Tommy Davis, the latest chief spokesman and outraged-interview-cutter-offer for the Church of Scientology, is a callow Hollywood brat, Tom Cruise hanger-on, and "drug revert" who thinks "L. Ron Hubbard is the coolest guy ever."
Scientology has a long history of spastic, sweaty spokespersons with creepy laughs who eventually crack under the pressure and leave the organization. There was Robert Vaughn Young, who publicly renounced the church in 1989 after decades in its leadership. He was followed by Mike Rinder, an unhinged Australian bulldog who decided to stop lying for church leader David Miscavige last year and spoke out publicly about the cult's bizarre and arbitrary cruelty in June.
The latest inheritor of Young and Rinder's mantle as the unsettling public face of scientology is Tommy Davis, the head of the cult's Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles. Davis lived up to the role last week by walking out on ABC News's Martin Bashir during a Nightline interview after Bashir asked him about Xenu, the intergalactic warlord that Hubbard believed is responsible for saddling us all with a bunch of crazy body thetans.
So who is this guy, and how long before he cracks up and turns against the church like all the rest?
- He's a Hollywood scion.
Davis, 37, is the son of actress Anne Archer and Jeffrey Davis, a real estate investor. According to Rolling Stone's Janet Reitman, Davis "freely admits to being a Hollywood rich kid. He dresses in Italian suits, drives a BMW and is addicted to his Blackberry. 'I have enough money to never work a day in my life,' he says."
- He's Tom Cruise's BFF.
According to the Daily Beast's Kim Masters, Davis spent nearly a decade as Cruise's "personal, full-time, assigned Scientology handler." Claire Headley, a former Scientologist who left the cult five years ago, tells Masters: "'He filtered everything, reported on what [Cruise] was doing to [Church of Scientology leader] David Miscavige.' Officially, Davis was assigned to the church's president's office in the Celebrity Centre, she continues, but he was essentially with Cruise full-time from the late 1990s until 2005." Davis worked intimately with Miscavige on the deeply strange Tom Cruise tribute video that was leaked to Gawker last year.
- He goes for stunts.
When the BBC's John Sweeney decided to make a documentary about Scientology two years ago for Panorama, Davis and his then-colleague Rinder decided to make a "counter-documentary," and succeeded in goading Sweeney into an angry outburst that they caught on camera and distributed widely in order to discredit him. Davis harangued Sweeney mercilessly in the middle of Scientology's graphic "Psychiatry: Industry of Death" exhibit, and Sweeney later said of his enraged response: "I felt they were trying to control my mind." In the course of the same documentary, Davis walked out of an interview after Sweeney called Scientology a "sinister cult." After walking out on Bashir last week, Davis reportedly showed up unannounced at ABC News headquarters less than an hour before Nightline's airtime and demanded that the piece be spiked. He was rebuffed.
- He probably doesn't know what he's talking about.
While Davis has said in the past that he is "familiar with" the "confidential scriptures" of Scientology that tell the story of Xenu, he's also told CNN's John Roberts that talk of "space parasites" is "unrecognizable to me." Discussions of Xenu are strictly verboten among Scientologists who haven't yet reached, and paid for, the OT-III—or Operating Thetan, level three—step on the cult's "bridge to total freedom," during which Xenu's exploits are revealed. Members are told that if they hear about Xenu before their minds are properly prepared, it will make them retarded, insane, or even kill them. Masters speculates that Davis' dumbfounded reaction to Bashir's question may have been genuine:
Headley suspects Tommy Davis has never participated in upper-level training in which the story of Xenu would have actually been revealed. She thinks that may be why he walked out of the Nightline interview when asked about it. "In Scientology, no one can talk about it, whether you've done it or not," she says. "If you talk about it when you're not up to that level, you can be banned from ever doing it."
- Davis wouldn't tell her whether he'd reached OT-III, but according to a partial database of Scientology course completions gleaned from announcements in church publications, he hasn't.
- He's a "drug revert" and all around troublemaker.
Masters says Davis has a reputation for mischief. He was a "happy-go-lucky" teen who was caught smoking pot, which makes him in church parlance a "drug revert" and should have barred him from serving in the cult's leadership. Davis denies being a revert. But he has, according to Masters, gotten into more recent trouble with his superiors. After the BBC flap, Masters says, he briefly "blew" from the Sea Org and went AWOL, an infraction that earned him a stint cleaning toilets in the church's Clearwater, Fla., international headquarters—though Masters doesn't use the term, it certainly sounds like Davis was shunted off to the "Rehabilitation Project Force," the church's punitive gulag for staff members who fall out of line. Davis' former friend, ex-Scientologist Jason Beghe, told the Village Voice last year that he could see from the look on Davis' face during a CNN interview that he'd been RFP'd.
- He probably won't last long.
Davis hasn't been doing a great job. The Nightline interview was another in a string of embarrassments for the church, and Paul Haggis' high-profile defection over the weekend—announced in an open letter to Davis—is likely not sitting well with Miscavige. Davis' job is to "handle" anyone who would do harm to the church's reputation, and his tenure thus far has been marked by a string of pile-ups—angry confrontations; Haggis' defection; John Travolta's acknowledgment that, contrary to church dogma, autism is real; the St. Petersburg Times' devastating series detailing the revelations of high-profile defectors about Miscavige's violent and insane regime. He also has personal relationships with people who've left the church—he worked with Rinder, and was close friends with Beghe—and has left the reservation before. How much abuse and lying can he take before he follows them out the door?