Ex-Scientologist lifts lid on church's elusive leader David Miscavige
EXCLUSIVE: Former Scientologist Mitch Brisker lifts lid on church leader David Miscavige’s relationship with Tom Cruise, luxurious lifestyle and the woman who took wife Shelly’s place
- Mitch Brisker, 74, once a trusted right-hand man to Scientology leader David Miscavige left the church over a year ago after the pair had a falling out
- Speaking to DailyMail.com, he described the reclusive leader as ‘very intense’ and ‘absolute control freak’ preoccupied with the material world
- Brisker also says he does not believe Miscavige’s wife Shelly is imprisoned against her will but is simply living out a life of devotion after being exiled
Mitch Brisker, 74, left Scientology over a year ago after a clash with leader and his once close associate, David Miscavige
David Miscavige, leader of the Church of Scientology, is a reclusive man with a penchant for designer clothes, a hunger for gifts, fast cars, and superbikes and a fondness for thumping music.
And, according to one of his closest lieutenants, he ‘exiled’ his wife Shelly seemingly without a second thought because he was ‘done with her.’
This is the picture of the enigmatic man painted by Mitch Brisker, 74, former Senior Director and Creative Executive of Scientology’s Golden Era Studios.
For 30 years Brisker was, by his own admission, Chief Architect of Scientology’s Propaganda and a trusted right-hand man to its leader, Miscavige, 63.
Once a member of the church’s upper echelons, he left the church just over a year ago after clashing with Miscavige and losing faith in what it stood for.
Now, he is speaking out for the first time in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com giving his unique insight into Miscavige, his personality, his ‘missing’ wife, his infamous friendship with Tom Cruise and the luxurious lifestyle of the man whom, he says, conducts himself like a ‘super celebrity.’
Brisker (far left) now 74, was once a member of the church’s upper echelons and for 30 years was, by his own admission, Chief Architect of Scientology’s Propaganda and a trusted right-hand man to Miscavige, 63. They are pictured together in 1991
Brisker also shared new insight into Miscavige’s allegedly ‘missing’ wife, Shelly Miscavige who has not been seen in public since 2007
According to Brisker, Miscavige’s executive assistant Laurisse ‘Lou’ Henley-Smith ‘ascended’ after Shelly left. She (far right) is seen alongside the church leader, Tom Cruise and now ex-wife Katie Holmes at the Laguna Seca Moto GP in Monterey, California in 2008
When Brisker first met Miscavige in 1990 he was immediately struck by the person he describes as ‘very, very intense’.
Back then, according to Brisker, Miscavige worked out and body-built obsessively and favored tight muscle T-shirts to show off the fruits of his labor.
He was, Brisker soon learned, all about control in every aspect of his life.
According to Brisker: ‘There is not a greater control freak ever born in the existence of the human race.
‘Everything that happens in Scientology, right down to the soap they’re going to use on their luxury cruise liner is submitted to him for approval.
‘I mean he spends hundreds and hundreds of hours, so much of his week, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, getting these CSW (Completed Staff Work) forms that’s basically a proposal for approval.
‘When I first went up there [to the International Base] when we did a film, every aspect of it – the casting, the wardrobe, the lighting, where the actors were going to stand, where the cameras were going to be placed – all that stuff had to be submitted for approval in detail.
‘He’s an absolute control freak.’
That ‘freakishness’ extends to how he demands the multiple conference rooms at any given Scientology center are set up for him on arrival.
According to Brisker: ‘There would have to be a pile of Mont Blanc pens, an unopened packet of Camel cigarettes, an ashtray, a particular brand of mineral water which I forget and an unopened packet of gum.’
He recalled: ‘During any meeting he would have a drag of a cigarette, take a sip of the water, and chew a piece of the gum. Maybe if the meeting was longer, he’d have another cigarette but when he left all the rest had to be thrown away.
Miscavige, who has been head of the church since 1987, is an enigmatic figure with an penchant for designer clothes, a hunger for gifts, fast cars, and superbikes, according to Brisker
According to the former Scientologist, under Miscavige’s rule, gift-giving is a huge part of Scientology’s culture, with the leader being known to circulate a wish list of gifts every birthday and Christmas
Brisker also gave his unique insight into Miscavige’s infamous friendship with Scientology’s most famous member Tom Cruise
‘I don’t know if he was paranoid about being poisoned or something, but everything always had to be new and unopened.’
Indeed, Miscavige is very preoccupied with the material world and acquiring new things, according to Brisker.
Gift-giving is a huge part of Scientology’s culture under Miscavige’s rule. According to Brisker: ‘He understands the power and pressure that can come with gift-giving.’
