By: Damian Bloor
HBO announced this month an upcoming documentary based on Lawrence Wright's bestselling expose of the Church of Scientology (COS), Going Clear. The network is said to be bracing for a round of lawsuits just as we, having merely typed the word Scientology, are anticipating a bunch of cranky comments from COS supporters.
Nearly every time the COS appears in the news, its ties to the entertainment industry are revisited by sheltered bloggers who are SHOCKED that a religion with overt science fiction elements would appeal to people essentially play make believe for a living (actors, musicians).
Sounds like a perfect match to us.
Now that we've made clear our ambivalence towards the link between the Dianetics crew and guys like John Travolta, we feel inclined not to contribute to the glut of "Scientology is zany and possibly evil" blogs but to unearth and, dare we say, celebrate the least glamorous public figures who have demonstrable ties to the church founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1954.
In honor of Hubbard's hair color and our deplorable reliance on cliche, we present you with the redheaded stepchildren of Scientology.
1. Leif Garrett
At no point in its history did Scientology show off its "churchiness" more than when it charitably hired the fallen teen idol Leif Garrett to perform vocals on The Road to Freedom, a
1986 concept album featuring lyrics about outer space and self-improvement by Hubbard himself.
Garrett, for those of you without dentures, is known for a handful of late 70s pop tunes about dancing, surfing, and other wholesome activities that, based on his arrest history, he has clearly never participated in. Although blessed with photogenic looks and a pleasant stoner charisma, Garrett's career imploded around 1981 thanks to his enormous appetite for narcotics, doo-rags, muscle cars, and other forms of nihilistic sleaziness endemic to Los Angeles guys with monosyllabic first names.
In the mid-80s, Garret joined Scientology, ostensibly to sweat out a decade's worth of black tar and 79-cent burritos via the group's infamous purification rundown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purification_Rundown). Despite Garrett's documented involvement with COS, they do not claim him as one of their own and seem happy to let the Internet call him a lapsed member. What the hell is that about, Scientology? You guys are happy to play up your ties to Billy Sheehan, the skeletal ex-bassist for David Lee Roth, but not poor Leif Garret?
That's okay if you don't want him. We'd be glad to call Leif one of our own. We like survivors, and disco, and doo-rags Plus, he does a bitching cover of Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug"
2. Frank Stallone
Sylvester Stallone's brother Frank, as every student of Italian-American nepotism knows, is a musician whose career is comprised of singing inspirational rock anthems for Sly's inspirational arm wrestling movies. Frank Stallone is also known for doing Q&A interviews on morning shows in cities like Baltimore whenever he's playing at a lounge in the nearby suburbs. Stallone sang on the same Scientology record, The Road to Freedom, with our buddy Leif Garrett. Frank Stallone is otherwise known for admitting on the Howard Stern show that he had sex with the same groupies as his brother, and not finding it at all gross. Even Howard Stern thought that was gross. Predictably, the Church of Scientology doesn't play up his participation in their concept album. We concur and feel nauseous having even typed the words "Frank Stallone."
3. The spunky freckled girl from a canceled FOX show
If you are like us and also a voracious reader of "click bait" sites then you probably learned earlier this year about how the COS assembled its own tween pop band in the late '90s. Nuts, huh? Of relevance here is that the group featured Lynsey Bartilson, the precocious, freckled daughter from the FOX sitcom Grounded for Life. For those of you who had friends and never had to watch FOX sitcoms on Saturday nights, Ms. Bartilson momentarily rivaled Lauren Ambrose as television's sassy teen redhead of the early 2000s. Nowadays, our sources at Wikipedia say she is "acting on Youtube," which is dumb guy code for "not working in television."
We hope Ms. Bartilson doesn't feel bad about that because working on television must be nice and all but unless you are on the HBO dragon show or the AMC drug show, you are just another incomplete human being, a Could-of-Been or a Has-Been with glaringly false veneers, herpes, cheek implants, and a delusional belief that memorizing group-sourced dialogue and crying on cue is somehow "brave" or essential to anyone, anywhere.
Stay out of the business, kids.
We actually never got the idea that the Church of Scientology is ashamed of Lynsey Bartilson. We only included her because she is a literal redhead.
Ok, and maybe this: "acting on youtube."
4. Eddie Deezen
Hey, do you guys remember Eugene, the nerd from Grease? His real name is Eddie Deezen, he is nowadays a voiceover actor for cartoons, and he's a Scientologist, too! If you watched FOX sitcoms on Saturday nights and recognized the girl we just talked about, Ms. Bartilson, then you knew that already. So never mind Eddie. Let's talk more about you, the reader who recognized both Ms. Bartilson and Eddie Deezen. You don't get out much, do you? You get deeply wounded when someone pokes fun at an actor you've never met. You are morally superior to us, and you are a genius, and you write comments like this: "Hey leave him alone you jerk at least he was in Grease and War Games. I hope you die of testicle AIDS."
You also have large hands. You braid your underarm hair because it makes you feel European. You changed the font on your phone to Courier New because it is "timeless." You have a bucket list. You care about who plays Batman. You put "redditor" on your resume and "change agent" in your Twitter bio. You are such an insufferable ass that even the angriest Scientologist seething at this article wants nothing to do with you.
Our final entry takes us to the 1960s, the celebrated decade your grandpa jokes about not remembering when in fact he does remember it, because acid was everywhere and what was HIV again? Grandpa remembers it. He remembers, and he is disgusting.
Back then a band called People! emerged from the parts of California where malnourished guys with gonorrhea talked about "freedom" and pretended to care about Native Americans and air pollution (trust us, they did not care, it was just a ploy to get laid).
Although People! had a top 20 hit, "I Love You," and fans as far away as Japan, most of its members tired of the Free Love lifestyle and decamped for the stricter movement of Scientology. This both derailed the band's career and doomed their surviving .45 singles to flea markets staffed by face-tattooed men living under assumed names. 40 years later, the band seems forgotten by not only the public but their religion, too. What gives?
We gave a few songs by People! a listen to find out why. The tunes sound a touch artificial to our modern ears, coming off less like the product of an actual working band than studio hacks writing ad jingles aimed at people who talk too much about freedom and pretend to care about Native Americans. Like grandpa's time on the commune, some things from the past are best forgotten.