Friday, 02 July 2010 07:06
When he first announced the project to make training films for Academy students, LRH let us know that we would also be the actors in the films. The first shooting script was issued to the crew and we learned that it was called The Professional TR Course. There were about 30 scripts for tech films and he starts with the most fundamental of fundamentals, TRs.
We read the script and the story was, as many know, about a lousy field auditor who gets put through the wringer on a TRs course and is thus able to now get good results on his preclears. Believe it or not, the script did not read as a comedy, which the final product assuredly was. LRH just got the essentials down: the shot, the setting, the action, the characters and their dialogue.
We began discussing who should try out for which part. I was being pushed to try out for the lead character, Joseph Aaronberg Howard, and I wasn't altogether sure whether this was meant to be a reflection of my past auditing, though I hadn't really worked as a field auditor, just mission staff. But from some of my early TRs critiques it was pretty evident that I definitely could play the part of the bumbling Joe Howard. LRH set about to make sure I could play Joe Howard at the end of the film as well.
A few of us tried out for the lead role and I got the part. LRH sent me congratulations and began sending me despatches about what was expected, simply that this film was going to be the model of TRs for all Academy students in the world. Gee, is that all, Sir?
The auditors had resumed sending TR tapes back to LRH when he returned to the base at New Years and the responses were pretty good all around as I recall. I was auditing a couple of his messengers and would tape sessions and send them up for critiques. The replies were very helpful. LRH had a knack for zeroing in on the most major departure and commenting on that alone, which made it clear what you had to work on in cramming before your next submission. I was really proud when I received one tape back that was a pass. I think I was one of the first or maybe the first to get a pass.
Auditing a session was one thing and demonstrating TRs on film was another, however. One evening we assembled in the studio for some rehearsals. I was running through a scene and was playing it a little stiff, which is a kind self-assessment on my part. In reality, LRH must have thought he was trying to direct a pine log. He asked me what was going on and I said, truthfully, that I had a bit of attention on the camera. It wasn't even a real camera or certainly one that didn't have film in it. He handled my origination as evidenced by the fact that today I can't remember exactly what he said and the rest of the rehearsal went fine.
The next morning Rich Cohen, the new Qual Sec came to me saying we were going to go in session. "What for?" I said. "I don't need a session. I'm doing great."
"You have an LRH C/S in your folder," Rich replied, and off to session we went. LRH had C/Sed me to handle any engrams, etc., on the subject of cameras by running them out with Dianetics using good old R3R. Later that year, LRH issued the datum that someone who was Clear or OT should not be run on Dianetics. I feel fortunate that I made it under the wire because that session had the most immediate demonstrable effect on my case of any Dianetics I have received. Before that session I'd had no idea the devious uses a camera lens had. Guns, rays, lasers, all kinds of weapons can masquerade as a harmless camera. And I certainly had had my share of misadventures on all flows in that regard. Rich did a great job and from that day forward I've never had even a hint of camera shyness and certainly no attention whatsoever in front of a film camera. My unknowns regarding cameras got thoroughly handled in that single session. Clearly, LRH was going to use all the tools as his disposal to make a good film even if the lead actor can't sit calmly in front of a firing squad--errrr, film camera.
The film was a do it yourself project all the way. The old date packing plant was the studio. Two large storage sheds served as the costumes and make up areas. The Estates carpenters became the sets and props fabricators and sets began to show up in the studio. The opening scenes show Joe doing his routine TR renditions on a series of his preclears. The sets for these shots were meant to contribute to the mood of the scene and LRH went over the top in pushing that notion. He found resources that talked about mood lines in works of art, architecture and design and he applied them heavily in dressing and lighting these sets. Everything, sets, props, costumes, make up and lighting pushed the mood of the scene being filmed. LRH wanted no mistake made that these were the bad TRs. Of course, as an auditor, these were immensely fun to do. Chewing gum, doping off, hammering the meter when it won't work--it was fun to dramatize all the things that we as auditors do all the time in real sessions! (Just joking, people.)
I recall one scene where the preclear, Pam Daugherty, goes into a sad effect as a result of Joe's utter lack of TR 2. At the end of the scene she slumps down in her chair and the meter leads slide off the table, paralleling the depressing mood of the shot. LRH had Waldo lying just out of frame with a string tied to the leads and he pulled them at just the right moment to make them fall off the table. (Well, after the third of fourth take he did.) As I said, LRH crammed everything into every shot to forward the message he was trying to communicate.
