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Scientology Cult Steps Up in Celebrity Enclave Malibu
Malibu's wealthy health obsessed residents and reputation for being a rehab capital makes this swanky seaside resort a target for questionable practices
Star studded Malibu, California is best known for its celebrities: Pamela Anderson, Bruce Willis, Barbra Streisand, Courtney Cox and David Arquette are just some of the luminaries who call this beachside community home. Recently a pack of local surfers chased paparazzi away from a surfing Matthew McConaughey, while last year drunken Mel Gibson paid a notorious visit to the Malibu jail.
Along with rich and famous residents, Malibu is infamous for fires, floods and mudslides–and a special form of celebrity disaster management: drug and alcohol rehabs. With over a dozen facilities including the pioneer of seaside detoxes, Promises – whose former clients allegedly include Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, and briefly Britney Spears—Malibu has become synonymous with the luxurious way to kick one’s bad habits.
Malibu also has reputation for healthy living, with organically-inclined, equally wealthy Topanga Canyon just around the bend, a local farmers’ market and plenty of natural food and vitamin stores, plus day spas and salons catering to the health and beauty conscious.
So naturally the celebrity-and-money-hunting cult of Scientology has moved into this neighborhood, offering a “purification” program at a nail-salon-turned-Scientology-service-station on Pacific Coast Highway.
The 30-day program, known within Scientology as the “Purification Rundown,” involves increasingly higher doses of vitamins, followed by half hour jogs on a treadmill and lengthy sits in the on-site sauna. “We have had people actually have LSD trips during our purification program,” exclaimed the enthusiastic saleswoman. “Drugs and toxins lodge deep in your tissues and L. Ron Hubbard discovered this is the only way to get them out.”
Hubbard’s program uses high doses of niacin, up to 5000 mg, which he wrote could remove including radiation exposure, sunburn, allergies, cancer, gastroenteritis, and anxiety. The dosages Hubbard described are within the range known to cause harmful side effects, such as liver damage and stomach ulcers, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition to niacin, increasingly larger doses of vitamins A and D are given to clients who pay $3600 for the month long program.
L. Ron Hubbard, who was not a doctor or any other kind of medical professional, also wrote that gamma radiation could be removed by washing with water and that “There is no such thing as a fat cell,” which might come as a surprise to many doctors, Pilates instructors and liposuction experts.
The Purification Rundown is also used as part of Scientology’s Narconon program, which is in no way affiliated with the Twelve Step Program Narcotics Anonymous, aka NarcAnon. While Malibu rehabs like Passages may use offbeat methods like “equine therapy,” Scientology-based Narconon pushes the Purification program, along with Scientology courses as an expensive way to get off drugs–and into the self-described church.
“Scientology’s Narconon is an unhealthy method for addressing underlying mental and physical issues that contribute to drug abuse. The saunas and niacin could prove harmful to someone with liver damage, and indoctrinating a recovering addict into a cult via the workbooks used during the detox period when they are particularly vulnerable is repulsive,” says a sobriety coach for celebrities who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“We are concerned about having a Scientology group in our area,” said a resident interviewed at a local supermarket. “About a month ago I found materials from Anonymous, the group that protests Scientology, in a local coffee place after reading theat Scientology was moving in here. Then I saw Anonymous actually protesting in front of their building and I was all right-on! We don’t want Malibu to get like Hollywood with uniformed Scientology goons everywhere, trying to influence politicians and locals with awards and donations and their bogus front groups.”
Chimed in another local, “Scientology is not just another faddish thing, it’s actually danger to free speech and free thought. Scientologists try to portray themselves as do-gooders. But they are most definitely not.”
With such awareness on the rise, it looks like the tide might be ebbing for Scientology in Malibu.