For his part, Brisker received gifts worth thousands of dollars when he was in favor and being ‘love bombed’ by Miscavige.
He recalls receiving an original Norwalk juicer worth $3,000, an audio system worth thousands, and a $10,000 television screen which church members delivered and installed.
He said: ‘But there was always this element of virtue signaling and narcissistic philanthropy. He bought me the juicer because he said he was concerned for my health.’
Miscavige was also a big fan of receiving lavish gifts.
Brisker recalled: ‘He circulated a wish list of gifts every birthday and Christmas and members were expected to get together and buy him items on it.
‘There were things like $700 designer shirts, expensive cameras – he loved camera gear – music, he loves thumping music.
‘He had a bespoke Mustang worth more than $100,000 that was gifted to him by members of Flag (Church of Scientology’s Flag Services Organization in Clearwater, Florida) and a superbike that was also from Flag.’
Brisker recalls Miscavige and Cruise racing around the International Base on their motorbikes, gifted by members of the Sea Org.
He said, ‘They really are like separated at birth. It was almost cute to see them together. I think for Tom that’s a genuine friendship and almost worship.’
But a fundamental difference between the men is, Brisker thinks, that Cruise has ‘a real streak of goodness’ in him while he could find no such redeeming feature in Miscavige.
In fact, Brisker says: ‘Tom Cruise is Scientology’s number one victim. I know people will disagree with me about this but it’s like he’s living in a distorted reality. He’s fully in the matrix.’
Today Brisker suspects the same is true of Shelly Miscavige, once crowned ‘the First Lady of Scientology’ by Vanity Fair. She was last seen in public in 2007. Her whereabouts have been the subject of investigation and speculation ever since.
In 2012, attorneys claiming to represent Shelly stated that she was fit and well and merely living a private life devoted to Scientology.
Shelly Miscavige’s whereabouts have been the subject of investigation and speculation for more than a decade and a half
Actress Leah Remini has been a vocal Scientology critic since she left the church in 2013. She reported Shelley Miscavige missing to the Los Angeles Police Department, but the case was closed within a matter of hours
In August, Remini announced that she was suing the church and Miscavige, asking for punitive and compensatory damages to be proven at trial
Questions persisted and, in 2013, amid rumors that she was being held somewhere against her will, actress and vocal Scientology critic Leah Remini filed a missing persons report with Los Angeles Police Department. It was closed within a matter of hours.
But according to Brisker, he saw Shelly in 2008 – a year after she supposedly vanished.
He said: ‘Shelly’s not missing, and she’s not being held prisoner anywhere, that’s my honest belief.’
Instead, he is certain, she is living in Scientology’s secretive bunker-like base in the mountain town of Crestline, California.
The base near Twin Peaks is where devotees spend their days ensuring founder L. Ron Hubbard’s immortality, by memorializing his copious writings on metal plates.
Brisker explained: ‘My routine when I worked out at Golden Era was, I would drive out [to the International Base in Gilman Springs, California] and I’d stop at a town called Redlands for lunch then continue another 30 minutes or so to the base.
‘If you draw a straight-line on the only road out of Crestline the first place you land in is Redlands. It’s really the only place out there with notable restaurants where you could go for a nice lunch.
‘And that day I noticed a woman I knew, whom I now know is one of Shelly’s ‘handlers.’ That’s a person’s auditor and friend.’
Brisker is hazy on the restaurant but thinks it may have been a Chipotle.
He continued: ‘Then I realized Shelly was sitting there. It just looked like three girlfriends having lunch. It was very awkward when they saw me.
‘I realize now they didn’t want anybody to know where she was but there’s no doubt in my mind, she’s at Crestline because there’s no other reason, she would have been way out there having lunch that day.’
But while Brisker doesn’t believe that Shelly is imprisoned against her will and is, instead, simply living out a life of devotion, he does believe that Miscavige acted with chilling ruthlessness when he dispatched her to Crestline – effectively throwing her into ‘exile’ when he was ‘done’ with her.
Miscavige was rarely seen without Lou by his side for many years, according to the insider. The four are pictured together at the same event in 2008
Brisker recalled Miscavige and Cruise racing around the International Base on their motorbikes, gifted by members of the Sea Org
Brisker said: ‘I think he was just done with her. He didn’t want to see her ever again.
‘When they were together, she was always pleasant to me, very cordial and polite. We coordinated on birthday and Christmas gifts.
‘Some have speculated she could have taken over leadership of the church, I never saw her as anything more than a glorified social director and assistant.’
Miscavige, Brisker recalled, would often fail to include Shelly in conversations in public and she would always stand slightly behind her husband when he spoke.