One day I was in the make up shed and in walked LRH and a couple of messengers. He was wearing his opera cape and had on his black stetson and looked really sharp and was in a great mood. He wanted to run me through my lines for an upcoming scene where I'm auditing a pc through an engram on her feet.
"Let's hear your lines," he said.
I went through my scene including the line, "Scan through to the end of the incident."
LRH pulled out the script. "That's not how the line goes in the script. It says here, 'Move through to the end of the incident."
"Yes, I know, Sir," I back flashed, "but an actor has the right to vary his lines and Step C of R3R is 'Scan through to the end of the incident.' Every auditor in the world says it that way."
I was merely being a good soldier and saving the embarrassment of a wrong command going out in one of the tech films. Of course, LRH saw this as not only a red flag but a red skyrocket the size of Titan missile.
"What?" LRH said. "Get me the Dianetics pack," he said to a messenger who scurried off to Qual to find the pack. In a few minutes she was back and LRH opened it up to the Holy Grail of R3R procedure, BTB (I forget the date now) ROUTINE 3 REVISED, ENGRAM RUNNING BY CHAINS.
"I didn't write this," LRH said. "It's wrong. If the pc just scans through the incident he won't get enough charge off to unburden the chain."
And that was the conception of New Era Dianetics, which would be born several months later in July of 1978. Undoubtedly, NED would have eventually made its way into the world, but it was undoubtedly hastened by my fortunately unfortunate remark that morning.
Written by Joe Howard
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 18:48
After the FBI raid, LRH took off and if was radio silence from July until January 1978. However, plans were already in place to begin shooting technical training films. Sometime in 1977, LRH had mentioned to one of the key crew at WHQ, Stuart Moreau, that he had always wanted to make training films to show students how to do TRs and metering correctly. Stu said he would build him a film studio and, as far as I know, that was the genus of today's tech films.
There was an old date packing plant on the property and Stuie and the Estates guys got onto renovating it into something that would serve as a film studio. It wasn't large, maybe only 50 or 60 feet on a side with maybe 10 or 12 foot high ceilings and a couple of smaller rooms off against one of the walls, but it would do. Work on this continued throughout the rest of 1977 until LRH's return.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew (there were only around 60 or 70 total on the base including Commodore's Messengers, GO staff and LRH External Comm people) began doing an Actor's Course under the direction of Fred Hare, the legendary St. Hill and GO personality of "conning Jack Campbell" fame. Fred had been active in the theater before his St. Hill days and he set up an Actor's Course checksheet using a basic text entitled "An Actor Prepares."
The crew put in some time on the course over and above their usual study time throughout the fall so at least there would be some rudimentary understanding of acting amongst the crew, who were to be the performers in the films.
Right around New Years 1978 there was a tremendous flurry of activity at the base. Those of us not in the know had no idea what was going on but things got real active for many days. There were lots of fires going in the big fireplace outside near one of the swimming pools. Tons, probably, of sensitive documents were being disposed of. All hands clean up of the entire base went on to make the place presentable. In Qual, we undertook was seemed to me to be the dumbest activity I had ever seen: we went through pc folders and with razor blades cut out from worksheets any mentions of LRH.
Soon after New Year's the reason for all the activity became obvious: LRH returned. Some messengers had been up for days without sleep and collapsed. But the mood on the base was very high: the Boss had come back home.
LRH wasted no time getting back on the lines. He started calling for session tapes from Qual and when these didn't show any improvement from the ones he had seen the past July he came down hard on Qual Sec Rick Merwin, who none of us particularly liked and were glad to see leave the base along with the rest of the GO staff and his wife Nikki who was Mary Sue's right hand assistant. LRH did an analysis of what had gone in Qual since he'd left and concluded that Merwin basically sabotaged his efforts to train the auditors in correct auditor beingness. If Merwin ever returned to the base he was not to be on an executive post but be posted as a carpenter. He considered the lack of progress of the auditors quite serious.
