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Reporter Rummages Through Church of Scientology Celebrity PR Artifact

The biggest thorn in the media side of the Church of Scientology remains Village Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega. Every other day, or so it seems, he is sharing another arcane or shocking aspect of the religion’s operations.

This morning, Ortega passes on a document sent in from a reader. The five-page, June 1977 “Executive Directive” is now long-outdated, but this “Celebrity Media Handling Checksheet” still provides a fascinating window into the disco era mindset of the organization. Per Ortega:

About 50 individual steps. Involving the writing of essays, summarizing of books, using specific words in sentences. And the steps must be done, the document says, in sequence. No exceptions. One of the steps has the celebrity solving a PR problem by modeling it in clay. Hey, Tom? Tom Cruise? Um, did you learn how to talk to reporters by first modeling it in clay?

Ortega’s extensive rundown of the document and promise of a “MEDIA HANDLING PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATE” to those who completed the PR crash course is a must-read. Former Scientologist Skip Press provides Ortega with some additional details about the “clay table training,” while another ex-follower, actor Michael Fairman, recalls doing the checksheet. Meanwhile, fellow ex-actor member Jason Beghe says the 1977 document has been replaced today by a more extensive book called What is Scientology?

There’s also a great recollection by another one of Ortega’s interviewees about how a Scientologist charged with recruiting Robert Blake on the set of Baretta was punished after the star ridiculed the religion on a 1977 telecast of The Tonight Show. This particular source–Nancy Many–hints that the checksheet may have been drawn up as a result of the Blake debacle.

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