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Be Like Tom Cruise .... Join the Scientologists

Chilling new sales pitch lures young to cult

Cult religious groups in Britain are using the names of top Hollywood stars to sign up young people.

Scientologists comb the streets looking for potential targets then list a string of famous names to tempt people back to their headquarters for interrogation.

There they launch into a selling routine that makes time-share salesmen look like amateurs.

Reeling off celebrity names such as Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers, Sonny Bono and Anne Archer, they tell their prey that all owe their success to the Church of Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Student Marie Richardson visited the Scientolgist's London base after being approached in trendy Kensington High Street.

Marie, 20, said: "When I showed hesitation they said Tom Cruise was a member of their church to try to impress me. They also mentioned Kirstie Alley and John Travolta.

"They said Cruise had joined just before he made the film Born On the Fourth of July and that was why his acting had improved so dramatically."

Our reporter Andrew Penman experienced the full power of their steam-roller recruiting technique at the Scientology Centre in Tottenham Court Road, Central London.

It began innocently enough when a young cult follower recruiting in the street outside persuaded him to take a "20-minute personality test".

There was no mention of Scientology or Hubbard. Two hours later he was still there.

HAPPINESS

The test consists of 200 questions ranging from the laughable: "Do you browse through railway timetables or dictionaries just for pleasure?" to the worrying "Would you agree to strict discipline?"

SEVERAL ASKED VARIATIONS OF THE THEME: "DO YOU SMILE READILY?"

NOT BY THE END OF THIS TEST.

Ten minutes later the computer verdict came back. Personal stability was rated on a score of plus 100 to minus 100. He rated minus 97. When it came to happiness he rated minus 99.

Andrew was ushered into a tiny private room. He said, "A woman called Pam brought me the bad news: I needed help, quickly followed by the good news: Scientology could offer it. "What followed was a comprehensive character assassination. I could not concentrate at work, I was a nervous wreck, my opinions and decisions counted for nothing, and my relationships were a mess. In a nutshell said Pam: 'You do not know what to do, what to think, what to believe in life.'

"Making my excuses, I got up to leave. It was not as easy as that. First I had to meet Fiona, she insisted. Fiona walked in and studied the computer printout with alarm. "If you do not do anything this will only get worse," she warned.

I WONDERED HOW MUCH WORSE A HAPPINESS RATING OF MINUS 99 COULD GET ON A SCALE THAT ONLY WENT AS FAR AS MINUS 100.

"I had posed as a photocopier salesman with an interest in amateur dramatics. Fiona pounced. Scientology would help my acting, she declared. More than that, it would transform my entire life, just as it had transformed others.

"Cheers star Kirstie Alley was a cocaine addict before Scientology came to the rescue. John Travolta got where he is today thanks to Scientology. Tom Cruise too. And that person from The Waltons who plays one of the children. 'John Boy?' I asked. No, a girl.

"APPARENTLY SHE WAS ANOTHER FINE TESTAMENT TO THE WONDERS OF SCIENTOLOGY. IT WAS A PITY NONE OF US COULD THINK OF HER NAME."

Being enlightened by the Church of Scientology does not come cheap. Anyone hooked by the free personality test will find themselves paying out at least 50,000 (British pounds) over the next months as they wade through courses for communication, removing guilt and locating evil intentions.

Once you are proved to be "clear" the cash goes on study to release negative body spirits and learning the final answer - rumoured to be that L. Ron Hubbard is God.

TRAVOLTA LAUGHS OFF SPLIT

Superstar John Travolta last night denied that his summe wedding to actress Kelly Preston is off. His Hollywood publicist, Michelle Vega, said reports that the star of Look Who's Talking had developed cold feet were "nonsense". The stories quoted Kelly's mother but Michelle said: "She says she hasn't spoken to anyone and would have no reason to say that the wedding has been called off." Travolta, 37, has been fighting magazine claims that he had gay affairs and that he was afraid to leave the Church of Scientology because details of his sex life would be made public. The actor says the rumours are untrue.