LRH was not one for mincing words or actions. In mid January when he found out that one of the auditors had mishandled the CO of WHQ, Wayne Marple and that Wayne was laid up with a bad back, he assigned the entirety of Qual 75 hours of amends for allowing this to happen to the CO, stating in the WHQ ED assigning the amends, "There is such a thing as auditor conscience." We weren't quite sure that this all meant, but we for sure knew that he meant business. We began getting up early to put in time white gloving a dusty warehouse full of LRH's gear before post time. Before too long, though, that amends project got buried beneath more pressing matters. In fact, a few months later, we were spending our libs day putting in time on our amends and LRH was next door shooting. He came out during a break and when he found out what we were doing, he said to get out of here and take our libs. He could see that the point had been made and that basically ended cycle for him on his original point. We were happy to comply and headed off the nearby Palm Springs for a movie and dinner. But I digress.
One day in mid-January word came down that were were going to begin working on the tech films. Scheduled first was a sort of shake down cruise called "Get Your Feet Wet." This was a day of shooting in the newly renovated DPP (Date Packing Plant) where the crew could get used to the mechanics of film shooting and allow us to "get our feet wet."
Someone had written up a couple of scripts, short scenes really, that were meant to familiarize the crew with how film shooting was done. Believe me, not one of us had a goddam clue. These were auditors, estates carpenters, galley hands, messengers and the like. Not one professional cameraman, sound man, set dresser, makeup artist or actor among the bunch of us. It was strictly, in the best LRH tradition, do it yourself all the way. I don't mean that sarcastically. LRH didn't achieve what he did in his lifetime by waiting for others to show him how. He decided what he wanted to do and he started right in.
LRH had a couple 16 mm film cameras and some sound recording equipment from his lecturing days. A unit was set up in LA, MEAM (an acronym for something about equipment acquisition) and they started buying up lights, sets and props materials and everything needed to make a film.
At any rate, I got cast as an actor in one of these beginning skits. I was the clueless husband who comes home from work and finds his wife a little missed withholdy and also finds a man's cap on his favorite chair. The mystery stemming from my inability to spot out-points soon gives way to a sense of good fortune when I find out that the cap fits. Now that I think of it, these practice scripts could only have been written by LRH.
He, of course, had the post of Director. He was the only one who had the vaguest idea of what was going on. As a crew, we were willing but utterly unhatted, so he exercised great patience on these first shoots. Terri Gamboa had worked with LRH during the Photoshoot Org days in the Caribbean and Don Bateman apparently knew something about cameras, so they became the Camera personnel. DM and Marc Yager became the video team. LRH realized that a great film saving and time saving action was to shoot the scene rehearsals on video and view them back, making any needed corrections and when satisfied everything was okay only then shoot it on film. David Wilson, who was LRH's sound recordist at the time, along with Marc Ferriera, an electrician, were the sound guys. Different people who had some sort of experience in other areas were assigned to other departments. If you could sew, you went into costumes. If you had used makeup, you went into makeup. Hammer and saws guys went into sets. A tall guy like Robbie Robinson, who was about 6' 6'' became a gaffer (a lighting guy).
I think we did a couple of indoor shoots and then a couple days later an outdoor shoot was scheduled. Outdoor shoots require different lighting techniques and sound recording techniques and different camera settings, all of which is very complex and which I never had much interest in. The night before the outdoor shoot it rained and was stormy the next morning and so the CO, Wayne Marple, cancelled the shoot. Big mistake of his part.
LRH hit the roof when he found out. We were down in Qual going about our usual post actions when word came down that the shoot was going to go ahead as planned and we had better get out onto the location on the double. I'll never forget the sight as I hustled outside. It was a blustery morning and the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds. Needles from the tamarisk trees and palm fronds were blowing this way and that and up the path in an equally blustery mood came LRH. He wore a black stetson and had on an opera cape that billowed out behind him in the wind and he was pissed. He had intended to begin shooting at 9:00 a.m. and nothing like a little old cross order from the org CO was going to stop him. I watched in amazement, but only for a moment, as the weather matched his mood perfectly. The guy could really thunder when circumstances called for it.
The shoot began, albeit late, and the skit that day had something to do with a girl in a bikini out by a swimming pool. I forget the specifics. I think my job that day was holding sunny boards, the square silver reflective boards that were used to direct the sunlight around the scene. Once shooting began LRH's mood lightened up considerably as he got down to the actions of shooting outdoor scenes. In my experience LRH was never one to hang onto things. Once something was handled, that was it and all was forgiven. He truly had an ability to observe when a condition had changed and he was the most fluid person in life of any I've ever been around. Everybody knows someone who blows up at the drop of a hat or makes a mountain out of a mole hill. LRH could probably do both (I never saw him mess with any mole hills so that's why I say probably) but he always reacted in present time to the circumstances that existed at the moment. I'm not trying to paint a Pollyanna picture here but my personal experiences with him were that he truly lived in the moment and dealt with what was in front of him always with an eye to getting a product. LRH lived for production and I've been told this by messengers who worked very closely with him for years.