In Shelly’s absence, Brisker said, the chairman’s executive assistant Laurisse ‘Lou’ Henley-Smith ‘ascended.’
Brisker said: ‘For many years she looked after Tom Cruise but after Shelly left you never saw Miscavige without Lou by his side.
‘Seriously the only place I saw him without her was the men’s room. They even started dressing the same, like a couple.’
Despite being the most senior member of the Sea Org, the church’s pseudo militaristic ‘clergy,’ Miscavige rarely wore uniform, according to Brisker, preferring designer suits and Italian leather jackets.
He said: ‘He and Lou had matching ones, you know ‘his and hers.’
Brisker also noted that, unlike Miscavige’s wife, when the leader spoke in company Lou would often stand slightly in front of him.
Brisker, who refers to Lou as Miscavige’s ‘co-conspirator’, said he was convinced that their relationship had become romantic during one overnight flight in Tom Cruise’s private jet.
He said: ‘It was 2016 or 2017 and there were only four of us on the plane. Miscavige and Lou disappeared into the master suite at the start of the flight and emerged eight hours later freshly showered.
‘Whatever took place – and even if they just have some amazing platonic friendship – that made me so mad because that violates so many basic Sea Org rules about men and women.’
In her book Troublemaker, Leah Remini also said that Miscavige and Henley-Smith appeared to have a relationship that was stronger than that of two people who worked together.
She said she first noticed it at Tom Cruise’s November 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes in Italy. She found it strange that Miscavige was there without his wife and noticed he was fooling around with his communicator in Shelly’s absence.
Sea Org members can marry each other, but extramarital sex is strictly prohibited and unmarried men and women should not be alone in any potentially intimate manner.
Brisker does not go into detail but admits that his own love life saw him fall foul of Miscavige so any hint at double standards stings.
According to Brisker the men fell out before the pandemic, nothing he regarded as ‘irreparable’ but when the rhythm of life was disrupted by shutdowns, Brisker began to re-evaluate his relationship with the church.
He said: ‘Miscavige who’s a bit of a germaphobe fled to Clearwater, Florida, where he would have less public contact.
‘There’s a beautiful Spanish villa they bought behind there, El Cadiz, and they knocked two apartments into one and that’s where he stays when he’s there – though he may have been on base during the pandemic.
‘The rest of the time he spends in Los Angeles.’
Danny Masterson was supported by wife Bijou Phillips throughout his trial. However she has now filed for divorce and he has been booted from the Church of Scientology
Remini was seen in a November 2007 photo alongside Masterson taken at fundraiser in Las Vegas
According to Brisker he always knew Miscavige was at the church’s Author’s Services Inc (the literary agency that represents L. Ron Hubbard’s estate) on LA’s Hollywood Boulevard because, ‘I would see the same security that was at each end of any journey he made. He didn’t travel with them but there would be one at each end.
‘They looked like private military contractors. They all wore desert boots, tactical pants, and all had the same Glock handgun in a ballistic nylon holster.
‘Whenever you arrived at ASI if there was a Glock-carrying private security guard at the gate you knew Miscavige was there.’
He added: ‘When he wasn’t there you just pull up and ring the buzzer for the receptionist to let you in. There was always unarmed Sea Org security in their rent-a-cop uniforms, but they were just greeters.’
Referring to the high security that surrounds the church’s leader, Brisker said: ‘To be fair there had been a random guy with a sniper rifle who went to prison for threatening to assassinate Miscavige.’
After that event which took place in 2016, Brisker noticed ‘a sharp increase in security.’
He said: ‘That’s when the ex-special forces private contractor type of security became visible.’
Perhaps now, more than ever, the church needs to generate support and bolster the confidence and commitment of its members, Brisker said..
In recent months Scientology has suffered a series of high-profile blows – none more grievous than member and actor Danny Masterson’s conviction on multiple counts of rape.
The former star of ‘That 70s Show,’ was sentenced to 30 years in prison last month for drugging and raping two church members 20 years ago and, while he alone stood charged with the crimes, there can be no doubt that the light of public scrutiny shone on Scientology too.
Prosecutors and victims claimed that the church shielded and protected its famous members for years to such a grotesque extent that it allowed Masterson to rape fellow Scientologists without consequences.
According to Brisker: ‘The whole church is a crime scene with victims scattered all over the place.
‘I think to say that the church and Miscavige is facing its biggest, most urgent crisis in living memory is an understatement. Considering all the pressure he’s under right now I think there’s a very uncertain outcome.’
Mitch Brisker’s book, ‘The Big Lie: How I made an Evil Cult Look Good,’ will be available on Amazon on November 24, 2024
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