At Large My Kind of Tourism
posted by May 29 at 19:09 PMon
Like I said, there’s not a lot going on at BEA today. There are programs for aspiring writers at the actual convention center and there’s bookselling school going on at the hotel, but I won’t hear anything about how those went until later tonight. So I found myself in the odd (for me) position of wandering down Hollywood Boulevard with nothing to do.
Then I happened upon a building that looked like a bank. Over the door, it said “The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition.” My next hour was mapped before my very eyes. I wandered inside.
The first thing you see upon walking inside the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition is a waterfall with a bust of L. Ron Hubbard. To the right, there is a welcoming desk and a woman with a weird Dutch accent. To the left, there is a giant wall of quotes from many luminaries about what L. Ron Hubbard means to them. There is a quote from Tom Cruise, Actor, of course, and Nancy Cartwright, Voice of Bart Simpson from TV’s The Simpsons and so on and so on.
Then the weird Dutch lady summoned a man with a weird Dutch accent. His stripey tie perfectly matched his stripey shirt. I was to go with the man. We went through a door that required a security badge and then, suddenly, I was awash in Hubbard.
And you will be, too, if you follow me after the jump.
The first exhibit in the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition is the Adventurer and Explorer exhibit. There’s a facsimile of Hubbard’s Boy Scout merit badge sash, with 21 badges. We are told, through a PowerPoint display, that Hubbard was the youngest boy to ever be declared Eagle Scout, at the age of 13.
Clearly, the man was already a deity.
Also, he traveled the world and the seven seas,And he was apparently inducted into the Blackfeet tribe of indians when he was a boy, too. It all reminded me of that kid’s show, Duck Tales. They talk about “Ron’s” experiences as a sailor and pilot, and he would eventually explore “the world an inch behind our foreheads.” They also say that he climbed a live volcano. This is what those of us in Hollywood refer to as “dramatic foreshadowing,” because once Scientologists get through a certain level of their training, the part where they learn how to psychoanalyze their friends and total strangers, they are taught that aliens implanted bad feelings in volcanoes long before humans ever strode the earth. Of course, they don’t cover that part in the Life Exhibition.
There were lots of manuscripts and journals, and I told my guide that I was impressed that all this stuff was on display, all the original writings. He informed me that everything was a facsimile of the originals. Oh.
Ron went on to write for the pulps, and they have a display of a New York newsstand, complete with a mannequin dressed as a…um…news-stand guy. The pulps that Ron wrote for are on display there. I’m not sure if they’re the actual pulps, but I’ll assume that they’re facsimiles. Then there’s a movie theater set-up where they show Ron’s career in Hollywood.
And then there’s a giant life-size diorama from Battlefield Earth of an alien enslaving a human. The Dutch guy explained the plot of Battlefield Earth to me with somber, Dutch-like intonations. And then he showed me the even awesomer diorama from Mission Earth, Hubbard’s late-life ten-part sci-fi novel. “They had to devise a new word to explain the series: a decalogy!” chirped the voice over. The diorama was of an evil warlord—who bore a striking resemblance to Hubbard—and his henchman flying a space ship. The plot of the novels is that the evil space warlord steals Earth heroin and brings it back to his planet to hook the leaders of the revolution. Dutchman was even more sincere about this one.
And then we went upstairs and I got the regular old Scientology shpiel, after being forced to look at a set of ten horrendous velvet paintings of Hubbard studying other cultures. I took an E-Meter test that seemed strangely inconclusive. (Like every other person who’s read Dianetics but thinks this is all malarkey, I have secretly suspected that I am “clear.” I am not clear. But I am inscrutable, at least.)
And then, after a walk down the Way To Happiness, explaining Scientology’s 21 Commandments, came the unveiling. There was a gold lame curtain that, to a fake-sounding fanfare, parted to reveal a giant wall of awards. Dutchman said that these just represent a fifth of the awards that Hubbard won in his lifetime. And then the wall split to reveal…another wall of awards.
And another. Until finally you’re face to face with a giant portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, flanked by dozens of awards and gold lame curtains, and an audio clip of Hubbard explaining what Scientology really is. I couldn’t really pay attention, because I kept expecting the picture to fall aside and reveal a tiny little man on a megaphone, which would cause the Dutchman to scream “Pay no attention to der man behind der kurtain!”
But instead it was over, and we were back in the entry way in front of the booth facing the Dutch lady. The man gave me a card. And he let me go. I thanked him.