groups were the rage in town at the time. The improv movement at the Comedy Store began via Tap City, another group headed by actor Larry Anderson, who was a Scientologist for 33 years and starred in Orientation: A Scientology Information Film, which was the first thing screened for prospective Scientologists. The so-called church still owes Anderson $100,000 for services he paid for but did not receive; so far they've refused to pay him, but that's rather normal for Scientology. Larry got into Scientology through myself and Spanky Taylor in 1976 when we met him at a huge party thrown by Paul and Linda McCartney after the "Wings Over America" tour.
It was Taylor who later introduced me to Negron at the Comedy Store, where I also met with Robin Williams to discuss a script of mine. It had been given to him by a mutual friend, Scientologist Jennifer Charm, who was sleeping with Williams though he was married. (Scientology "ethics," I kept discovering over the years, was always a relative term.)
After Lewis's death, Scientology began disavowing any association with him by scrubbing his picture and information off their websites. Obscuring troubled associations has been a practice of Scientology for decades, as I discussed in a previous article about the suicide of Scientologist actress Laura Hippe who, like Lewis, was a failed "product" of Scientology's drug rehabilitation arm, Narconon. Supposedly, his mother Divona used Narconon principles to keep her middle child off drugs. So much for Scientology and Narconon "technology."
I knew Johnny's mother as well as his father Michael, who is an "OT8" (Scientology's top level of supposed spiritual awareness) and runs a Scientology center in the San Fernando Valley whose motto is "We help you get there." Michael is also a screenwriter, as several reporters have noted, but what has been missed is another point of Scientology Hollywood interconnectedness. (And no, I'm not talking about more Narconon-related deaths and lawsuits.)
Days before the Lewis news broke, my friend Alex Ben Block at the Hollywood Reporter wrote about the State of California suing two movie producers over an alleged film Ponzi scheme that defrauded elderly investors, among other things. I immediately recognized the name Dror Soref, CEO of Skyline Pictures and the director of the 2009 movie Not Forgotten. (But then, I never forget anything I consider important.) The last time I saw Soref, in the '80s around the same time I was regularly visiting the Comedy Store, he was talking to me about producing a script of mine entitled "Street Song." When he said, "The money for the production is drug money, is that okay?" I walked away. Yes, Soref was a Scientologist at the time; I'd met him at the Celebrity Centre when it was on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. The other person named in the lawsuit was Michelle Kenen Seward, a buddy of Scientologist actress Kirstie Alley, whom I also wrote about previously for The Morton Report.
After awhile, it can all make your head spin, but here's another connection. A previous movie made by Dror Soref was written by Michael Lewis. That was 1993's The Seventh Coin, whose budget was reported as $900,000 by IMDb, with a box office take of $3.2 million. Hmm.... one wonders what Soref forgot to do right when he made Not Forgotten?
All of which brings me to a simple conclusion, based on my decades-long experience in Scientology, which I usually spell this way — $cientology. It's all about the money, period. It always has been. When someone helps Scientology make money via their celebrity, they're lauded and loved. When they get in trouble, Scientology disappears from their life, running away (as they say back in Texas) like a turpentined dog (the turpentine goes on the offending dog's butt, you can imagine the reaction). When Scientology has a lot of money, they viciously attack anyone who says anything negative about them, and try to destroy them in court if possible. Lately, however, Scientology has had such a string of disasters former Village Voice editor Tony Ortega wrote the round-up article "Scientology's Meltdown" listing all the astonishing negatives.
Sadly, one of those dark stories was the death of Alexander Jentzsch, the 27-year-old son of Scientology’s president, Heber Jentzsch, who was found dead in his in-laws’ Los Angeles home, due to methadone taken while suffering from pneumonia. For those in the know about Scientology, death and youth often seem synonymous, particularly among those at "the top" in the church. I'm reminded of the demise of L. Ron Hubbard's 22-year-old son, Quentin.
To say I'm glad I got out of Scientology (in the 1990s) is the understatement of the last two centuries. If the items cited here give you any indication, you probably won't be surprised to know that I want EVERYONE out of this so-called church which leaves death and destruction in its wake every single day. In Scientology terms, I want the planet "cleared" of Scientology.
If that sounds harsh, ask yourself this. What, exactly, is the value of a philosophy whose highest-ranking members have sons who die in their 20s from criminal behavior and/or drugs, whose most well-known celebrity has a string of failed marriages and bizarre public utterances, and whose founder had a career filled with larceny, black magic, government investigations and convictions, and worldwide condemnation?
In the news now are stories speculating that Tom Cruise might be contemplating leaving Scientology. I hope he does; otherwise he'll go down in flames on that burning, sinking ship. As the New York Post noted, "Hey Tom, your crack is showing!" That "crack" is writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's already much-lauded new film The Master. I'll be seeing that movie soon, laughing as I recognize the ways Anderson depicted the crazy realities gleaned from Scientology. I'm sure I'll also think about a written miniseries that could tell the real, horrifying tale so much more fully.
But I'll also probably cry a little, thinking of dead sons with great promise who probably would still be with us today, if not for a supposed religion known as Scientology.