That day the clouds gave us problems the whole time as the light levels changed almost continually, but LRH took it all in stride; his only admonishments were for everybody to be in their places when the sun came back out, because we didn't know how much time we'd have to get the shot in the can.
Early in the afternoon there was a cloudburst and he told us all to take a break and grab some lunch so we secured the gear and went over to Palms where sandwiches were waiting. I went outside after eating and saw another sight I'd never seen before or since. Off to the east as the sky cleared, I saw a perfectly formed double rainbow, large and crystal clear. The entire day had been a metaphor for me personally and I wonder what the rest of the crew took from the experience.
These Get Your Feet Wet shoots seemed to be going well and I felt that in a month or two of drilling and practice we'd be ready to get down to business.
In LRH's world, however, I soon learned that was added time in the extreme and an outpoint of magnitude.
Written by Joe Howard
Thursday, 24 June 2010 11:05
The central building at WHQ was called Palms. It was a Spanish style two story house, nothing remarkable about it at all. Kitchen, dining area and living room downstairs, two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs and a basement. The living room served as mess hall and course room for the crew. The messengers ate in the dining area and studied there. Qual was in the basement.
A couple days after our chance meeting with LRH, we were alerted that he was coming down to Qual to talk to us. We got word through the messengers that he'd met a couple of the new auditors and they didn't look too bad so he was coming down to see who had been assembled. None of the other recruits had run into him despite having been there for a few weeks already.
We spent the early part of the morning making the basement look as presentable as a basement can be made to look. It was large enough to hold a desk and three 6 foot folding tables and a few filing cabinets. The furnace room served as the Qual Sec's office and folder storage. I mean, this was the Qual Division of LRH's personal org and it was situated in a basement and not a large one at that. I don't think LRH gave a rat's ass what a place looked like so long as it was clean. So, we neatened the place up and got rid of the dust. LRH definitely didn't like dust.
About 10:00 that morning we heard the door at the top of the stairs open and that unmistakable voice commenting to someone about something and down the stairs he came. Assembled were us new recruits and the existing Qual staff: Rick Merwin, Qual Sec; Paulette Cohen, C/S and LRH Tech Expeditor (precursor to the Snr C/S Int post); Rich Cohen, Cram Off; Justin Stratmanm, Medical Liaison Officer; and the newly recruited auditors: Sue Koon, Waldo (Bob Waldmann, but no one ever called him Bob, not even LRH; he was and always will be Waldo); Chuck Holloway; Nancy Rhodes; Dick Stratman, Justin's father; Blake Huffam, an engineer from the Apollo days; Pam Daugherty; Carol Spurlock (Lyman's wife-Lyman wouldn't arrive until later that year), myself and I think that was about it.
LRH came in and we all stood up and applauded. He still had that incredibly cool mock-up with the hair, goatee and cowboy hat. Maybe someday some photos of that period will emerge.
He sat down on a credenza and said he thought he would come down and say welcome to the club. He said hello particularly to Blake who he knew from the ship. He talked about wanting to make some auditors and said that he always had to keep a few sharks around to keep tech standards in line. As I recall, he said we were going to be getting the crew, which contained a bunch of fairly raw recruits as part of the Estates force (we were at least trained auditors; these other guys were newly off the street drug cases some of them), through their Objectives and Drug Rundowns.
That was the gist of that first talk. We were of course thrilled, and a few days later, he came down and talked to us again. This time he talked about research he was doing on the E-Meter. He had found some problems with the old Delta American Mark V meters and mentioned a paper written by Peter Cook on the meter. LRH said that the American Mk Vs didn't F/N and that work was beginning on the Mark VI which was going to have a built in tone arm counter, clock and all sorts of goodies. He proceeded to talk a bit about TRs and metering and how these relate to a pc's case gain.
As I mentioned in the first article, LRH's default tone seemed to be a kind of serene amusement. His voice was deeper than you'd recognize from Briefing Course lectures and, it seemed to me, even richer. I noticed that his voice had changed after his research on OT III in early 1967. He must have been 66 or 67 at WHQ and some of the vitality from earlier days seemed to have been replaced by a less animated, but still very, very large, beingness. He was definitely pushing around an older body and so seemed a little slower in movement but was still as sharp as ever mentally and seemed awfully at ease.
