[Occupied Clearwater: one city, one cult]Tilman's vacation diary (Clearwater 1998)

Products of the following companies have somehow directly or indirectly helped in this vacation:

CANON
Kodak
Fuji
Lewi Strauss
Ciba-Geigy
Pfizer
One Stoppe Shoppe
Boeing
Tamrac
Bayer
Coca-Cola

Preparations: I bought myself an SLR camera (CANON EOS 500N), because I was unsatisfied with my fotos at previous pickets: I need to zoom, and do so far away. I bought two zoom lenses, 28-80 and 75-300. (I decided against buying an camera with the new APS system, because of the lower resolution, high prices and too recent technology). I also bought a bag for the camera that can be used like a belt, and a knappsack. As film, I used the 400 kind. I felt it is a good compromise between color, speed and grain, although it is a bit expensive. (1000 are too grainy, and anything less than 400 would not be "fast" enough).


2.12: Travel
I woke up at 4:15am, couldn't sleep. In Frankfurt my flight wasn't listed. At the desk I was told that my flight was cancelled and to proceed to another desk. There I was booked on another flight that went through a different city. I wrote a fax for Jeff to announce my new arrival time, and authenticated it with the secret code (to prevent interference from scientology).

The first movie was "The mask of Zorro". High "babeness" factor thanks to Catherine "Zeta" Jones who looks exactly how one expects hispanic beauties of the previous century to look (4 stars of 5). (Hispanic beauties of this century look like Maria Conchita Alonso, e.g. in "Running man")

Second movie was "Snake Eyes", it is about a tough-talking cop who investigates a murder (3 stars of 5).

Third movie was "Return to paradise". It is yet another variation of "caught with drugs in 3rd world country". Boyish female attorney who looks like an "Ellen" clone tries to persuade two guys to return so that 3rd guy doesn't hang (if they "spread" the amount of dope, he is no longer considered to be a dealer). It is more a play than a movie. At the end the attorney looks no longer boyish and falls in love with one guy who lands in jail (no nudity - airline version!), the guy who has to hang does hang (because the judge hates foreign media), the third guy is smart enough to get his ass out of there real quick, but he does not get the girl, so basically everyone is a loser. (2 stars of 5)

I saw many people in the plane without seatbelts, even a family with a child. Don't these folks watch the news? The two incidents a few months ago were widely shown, where people hit the roof of the plane because of unexpected turbulences.

At the breakfast there was "Oldenburger Butter". This reminded me of the quote of the new german agriculture minister: "Oldenburger Butter hilft Dir auf die Mutter". (means something like "This butta helps you to get on momma")

While watching the movies, I also reviewed two papers by/about cult apologists (i.e. I did something productive), by James T. Richardson and Stephen Kent. The flight to Tampa was in an old 727. I asked the flight attendant the age of the plane. The response was "That's a very good question". Jeff picked me up, there was no counter-picket by scientologists, and I met the folks (except Catarina who was sleeping) at the hotel lounge. Jeff was driving a Dodge Neon. Since this is done by Chrysler I explained that we were actually riding in a german car. We later went to a restaurant where I had some small stuff, including a new england clam chowder and fried oysters. I had eaten too much on the plane before so I didn't have a "full" dinner.


3.12: Checking out the place
I woke up at 6:30 because some moron had left the alarm on. I went into the pool (warm!), had breakfast, and Grady Ward and I went on a tourist tour. As we approached the Fort Harrison Hotel (the Scientology "spiritual" headquarter) a bicycle "guard" approached us and asked questions. At that time we had not even done a single fotograph, but apparently he didn't like people with cameras. We gave him our names (Wilhelm Klink and Georg Schultz) and told him we were german tourists. We then made some fotos of the place, and were fotographed too, by a guy later nicknamed by others "the green booger". He had problems operating his camera, so we gave him tips. Other scientologists usually ran away when they saw us.

I think we had his picture quicker than he had ours - I doubt he ever got it. (I doubt he ever did a foto of me without holding my camera, but I did many of him and he will get his special web site!) It was hilarious. Scientology called the police; when they came we had a short discussion and the result was that we had not committed any infraction.

We had originally planned to meet lots of scientologists coming out at 12. But it didn't happen. They ate inside - I saw cheap bread being delivered. We then went to another place - the "bank" building. 50-100 scientologists in uniform were crossing the street - excellent group foto opportunity. Normally, a "group" is always stronger than a few individuals - but here the group looked scared, when approached by two guys, one wearing a "scientology kills" T-Shirt. No one of them said anything to anybody. Zombies. Any normal group would have confronted us, said hello, asked questions, etc.

