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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Ortega’

Nicole Remini Fact-Checks the Chicago Sun-Times

First, there was Paul Haggis; then, no doubt, the fear that Katie Holmes would speak out if wrongly handled. One summer later, after the Cruise-Holmes divorce, the Church of Scientology’s media relations folks (and outside crisis PR firm) must now deal with the media pit stops of Leah Remini‘s feisty older sister Nicole.

It started, as we reported, with a Minneapolis-St.Paul FM radio station (Remini lives in the area). Today, it continues – and oh, how it continues – with The Underground Bunker’s Tony Ortega.

One detail that jumped out for us is Nicole’s allegation that a portion of Bill Zwecker‘s Sun-Times column is completely erroneous. Here’s what Zwecker wrote:

Since then I’ve learned the two actresses [Leah Remini, Kirstie Alley] have chatted and there is no loss of friendship.

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A Radio Call-In Interview for the Ages: Nicole Remini Sticks Up for Her ‘Brooklyn’ Younger Sister

Wow. We’ve watched, listened to and read a ton of media coverage over the years about the Church of Scientology. From our perspective, there’s no doubt an interview given this week to Minneapolis-St. Paul radio station myTalk 107.1 FM by Leah Remini‘s older sister Nicole belongs at the top of that crowded list.

For a whole bunch of different reasons, it’s very rare when a story like this breaks to hear from an immediate relative of the celebrity in the middle of it. Let alone this quickly.

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Tony Ortega Posts Another Open Letter to Tom Cruise

As with almost all things Scientology/media related, it started with Tony Ortega. The former Village Voice EIC, now blogging at The Underground Bunker, was first to the Leah Remini defection story ahead of the New York Post, Hollywood Reporter and countless other outlets.

Today, Ortega revisits an even bigger CoS celebrity story – Tom Cruise’s deafening silence – in the form of a second open letter to the actor. He posted the first in February 2012, while still at the Voice, and today asks once again how the man with the million-dollar smile can tolerate the sanctioned environment of his billion-dollar spiritual leader:

You remember the stink that Leah raised at your wedding to Katie Holmes in 2006? Leah was surprised to see that your best man, Scientology leader David Miscavige, was there without his wife, Shelly. And when she asked about it, Tommy Davis told her, “You don’t have the f*cking rank to ask about Shelly…”

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Tony Ortega Puts the Skids on Tom Cruise TMZ Item

Here’s a suggestion for TMZ. When the next need-for-verification Church of Scientology-tinged item comes along, like this Friday afternoon EXCLUSIVE speculating that a pair of wee-hour motorcycle riders were Tom Cruise and girlfriend, check with Tony Ortega first.

The former Village Voice editor-in-chief works tirelessly at the helm of his must-read Scientology blog The Underground Bunker. No one knows more about CoS celebrity members past, present and near future-than this guy. If TMZ had checked with Ortega, they could have easily avoided this Saturday morning admonition:

This isn’t the first time that ex-Scientologist Tiziano Lugli has been mistaken for Tom Cruise zipping around Hollywood on his Ducati motorcycle.

But TMZ? You’d think Harvey Levin’s outfit would want a bit more confirmation before deciding that a video of Tiziano and his wife Jamie is Tom Cruise and his “Rebound Chick.”

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Village Voice Editors Resign Rather Than Fire Staffers

Will Bourne, the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice for only six months, has resigned. The New York Times reports that Bourne — along with deputy editor Jessica Lustig — chose to leave the paper rather than implement staff cuts:

They met with the staff at 11 p.m. on Thursday and said that Christine Brennan, executive editor of Voice Media Group, had instructed them to cut five positions from the 20-person staff. Rather than carrying out the cuts, they resigned and left immediately.

“When I was brought in here, I was explicitly told that the bloodletting had come to an end,” Bourne told the Times. “I have enormous respect for the staff here and the work they have been doing and I am not going to preside over further layoffs.”

Bourne succeeded Tony Ortega as editor of the Voice in late November. We’ve reached out to him for comment and will update when we hear back.

