Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2003 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Consumer Reports

Scientologists on Razor's edge?; picking a winner?; source on a hot tin roof?; more | NEW YORK — The Church of Scientology — never one to take criticism lying down — has been rattling sabers at Razor magazine.

The male-oriented mag's latest issue contains a muckraking article about the religion, which claims among its members powerful Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and was founded in the 1950s by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Razor's story, headlined "The Curse of Scientology — Lawsuits, Death, and Finance," chronicles the strange death of Church member Lisa McPherson, and was written by David S. Touretzky and Peter Alexander, a disaffected former Scientologist. "Imagine a church so dangerous you must sign a release form before you can receive its spiritual assistance," the authors assert.

This week, Scientology spokeswoman Linda Simmons Hight left several urgent messages with Razor Publisher Richard Botto and sent a tough e-mail to Editor in Chief Craig Knight. The Los Angeles-based Hight, communications director for Scientology International, made what a Razor spokeswoman tells me are "veiled threats of legal action."

Hight's message: "You and your magazine do not understand the agenda of the people who wrote this article. . . . I suggest you return my call immediately." Razor is "treading on serious ground" she added.

Hight's e-mail to Knight was more explicit: "A moment ago I logged onto your Web site and saw the highly offensive promotion for the story. Until we connect with each other by phone, I strongly urge you to remove it from your site. I can only assume you do not know the persons who authored the story, nor what their actual agenda is, nor how inaccurate and slanted the story is. Please do return my call as soon as possible."

Tuesday, Knight said: "Her message certainly sounds aggressive to me. . . . I've called her back twice and left two messages for her, but we haven't connected."

Hight, for her part, told me: "I have called the publisher and the editor. I told them my name and my phone number and that I'd like to talk to them, but I haven't heard back."


New York filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi — who became a political celebrity during the 2000 campaign with her HBO documentary, "Journeys With George"

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— is once again on a mission to find the next president.

"I'm looking to be with the winner," the 33-year-old Pelosi told me Tuesday during a rare stopover at her Greenwich Village apartment between trips to Iowa and New Hampshire.

"I can't travel with two different candidates at once," said the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "It's not like I have minions to send out on the trail. It's just me and my digital camera. So I have to choose carefully."

Pelosi is smack-dab in the middle of a lucrative, two-year deal to make a second campaign documentary for HBO — so I suppose she's as qualified as anybody to handicap the Democratic primary race:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean: "He's definitely hot right now. It's like his supporters are a cult. At the Jefferson and Jackson dinner in Des Moines last weekend, it was tons of screaming kids, but they weren't from Iowa. They'd been bused in from across the Midwest, and they didn't clap for anyone else — only Dean. Afterward, there was a party at the Fort Des Moines and they acted out Dean's stump speech, waving their arms and mouthing the words, like it was 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' Dean was there and at first he was smiling, but after a while he looked pretty freaked out. You have to remember that the 70-something Iowa voter is not into the screaming kids."

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark: "He seems overhandled and overmanaged."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry: "For the first time in my life, I'm feeling sorry for John Kerry."

Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt: "I would say that Gephardt is the sleeper candidate, because people underestimate the power of experience. People who live in New York are typically after what's cool, what's hot, what's next. But in Iowa, they respect experience. The people who get out in below-zero weather to vote on Caucus night are not into hipsters."

As for Pelosi's old pal President Bush, with whom she clearly hit it off during the last campaign, the filmmaker hopes he's not the winner. "If I ever had a soft spot in my heart for him, I can promise you it has grown very hard."


WHOA, NELLIE: Fellow Texans Dan Rather and Liz Smith hosted a book party at Le Cirque Monday night for former Texas governor John Connally's 84-year-old widow, Nellie. She and her husband were in JFK's limo in Dallas 40 years ago when the assassin struck. She recounts the terrible moment in "From Love Field: Our Final Hours with President John F. Kennedy": "'Jack — Jack!' From the back seat, I heard Jackie's frantic voice. 'They've killed my husband! I have his brains in my hand!'" At the party, where Candace Bushnell and husband Charles Askegaard rubbed shoulders with Barbara Walters and Jay McInerney, Smith guided us to the stylish author, who was wearing 1 1/2 inch black stilettos and resting her feet. "I've got a corn on one toe!" Connally confided, "I have to sit."

SOURCE ON A HOT TIN ROOF?: Monday's item about Paul Newman's recent visit to the Music Box Theater's revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" — in which my witness said Newman sat for Jason (Brick) Patric's curtain call but stood and clapped wildly for Ned (Big Daddy) Beatty — provoked cries of "mendacity!" from show publicist Philip Rinaldi. "Ned Beatty enters for his curtain call before Jason, so I'm sure Mr. Newman (who played Brick Pollitt in the 1958 movie version of Tennessee Williams play) sprung to his feet when Ned came out," Rinaldi e-mailed. "But I know from people who were there that he stayed on his feet during Jason's curtain call as well." My witness, a member of the audience, initially held to his story for dear life, but in the face of Rinaldi's compelling testimony, slipped off of it.

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11/18/03: Clay Aiken neuters PETA?; THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!; a mural for Joe
11/17/03: When networks attack!; leaky Fawcett; forget the Paris Hilton video!; more
11/13/03: Publicity hounds; Prophetic priest; Dumb and Dumber
11/12/03: Not so Rosie; do you believe in miracles?; catalogue of sins; My Heart Belongs to Koppel
11/10/03: Gen. clark on the Subway diet; life of the party; MTV's Dumb and Dumber?; the hug issue; but does the $6,000 shower curtain convey?; red faces at Buckingham palace?
11/06/03: Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more
11/04/03: Herding off the hipsters; more
11/03/03: Dean's tell-all on himself?; Lisaraye vs. Mya?; the odd couple; no need to panic; just don't call him "Scooter"!; Rosie scenarios
10/30/03: Autumn of the editor?; Cynthia Nixon's split may be costly; 'Burning' questions
10/29/03: Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley
10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate