WHY DID LISA Marie Presley and Michael Jackson get married?
Love, if you believe her press release, the one pledging to
"dedicate my life to being his wife."
Or, according to speculation from Hollywood, Jackson is
rehabbing his image and simultaneously consummating the ultimate
entertainment empire merger.
But another possibility is circulating among the
conspiracy-minded former members of the Church of Scientology. It's
an astounding theory - that the church itself helped arrange the
Presley-Jackson union. But these defectors say that nothing about
Scientology would astound them.
"Scientology has been known to tell people to get divorced or
married for public relations purposes," says Lawrence Wollersheim,
a former Scientology celebrity handler who won $2.5 million in
damages from the church after he sued it for alleged brainwashing.
Lisa Marie Presley, the only daughter of Elvis Presley and the
King's only heir, has been a Scientologist since childhood. Her
mother, Priscilla, is said to have joined the church about a year
after Elvis' death.
Lisa Marie was married to a prominent Scientologist, Danny
Keough, but quickly and quietly dissolved that union to marry
Jackson in the Dominican Republic in May.
Keough's younger brother, Thomas - also a Scientologist - was
an official witness of the Jackson-Presley nuptials. The Church of
Scientology International issued a statement this week wishing the
newlyweds "the very best for a joyful future."
So what does this add up to? The hot theory among former
Scientologists is that the church previously selected Jackson for
recruitment and, in the words of Wollersheim, used Lisa Marie as
"Stars are heavily recruited, and you can be sure that Michael
Jackson was targeted," says one ex-Scientologist who worked at
Celebrity Centre, the church's social hub for its glamorous members
in Los Angeles.
"Why would she marry him? The only answer is Scientology,"
speculates another church defector who worked as a liaison with
people in entertainment.
"A complete fabrication," responds Karin Pouw, an L.A.
spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, which was incorporated
by pulp science-fiction writer L. Ron (for Lafayette Ronald)
Hubbard 40 years ago and has waged war against detractors in the
press, the government and the medical establishment ever since.
In a faxed statement, Pouw added: "There is no factual
substance to the rumor that there is a project to `recruit'
celebrities. Any such reports by `former members' or in past media
articles are false."
It's true that the church has long treasured celebrities for
the seeming legitimacy and publicity they bring. Scientology
Celebrity Centres - there are 13 around the globe - "offer a
distraction-free environment which is free of drugs and the other
harmful influences that often plague celebrity lifestyles,"
according to Pouw.
Stars, of course, bring with them lots of cash and might be
magnets to prospective members.
"One of my jobs was to get celebrities active, to convince them
they should hustle and promote Scientology," recalls Robert Vaughn
Young, a publicity officer in most of his 20 years in the church.
As early as 1955, Hubbard offered plaques and free seminars to
induce followers to bring in celebrity "quarry." A Scientology
magazine listed luminaries such as Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, Walt
Disney and Jackie Gleason as potential candidates for "auditing" -
that is, the problem-solving technique Hubbard advanced in his best
The hunt was dubbed "Project Celebrity," and later church
documents point to the importance of "using Scientology celebrities
to mold the opinions of their publics."
Current stars involved with Scientology include actors Tom
Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Anne Archer. …