Cruise-Holmes Scientology Spoof Gathering Steam in Chicago

The buzz is growing for The TomKat Project, a bare-bones stage show running through April 24 at the Playground Theater in Chicago. Scientology watcher Tony Ortega let his readers know about it this morning and Tribune theater critic Nina Metz has just given the production a “Genius” rave:

It matters very little that Brianna Baker bears no meaningful resemblance to either Oprah Winfrey or Cruise attorney Bert Fields; she inhabits both with real skill and technique. This might be the best Winfrey impression I’ve seen, one that doesn’t overplay its hand but perfectly embodies her vocal tics and regal self-regard.

The Brandon Ogborn script sources media coverage of Cruise and Holmes from 1998 through 2012 to skewer celebrity journalism as much as it does Scientology. Ortega’s tipster, Synthia Fagen, says that Ogborn has told her there may be some interest from Comedy Central. [Editor's note: Please see reader comments below.]

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Another Very Sad Scientology Tale

At the end of his latest blog piece, Church of Scientology watchdog reporter Tony Ortega writes the following:

CODA: The Bunker just wants to add, on a personal note, that back in the day, this was the kind of story you would find on the front page of the LOS ANGELES FREAKING TIMES, and not on the blog of some dude in New York City.

We know things are tough at the formerly great newspaper out there, but it was once the leading journal of all things Scientology. Doesn’t it bother anyone there that so many Los Angeles Scientology stories are broken here rather than in the city’s supposed paper of record?

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Paul Haggis Crashes Church of Scientology’s New Year

In the media this week, there’s something going on in reaction to the release of Lawrence Wright‘s book about Scientology that also occurred last year when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorced, and separately when a Vanity Fair cover story outlined that whole business with Nazanin Boniadi.

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Our good friend Tony Ortega sums it up this way:

For those of us who watch Scientology closely, and have for many years, most of the [Lawrence Wright book-related] articles that have popped up in recent days seem to be gasping over things that have been known or written about for many years…

We would argue that for much of the public, the word [about Scientology] was already out long before today’s publication of Wright’s book. (Look at the reaction, for example, when on Monday The Atlantic magazine ran a paid church advertorial at its website extolling the virtues of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Even though there was nothing really wrong with The Atlantic taking the church’s money for an ad, the public denunciation of the magazine was so swift and loud, The Atlantic caved and took it down.)

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Tony Ortega Breaks Down Lawrence Wright Scientology Book Excerpts

The biggest thing from a media perspective about two excerpts published in The Hollywood Reporter from Lawrence Wright‘s upcoming Scientology book is that the author was able to get a familiar behind-the-scenes source to speak on the record. From Tony Ortega‘s blog:

The shorter excerpt is about John Travolta, told through his former [Church] personal assistant, Spanky Taylor. We guess it can be told now that Spanky has helped several of us reporters over the years — our relationship with her goes back over a decade — but Wright is the first to get her to speak on the record, ever. Maybe it was his Alabama charm.

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Tony Ortega Gifts Gawker with Ex-Scientologists Rap Song

The latest Church of Scientology scoop fomented by former Village Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega is a Thetan level doozy. One that will be reverberating across MSM outlets for days.

The video itself is posted exclusively on Gawker together with a story by John Cook. It showcases a work-in-progress rap song recording laid down by a group of big-name former Church members. Led by Nazanin Boniadi (pictured), the British-Iranian actress at the center of a recent Vanity Fair cover story claiming she was hand-picked by the Church to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend. One of Boniadi’s lyrics goes like this – ‘It’s a blind alley, like Kirstie Alley.’

In both the Gawker item and on Ortega’s blog, the critical role played by the tireless CoS watchdog reporter in helping flush out this material is explained:

In November, I was in Los Angeles and was hanging out with a British television crew that is making an hour-long documentary about Scientology for Channel 4 that will air in March. I told them about the song, and they were anxious to see if we could get [Tiziano] Lugli to play it for us. We met him at his Hollywood Hills home, and he took us into the studio.

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