Free and Clear?

On Friday, May 27, Tom Cruise took Katie Holmes to a town called Canadian, Oklahoma, partly to acquaint his newly beloved to a phase in her indoctrination into the Church of Scientology.
The Hollywood couple were in this remote corner of America’s heartland to visit a Scientology-backed drug rehabilitation center called Narconon Arrowhead, located about an hour from Tulsa on the shores of Lake Eufaula. And Tom basically took Katie through the whole this-is-Scientology, start-the-education-process thing.

Smiles and giddiness: Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes.

Cruise’s sister and press rep LeeAnne DeVette called from Germany early this afternoon (Manhattan time) to say “yeah,” the story is true.
Details of the visit were relayed by an anti-Scientology blogger named Dave Touretzsky, who’s been called a solid and trustworthy source by two journalists I know and trust — a reputable east-coast big-city journo I spoke to this morning, and a journalist pal and book author who knows the whole Scientology scene cold.
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I e-mailed the Pittsburgh-based Touretsky to get some more particulars but he didn’t respond by deadline.
The visit wasn’t denied this morning by Luke Catton, who works for Narconon Arrowhead’s public relations representative Gary Smith. “Tom’s a supporter, but I really can’t say anything and I think I should leave this up to LeeAnne to comment,” Catton said.
Holmes’ representative, Leslie Sloane of Baker Winokur Ryder’s New York office, said she’s “never been told” about the Oklahoma visit.

One of several T-shirts (among many different styles and colors) offered on

According to Touretzsky, who wrote that the story came from “a hidden source” within the Narconon organization, Cruise and Holmes visited the facility for roughly four and a half hours. They left after Tom gave a speech at the weekly Narconon “graduation” ceremony.
The Hollywood couple’s brief visit ended when Cruise took Holmes by the hand and led her up to a hilly, sand-covered area next to an old wooden fence. Cruise released Holmes from his grip, an eerie Martian chorus came up on the soundtrack (“Uhhhaahhhhahhh!”), a hole in the sand appeared and suddenly Holmes was gone….
Sorry, but I felt I needed to throw in a laugh.
All Scientology inductees are sent through a “purification process,” which is apparently what Holmes is doing now.
DeVette says that Narconon Arrowhead “is not a Scientology center. It’s a secular program…it’s not a Scientology church.” She says one of the items on her brother’s agenda that day was showing the facility to a German journalist from Bild magazine.

Katie Holmes (l.), Scientology babysitter Jessica Rodriguez (r.) at London premiere of Batman Begins as they appeared in photo on page 26 of Tuesday’s N.Y. Daily News, adjacent to Lloyd Grove’s column.

According to the facility’s website, Narconon Arrowhead “offers not only a comprehensive model drug treatment program in a non-traditional, non-institutional setting, but also a full training and apprenticeship or internship program for professionals interested in this new and effective approach to drug rehabilitation and prevention.”
It also says that Narconon Arrowhead “houses the Narconon network’s International Training Center,” blah, blah…but it’s a Scientology operation, okay?
If you want to know more, here are two websites exploring the whole Narconon program and history in a thoroughly nasty and negative fashion.
The more I read about it, the odder the whole Cruise-Holmes-Scientology thing sounds. I can’t fully explain or articulate it, but those hairs on the back of my neck are picking up some curious vibes.
Cruise and Holmes may be genuinely in love (c’mon…you have to bend over and at least allow for this), and there’s certainly nothing wrong with a little spiritual focus and discipline to keep a relationship on track, and I don’t know about every last aspect of the Church of Scientology, although I’ve done some reporting about it and know the general lay of the land.

Rodriguez-free Holmes on Batman Begins red carpet at London premiere.

All I know is that after reading Lloyd Grove’s column yesterday in the N.Y. Daily News about Cruise and Holmes and that Scientologist baby-sitter Jessica Rodriguez, the one who’s been following Holmes around like a bodyguard as she does publicity chores for Batman Begins …for some reason Grove’s story has uncorked images from John Carpenter’s They Live and Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
By mentioning these famously paranoid thrillers I’m obviously casting a negative light upon the Church of Scientology. But they’re a very guarded and controlling organization with a penchant for paranoia and secretiveness, and if you ask me they’ve more than earned their reputation.
And I think there’s something seriously diseased about Cruise professing to love and honor and respect Holmes but at the same time arranging, according to Grove’s column, to have her followed around by a Scientology “minder” like Rodriguez.
I just know creepy vibes when I feel them.
On the other hand, at least one story about Cruise trying to control Holmes is apparently bogus. I’m speaking of the one that ran in the New York Post about Cruise allegedly telling Holmes not to play the doomed Warhol model Edie Sedgwick in George Hickenlooper’s Factory Girl.
Hickenlooper, a friend, wrote me about this a couple of days ago and referred me to a statement he put up on the IMDB about this (see next story).

