Our author aprehends cult of non-personality, John Travolta, amongst a herd of google-eyed female fans in hopes of shaking some sense into the religiously inept star.
It's been a few years since I bumped into John Travolta on the streets of Boston, and I'm still having nightmares.
I was walking to my internship at one of Beantown's alternative newspapers when I came upon a line of trailers and a bunch of people standing outside, waiting for someone to show up. So, being in no hurry to start my day at a job with no pay, I stood behind the small crowd of women, all around 35-plus, and racked my brain to figure out exactly who in town could command such attention.
I remembered the movie A Civil Action was being filmed in the area, as the true events of the story occurred in and around Boston, and I realized it must be either Robert Duvall or John Travolta whose trailer was the subject of this early morning vigil.
Before long, I noticed a few of the women in front of me holding on to Grease CDs and Saturday Night Fever records, and I realized it wasn't Duvall they were waiting for (although I'm sure he's an excellent dancer).
Secure in the knowledge that it was Vincent Vega himself who was soon to exit his trailer and stun my fellow onlookers with his gorgeous dimpled chin, I whipped open my backpack and searched for some Grease/Urban Cowboy/Saturday Night Fever knick-knacks I could have the star sign.
But, being that I wasn't a middle-aged woman harboring sexual fantasies toward the T-Birds, disco dancers, mechanical bull riders, or goombah pilots, I didn't have anything specifically tailored to Mr. Travolta. I hadn't even brought my Look Who's Talking pin, and I NEVER left home without it.
What I did have, though, was a copy of the current USA Today, so I figured it would do. But how could I get him to notice me behind such a formidable wall of fawning females pining for their teenage crush? I decided to target something close to the star's heart, so, after deciding against pretending I was the real-life boy in the plastic bubble (for I wore no bubble) or Olivia Newton-John (for I have no breasts), I came up with a foolproof plan.
When Johnny T finally walked out of his trailer, looking a good six inches shorter than he appears on screen, I stood cautiously behind the gaggle of women-turned-schoolgirls and waited for my moment. When he was handing back a newly autographed copy of someone's Welcome Back, Kotter poster, I saw my chance and set the trap.
I handed over my newspaper and asked: "Hey, could you sign it to a fellow Scientologist?'"
I waited for the fireworks to start. But, against all odds, my brilliantly designed plan of subtle mockery and gentle humilation backfired. Rather than result in a hilarious display of tears and self-realization, the pudgy star mistook my inquiry for one of brotherhood and camaraderie. Suddenly, in this storm of adoring fans, I was the only person that mattered.
For that one excruciating moment, I shared a bond with John Travolta, one that went deeper than adolescent fixations on his pomade greasened hair and white polyester pants. It was a bond of spirituality, self-improvement, and mind-boggling delusion. And it was then that I realized exactly how he had been duped into L. Ron Hubbard's nefarious cult of celebrity coddling. He was the most gullible person on earth.
As soon as the word "Scientologist" left my lips, his eyes latched onto mine and he responded, "You are?"
The fervor and intensity with which he uttered those two words frightened me to my very core. My blood turned cold and my spine crumpled as I relinquished control of the newspaper to Barbarino. I had to complete my mission, disastrous as it had become. The potential payoff was too great to abandon at the first sign of trouble. My prize, should it somehow work out, was not only a signature from John Travolta, but a personalized message, along with a sudden realization by the star that his spiritual path was faulty and his road to redemption was paved by a manipulative fraud (Sure, it's a lot to hope for from one comment, but I was aiming high).
But, unfortunately, when I pulled the paper back, all I had gotten was a scribble with a J and a T hidden somewhere within. So not only had I failed in my insidious scheme to take Mr. I'm-a-Movie-Star-AND-a-Pilot down a notch, he didn't even sign what I requested. So I was unable to score a viable autograph, unable to retrieve a personalized message, and unable to redeem the Oscar-nominated thespian from his path to damnation. Not to mention the fact he had no idea I was humiliating him in front of ten or 12 of his ugliest fans.
I am, however, secure in the knowledge that my failure was not my fault. It was his. Another star with more cynicism in his heart, more intelligence behind his good looks, more sense in his career planning, would have recognized my jibe for what it was. But not him. His sheer, trusting idiocy -- and unfathomable faith in his new-age con scheme posing as a religion -- derailed my ingenious ploy and reduced me to nothing more than another fanboy with a weak spot for cults.
The failure of my ruse to penetrate his dense skull resulted in his sincere acceptance of my request. He truly believed I was a loyal member of that wack-ass, sham-marriage-constructing, tax-free-status
your-mind-of-empaths-or-I'll-sue-you-into-the-ground cult of his. But he was wrong. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a Scientologist. It's not that I have a problem with spirituality, I just have a problem with brainwashing and mind-controlling cults that try to take over the world, one celebrity at a time.
Wait, it's not a cult you say? Well, it's damn close. Maybe it's not as bad as Jim Jones' pioneering work on the manipulation and mass poisoning of the population of a self-contained utopia, or Marshall Herff Applewhite's brilliant demonstration of how to convert the disillusioned into sexless sycophants praying for a rocketship, but there's definitely something fishy going on.
Consider this: after the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) consistently used its influence to badmouth Scientology and label it a dangerous cult, the Church sued them. And sued them. And sued them again, until they had to file for bankruptcy and were put out of business. Then, in a brilliant stroke of genius, the Church of Scientology bought CAN and the building it was housed in and began using the Network's name, influence and logo to promote their cult as a positive entity.
Wow. Scared yet?
I just happen to think that there's something strangely incongruous about a religion that was founded by a science fiction writer. Maybe it's the fact that L. Ron Hubbard is quoted as saying, "the easiest way to make a million dollars is to start a religion." Maybe it's because one of the core beliefs of Scientology is that human souls are aliens from another world, banished to earth by the inter-galactic ruler Xenu.
It might be because the Church of Scientology strong-arms their less influential (read: not famous) members into handing over their life savings, or perhaps because the self-help tome Dianetics is regularly at the top of best-seller lists because the Church buys the books themselves, in mass quantities.
Maybe one day, when I am an ultra-successful movie star, living with my trophy wife in a mansion that is divided down the middle so I can safely romance members of my own sex without damaging my box office appeal, I will embrace the tenets of the Church of Scientology. But not today.
My plan to deprogram Travolta (or at least damage his self-esteem) didn't exactly work. But I think we can all rest assured that this Man of A Thousand-and-One Career-Ending Decisions will someday return to the land of obsolete celebrities. After all, a few more movies like Battlefield Earth and he's gonna need a lot more than Quentin Tarantino to save his ass from obscurity.