The Hooker-Beating ShamWow Guy Is a Renegade Ex-Scientologist

Vince Shlomi's claims to fame are his ability to shill oddly absorbent towels, and after last week, getting arrested after beating a prostitute to a pulp. Are you surprised he was also involved with Scientology?

Shlomi's full name is Vince Offer Shlomi, and he has used the name Vince Offer in the past. According to online accounts, Shlomi joined Scientology in 1982 as an aspiring filmmaker. In 1997, with the help of contacts he made through the cult's Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, he began production on The Underground Comedy Movie, a low-budget and low-brow direct-to-DVD film based on sketches Offer perfected on his cable-access show. Slash, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Joey Buttafuoco had roles.

But according to accounts of Offer's 2004 complaint against Scientology, church bigwigs took a dim view of the project and allegedly launched a campaign to kick Offer out of the cult and discredit him. He was brought up on charges by a Scientology court—which apparently included a 14-year-old as one of its judges—and declared a criminal (the nature of the specific charges isn't clear—a press release announcing the suit says the allegations were never actually presented to Offer; Gawker is working on obtaining a copy of the complaint). From the press release:

[T]he Scientology sub-organization that recruits and caters to celebrities "Celebrity Center International," located in Hollywood and whose motto is "To Create a Safe Space for Artists," according to Offer recruited dozens of his Scientology friends, associates and actors that worked on Underground Comedy, to write false and malicious reports against him. If individuals refused to write these reports, they were threatened with condemnation and punishment that could be lethal to their careers.

After being convicted, Offer became a persona-non-grata in the church. His business, which depended on Scientology connections, dried up, and he lost financing to complete the movie.

Less than two years later, in 1999, the church reversed itself on appeal and cleared Offer of any wrongdoing. Eventually, Offer managed to get his movie released on DVD. He marketed it with infomercials, a medium at which he clearly excelled. From the release:

By January 2002, Offer's life was destroyed, as he was now broke, alone and was left with an unfinished movie. To keep from going under, he undertook his inherent marketing abilities and pitched kitchen vegetable choppers at swap meets. In the span of 5 years, Offer went from owning an enterprise with dozens of sales reps in 1997, to selling on his own in a swap meet. In April of 2002, against all odds, he managed to generate enough money from swap meet sales to launch a successful infomercial campaign for his movie. It is the first movie ever to be marketed in this medium, which propelled DVD sales to almost 100,000 units in the US.

Here's a clip—an "I Love L.A." song parody featuring comedy gold like, "I wanna be famous / I should join acting class / Or maybe I could get a part of Baywatch if I kiss hasselhoff's ass / I'd spread my asshole / To get a recurring role."

In 2004, flush with Underground Comedy Movie money, Offer filed his suit in "a quest to expose the human cruelty and destructive practices committed, still to this day, by the Church of Scientology's leadership helmed by David Miscavage." According to Offer's attorney Ford Greene, who confirmed the story of the suit to Gawker, it was dismissed in 2004.

So you be the judge: Was Offer just unlucky in his choice of prostitute in Miami last month, or did Scientology decide that he was becoming too big a potential liability and launch Operation Tongue Bite?