Mike Rinder served as a senior executive within the Church of Scientology from 1982-2007, both on the board of directors and as head of their Office of Special Affairs, lording over the cult-like religion’s public image. He often acted as the public face of Scientology, speaking to the media and putting out PR fires.
Since leaving Scientology in 2007, he’s become one of the world’s premier Scientology whistleblowers, appearing in the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, co-hosting the Emmy-winning A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, and currently co-hosting the Scientology podcast Fair Game (also with Remini). His new memoir, A Billion Years: My Escape from a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology, out Sept. 27 from Simon & Schuster, chronicles his time within the shadowy organization, the alleged abuses he witnessed, and his dealings with its leader David Miscavige.
In this exclusive excerpt from A Billion Years, Rinder writes about Scientology’s web of celebrities.
One thing Hubbard wouldn’t have wanted omitted was his brushes with celebrities. He was fascinated by them, and he name-dropped constantly, claiming association and interaction especially with Hollywood figures even during his time as a writer of pulp fiction. This fascination continued into Scientology, where he began to see them as a means of gaining publicity and acceptance. He even had a list of “target” celebrities to be lured into Scientology to help make it popular, and in the early ’70s he created the Celebrity Centre—a Scientology organization dedicated to the recruiting of celebrities in Hollywood. Miscavige also believed in the value of celebrities, and devoted a lot of time and attention to them. What was important to Miscavige became the priority for his underlings. –Mike Rinder
My days were endless, crammed with keeping track of Scientology’s enemies, conducting programs to neutralize them, putting out fires on the internet, and dealing with the constant celebrity issues.
Perhaps the strangest celebrity encounter I had was with Michael Jackson. I became the go-to person in Scientology for Lisa Marie Presley during her marriage to Jacko. Her mother, Priscilla, had become involved in Scientology when Lisa Marie was young, and so she had been raised a Scientologist. She enlisted me in her efforts to convert Michael to Scientology, or at least to convince him to accept it. I gave them both a private tour of the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition. Throughout the tour, Michael was extremely paranoid. He repeatedly dove to the floor, whimpering that he had seen someone taking photographs of him through the windows, though there was no line of sight to any publicly accessible location. Lisa Marie laughed it off and explained that he was always worried about the paparazzi. He was so soft-spoken I could hardly hear him, and his comments and questions were disjointed and childish. She had told me…