The key declaration in Hickenlooper’s statement is that the story about Cruise telling Holmes not to do Factory Girl because Sedgwick was a druggie and portraying such a person would go against Scientology beliefs is “blatantly untrue and stupid.”
“I don’t even know what Factory Girl is,” Cruise recently told an interviewer. He added, “The thing you’ve got to know about Katie is that she’s an incredibly bright and self-determined woman. She makes her own decisions.”
Okay, cool…but if that’s the case, why is Cruise allegedly paying Rodriguez, a 26 year-old Scientology upper-cruster (I’m told she’s on Cruise’s OT IV level within the organization) to “keep Katie on the path,” according to Grove’s source, as well as monitor her press interviews and encounters with people and, according to Grove’s story, give Holmes religious instruction from time to time?
In other words, Cruise believes there’s a chance that Katie might stray from the path and become…what?….infected by the skepticism of all those lurking non-Scientologists (journalists, etc.)?
There’s a report at Radar magazine’s website that refers to a Scientology magazine called Source in reporting that Rodriguez “ascended to the level of ‘New Operating Thetan IV’ (the same as Cruise) in January 2004.
“According to sources close to the Church, this means Rodriguez has joined the elite group of Scientologists who’ve been enlightened with the six-figure secrets of Xenu, the evil intergalactic ruler who implanted ‘thetans,’ or alien spirits, in earth’s volcanoes 75 million years ago, after which they escaped and invaded human bodies.

“As a ‘new OT IV,’ Rodriguez has the power to ‘control life, thought, matter, energy, space, and time,’ according to Scientology’s official site. Rodriguez has the ability to spot any ‘suppressive persons’ who interact with her celebrity charge.”
I know how strange this all sounds, but it gets a lot weirder than this…trust me. To really know and subscribe to the theology of Scientology after you get to OT III is to be suspended several feet above the earth’s surface with little Martian tentacles sticking out of your forehead.
Really…what kind of boyfriend hires someone to keep his girlfriend on the spiritually straight and narrow? I’ll tell you what kind of boyfriend does this. A control-freak boyfriend does this.
Cruise is extremely likable and engaging to all who meet him, but he is also very clenched and wired tight. He does terrific work and a few directors I know personally think he’s one of the greatest guys to work with. Nonetheless, I keep getting this sense of a guy who needs to obsessively micro-manage every last detail of his life, and who strongly believes in keeping the castle walls high and thick and well-fortified.
Maybe that’s necessary in these crazy tabloid times, but when you reach the point of hiring a twentysomething Scientology hardcase to keep tabs on your new girlfriend as a way of keeping her from saying or thinking the wrong thing, then I think you’ve really crossed the Rubicon.

Rodriguez “goes everywhere with Katie,” Grove’s source said. “She’s never more than a quarter-step behind her. When you ask her who she is, she says, ‘I’m Katie’s best friend.’ She’s known her for six weeks!”
Holmes announced at a London press conference on Monday that she’s officially converting to Scientology. Grove reported that this announcement “seemed to provoke a glare from her Batman Begins co-star Michael Caine.”
My anonymous big-city journalist friend, who’s been investigating and writing stories about Scientology for 25 years, says “there’s no such thing as conversion to Scientology. It’s a very gradual, step-by-step process. You have to do the basic communication courses, and then you have to eventually go ‘clear.’ And all Homes is right now is an initiate.
“But eventually the water will rise and she will eventually be a boiled frog. Drop a frog into boiling water and he’ll jump out. But if the frog isn’t aware that the water is slowly heating up, he gets more and more acclimated to the rising heat and then eventually he’s boiled and in the pot.”
I’d like to think Katie Holmes is going to wake up from this episode one day and roll her eyes and say to herself and hopefully everyone else, “What was I thinking?” After all, a lot of Scientology believers (not just beginners but people on upper levels) bail out.
And when she does, Homes is going to start to realize that all the Scientology skeptics and dissers — including people like Sheila Cameron, the creator of — were on her side all along.
Cameron launched the site after watching Cruise’s couch-bouncing appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show last month. She’s been quoted as saying she’s surprised by the amount of attention the site has attracted.

“I just wanted to make a funny comment on a poorly handled media storm,” she told E! Online. “No one can deny that there is a feeling of unease about many of the couple’s public appearances, and I’m happy to create a place where people can vent on the issue from whatever side they like.”
Holmes, needless to add, doesn’t feel as if she’s a prisoner and is just sailing on the enzymes that kick in when you really connect with someone, and that’s great. If she and Tom are really in love, fine.
Holmes being receptive to Scientology “isn’t necessarily about psychological fragility,” my east-coast journalist friend comments. “Maybe she just wants to have sex with Tom Cruise and be his girlfriend and so she naturally wants to go along with the program. She used to have his poster on the wall in her bedroom, and he’s richer than God and he’s the biggest actor there is.”
And maaaybe she felt her career needed a little boost.
Holmes has also been making some changes in her professional life. Last week she canned her CAA agent, Brandt Joel, and replaced him with Cruise’s CAA reps, Rick Nicita and Kevin Huvane. This week she fired her longtime manager, John Carrabino, according to a report on E! Online.