The following week he gave a third and final talk and this was his talk on auditor beingness which we later issued as a bulletin. Over the years, LRH had talked about what makes a good auditor but he'd never approached it from the angle of the auditor's beingness and how the auditor's attitude toward the session or the pc would color his TRs. In that talk he gave us the assignment to sort out our beingnesses as auditors and once we had that sorted out to begin recording sessions and sending these along to him so he could give us critiques on our TRs. We were more or less in a constant state of electrification being directly on LRH's lines and now sending session tapes to him. We began getting critiques back which were enormously helpful, except for my first one, which simply said, "No voice." I was nervous sending a tape of my session to LRH and the nerves showed in a really messed up renditon of TRs. Naturally I took some crap from other auditors who began calling me No Voice until I got another critique back which was more along the lines of what was expected.
LRH had an incredible knack to cut directly to the most fundamental departure in an auditor's TRs and session presence. Ordinarily, the assignment consisted of an instruction to review one's auditor beingness to discover what was still awry that was influencing the TRs one way or another. We all made some really good progress and the session critiques were improving on an almost daily basis (the story of which LRH wrote into a Tech Film, TR 16, Auditor Beingness).
And then in July 1977, the FBI raided the Complex in LA.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 00:04
I joined the S.O. in June 1977. The previous year I had finished the St. Hill Special Briefing Course, which, as most know, involves listening to hundreds of LRH lectures given between 1961 and 1966. Every night for 3 hours it is just you and LRH and this goes on for months. When you finish the course it's a distinct letdown not having that comm line.
At any rate, I knew I was joining the SO to become an auditor under LRH. That was the recruitment pitch we were given.
The picture I had of LRH in my mind was from the photos we've all seen. I knew I was going to meet him one day and I figured he would just be LRH like we've all come to know him.
My second day at the La Quinta base, or Winter Headquarters as it was known, WHQ, I was going around the base with my wife, Sue, doing an orientation to the base. The previous day we had gotten a security briefing from Brian Roubinek, a GO guy, who made it sound like the most cloak and dagger operation imaginable. No uniforms, no Scn terms used outside or it was a Treason assignment, everyone had an alias, that kind of thing. The second day we were going from building to building getting oriented to the different spaces. WHQ was a conglomeration of buildings that were once part of a "fat farm" where corporate executives could chill out and lose some excess avoirdupois. The base was hard up against some jagged bare mountains and across the street was the La Quinta Country Club. Clusters of buildings were separated by a couple of date palm fields and the place was hotter than the hinges of hell for the first four months we were there.
Anyway, we are doing our orientation and we're walking up a wide cement road that ran in front of some stables when we spied a small group of people at the far end. As we got closer ... hey, could it be ... yes, there was LRH in the flesh. Pretty cool, our second day there and, damn, it's LRH himself.
We approached and he spotted us. We walked up and introduced ourselves and shook his hand, saying we were new Qual auditors. He welcomed us and we made small talk for a couple minutes. Mostly LRH talking because we were kind of in awe.
Like I said, we've all seen pictures of LRH, but his mockup during that period was nothing that I'd ever seen in a photograph. Out from under his Stetson flowed golden red hair down onto his shoulders. He had enormous white mutton chop sideburns and a gray and white goatee. The guy looked like freaking Wild Bill Hickock. He wore a bolo tie, a shirt and vest, gray/blue trousers and spiffy cowboy boots. I mean he looked really, really sharp. He was The Dude before the Coen brothers could even spell the word.
LRH made us feel totally at home. As we came to understand, this was his default tone level. He would slide all over the Tone Scale, but his default setting was a kind of serene cheerfulness. Others who worked with him for longer than me probably have other impressions, but that was my observation. At one point my wife was sort of just staring at him and he turned to a messenger and said, "She's in shock."
Sue piped up, "No, I'm not!" At which point he turned back to a messenger and said, "Quick, get in the protest button."
As we left, his parting words were, "If you find something around the place that's out, handle it. I don't want to hear about it," said with a hearty chuckle.
And off we went to continue our drill.
Written by Joe Howard, sitting on a beach in Sweden, 11:30 at night and there is still light in the western sky. Life connected to Source is grand.