As a parent, one can only hope that their children will follow their lessons and find a path to success. But as most parents will find, there comes a time when you must release the child to make their own way. West Allis resident Ron Miscavige knows this all too well. He watched as his son, David Miscavige, quickly rose through the ranks of the Church of Scientology. Arriving at the top-ranking position of Chairman of the Board, David was no longer the “sweet kid” his father spoke of, but a tyrant corrupted by absolute power. After 40-plus years, Ron Miscavige left the Church of Scientology.
In promotion for his book, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, And Me, Miscavige spoke to a packed Greenfield Library on Monday night. As he assumed his position at the podium, the first thing Miscavige told the crowd was that he’s a Packers fan dating back to the Vince Lombardi years. If there is a quicker way to win over a room of Wisconsinites, no one has heard it. Admitting his love for the Philadelphia Eagles received a much lesser response.
Throughout the 90-minute talk, Miscavige came across as a jovial grandfather-like figure. His wit and intelligence were peppered with outdated references to Howdy Doody and various 19th Century authors. It made him relatable, because who hasn’t had a grandparent bombard them with pop-culture references from decades before they were born? As he glided though stories with a Midwestern charm, an East Coast lilt gave his words an extra punch.
Miscavige’s stories shined when he focused on his music career. The pure joy that music brings him was apparent in his animated speech and facial expressions. Through Scientology, he met Isaac Hayes and sat in with him at gigs. He also played trumpet on Edgar Winter’s Mission Earth. If there is a bright spot to be found in his time as a Scientologist, Miscavige’s musical contributions are it.
As evinced by the post-talk Q&A session, many attendees had an interest in hearing of the exploits of Scientology’s high profile members. Miscavige stayed somewhat discreet in his discussion of celebrities, mentioning building a gym for Tom Cruise, and Leah Remini’s use of profanity. It was enough to satisfy the audience without being exploitative.
The stories of his post-Scientology days were a bit darker. Like other prominent Scientologists who left the church, Miscavige was followed and stalked. As with many of the people in his situation, Miscavige longed to move on with his life, not to speak out about the church. But, once his children detached from him because of pressure from the church, he was driven to speak publicly.
Anyone who had consumed a full season of Leah Remini’s Scientology And The Aftermath, and/or the documentary Going Clear, might have felt a strong sense of paranoia throughout the event. Seeing how persistent the Church of Scientology has been shutting down dissenters, the chance that there were spies in the room felt like a very real possibility. Every person who walked past the building or got up in the middle of the talk was closely eyeballed. But in the end, nothing. No outbursts, just lively discussion with a man willing to share his extraordinary journey.