George Says…

Director-writer George Hickenlooper (The Man From Elysian Fields, The Mayor of Sunset Strip) has something to say about Tom Cruise and Katie Homes, and it’s all groovy and glowing.
Hickenlooper is in pre-production on Factory Girl , a biopic about the tragic life of model and Andy Warhol scenester Edy Sedgwick. The film will be produced by Bob Yari, and is based from a script by Captain Mauzner and Simon Monjack.
Holmes was going to play the lead role but now she’s not, but Hickenlooper want sit known the casting didn’t go south because Tom Cruise talked her out of it because of some Scientology objection.

Andy Garcia, George Hickenlooper, Mick Jagger on set of The Man From Elysian Fields.

George has posted the following on his IMDB site; here’s a slightly edited version of it:
“First let me say that Katie Holmes is one of the most elegant, intelligent and charming actresses I have met during my career in film. She’s a delight to talk to and has a real old-world sophistication that I find tremendously appealing.
“This is one of the reasons I thought she would be a wonderful Edie. Katie’s own charm would capture an early moment in Edie’s life when she was living in Cambridge, was still innocent, before she went to New York and began her downward spiral.
“At the same time, I thought it would be exciting for an audience to watch Katie Holmes (who has previously played strong, girl-next-door type roles) play a character who takes this dark journey. Katie thought it would be exciting too.
“Over the course of several months, we had almost half a dozen meetings where we talked extensively about the script. On one of those occasions in New York, Katie came dressed very much like Edie. She was breathtaking. I was convinced she was my girl for the role.
“About two weeks ago, the New York Post (which has become nothing more than a muckraking tabloid) wrote a very defamatory piece about why Katie decided to ‘drop out’ of Factory Girl. They claimed that Tom Cruise didn’t want her playing a role where she would be a drug addict because that would go against his Scientology beliefs. This is blatantly untrue and stupid.

Edie Sedgwick

“If Tom Cruise felt that way, would he have ever appeared in a film like Magnolia ? Come on… Katie dropped out of Factory Girl because her commitment to doing press for Batman is overwhelming. She has an extensive press tour over the summer in Europe and Asia that would cut in to our rehearsal time.
“Shooting for Factory Girl begins in two months. Both of us felt she couldn’t balance both and that she wouldn’t have the time to do the research to take on this very demanding role, which would be very different from anything else she has ever done.
“Katie is not doing my project because she is the consummate professional, and wouldn’t want to take on a role where she couldn’t give 100%. No actor would want that, no director would want that. Tom Cruise had nothing to do with it. Cruise is a true gentleman and I feel bad about how he is currently being treated in the press. Leave the poor guy alone. He’s in love. That New York Times piece that ran about him last week was a disgrace. It felt more like Star magazine.
“Anyway, I guess it just goes to show you how cynical the media has become about love. Journalists should get lives of their own and stop destroying other people’s.”
Hickenlooper adds at the end of his statement that a piece is supposed to run [this Friday] in Entertainment Weekly about all this. In case it doesn’t, he says, here’s the straight poop.

More Grabs

Late-night eats on Kenmare Street and Lafayette Street — Sunday, 6.12.05, 11:10 pm.

McDonalds sign located in a Polish neighborhood…just checking to see if anyone’s paying attention. The sign is actually located on Canal Street just around the corner from….Chinatown! (Brilliant guess.)

Nicely renovated, freshly-painted condos on Brooooklyn’s Montrose Avenue, just west of Bushwick and a stone’s throw from my summer apartment

View of Manhattan skyline from north 6th Street, which cuts into Bedford Avenue in the western section of Williamsburg, the hip Brooklyn neighborhood that’s been totally Anglicized and yuppified and made expensive for all concerned.

Myself, web designer and Samizdata creator Perry DeHavilland at Laurel Canyon party that happened sometime in late April. I just happened to run across this, and it has nothing to do with anything.

This sturdy, German-built contraption is called a Party Bike. It’s for hire in the Times Square-Rockefeller Center area for $150 per hour (roughly $21.40 per person), and it seats seven people. Everyone pedals while the commandant controls the steering and braking. Naturally, there’s a Party Bike website.

Relatively small, oddly located Party Crashers sign on 41st street between Broadway and 7th Avenue.

This very cheerful female MTA worker (right), working in a booth at the R station on Broadway and 40th, told me she felt she had no choice but to write this posterboard sign to help out the hundreds of tourists who’ve become totally disoriented once they walk down the subway entrance staircase.

This vertical cluster of signs, located at B’way and 43rd, looks much bigger and more…I don’t know, a lot more “whoa” than what this photo suggests.

Shot of Chicago’s downtown theatre district taken by Look magazine photographer Stanley Kubrick in 1949.