We ate in "Ottavio's place" (near the "bank" building). I had an excellent linguini with clams. Grady liked his food, too. We had a chat with the manager and he showed the dilemma of Clearwater businesses. He is rather neutral on scientology, but his business is less and less since they are in town - scientologists are usually not big spenders. The corner Harrison/Cleveland is actually supposed to be the "center" of Clearwater - but it is mostly deserted!

While making fotos of a scientologist girl who had sought "rescue" in the "Scoop du jour" restaurant, the manager came out and started yelling. And Lo! Grady made a foto of him. Apparently his business relies on the scientologists from the building nearby.

I was running out of film. I entered the "one stoppe shoppe" near the corner Cleveland/Harrison, and bought two rolls, paid with cash, and left. One minute later an angry person stormed out of the store and told us that he was a scientologist and that we should never enter again - because we are protesting against scientology (I was wearing a $CIENTOLOGY KILLS T-Shirt). I said that this is religious discrimination, he agreed, tried to snap a polaroid foto of me, and said he called the police. At first I was angry to have done business with a scientologist (he offered to refund, said that he had been upstairs and hadn't seen what happened) - but then I realized that a scientologist had actually helped me in my activities! Grady had called a cab in the meantime (from the payphone of the store), and we left. The fun was not over - police started to follow the cab! But then either the cab lost the cop, or the cop stopped following it.

A few days later, employees of a store near the One Stoppe Shoppe asked if they could buy "$cientology KILLS" T-Shirts. (No)

We also learned a new "tech" that would help us the next days. By observing the moves of the "guards", we could "guess" where the scientologists were coming on the streets.

When back at the hotel we were told by someone that scientology had messed up their whole schedule, and that scientology had called the cops three times because of "two german tourists". We went eating to the "key west" grill where I had a large steak.


4.12: The press conference
This time no disturbance of the press conference happened. Some "celebrities" attended as spectators: former Mayor Gabe Cazares and Lt (ret) Emmons! Stacy Young spoke first and told that she had been locked up and wants this to be stopped. At some point she cried and could no longer continue. Then, Jesse Prince spoke, then Arnie and Frank Oliver. Arnie spoke very well, it is a complete change from his "written" appearance on the internet. Karsten came in between but cried because of having been abused by scientology attorney Kenny Moxon in the deposition so he couldn't speak. Jesse told about how he had tried to live after all these years and then suddenly saw Bob Minton and Stacy Young on television. Bob Minton did also talk, his part was the funniest, he described the assault that scientologist Frank Ofman had done and spoke about his (Bob's) upcoming trial for assaulting Frank with a "dangerous weapon" (a balsa stick - Boston police had said to him that even a sandwich would considered to be a "dangerous weapon". It reminded me of the Monty Python sketch "Attack me with a banana!"). Karsten had separate interviews later. (We later saw hilarious excerpts of Minton's speech on evening television)

We then had a briefing by the CWPD which explained the "rules" and also that there would be a zero tolerance policy for both sides.

I met Beverly for the first time... she is a nice person, the kind you would trust to watch your children. With her hair and her appearance, she reminds me of a XX year old Pippi Longstockings.

A few of us (including Catarina) went for a cultural trip - we ate at HOOTERS (the very first HOOTERS was created in Clearwater). Sadly we got only a place outside, and the best girls were working inside. One had to go to the restroom to see them. Many did look gorgeous.

We went to the picket; the sidewalk was partly closed, and they had put additional fences over the wall to prevent us fotographing. Patricia (TFC VP) was sitting on a newspaper box, it was an amazing presence. Lots of cars honked. Maybe next picket she will do cheerleading!

In the evening we went to a "mexican" restaurant. I had some Margaritas (new to me!). Dr. Ed Lottick was there. (His son, scientologist Noah Lottick, had committed suicide). The optical similarity with his son is amazing. He described what scientology-paid investigator Eugene Ingram had done a few years ago.


5.12: Lisa McPherson picket day
Scientology had no event for Lisa McPherson, although several people said that they were "her friends". We were not her friends and did not even know her before she died, but we do care about how she died.

As a reaction of people having fotographed between the fence and the walls of the Fort Harrison Hotel, scientology had put tape between.

Scientology's own sidewalk was closed due to their "event" (actually no event did take place). I made some more tele fotos. The anonymous Canadian "Deep Wog", known for his hilarious foto of Al "Buttface" Buttnor, lent me his 420mm lens. (We both work with CANON, and so does D.W. Pierce - so think about this when going to the store!) So heavy that one has to hold it by the lens. Light was excellent.

Later I made fotos of scientologists loading food, and at a group entering one of their facilities. One yelled at me and asked for my name. I gave it to him (Wilhelm Klink), and he repeated it. (Acknoledgement is very important for them). He was then called inside by his supervisor, a tall blond guy whom I saw often, a mix of Lee Majors and Tom Skerritt.

We then had lunch. I did not eat because my stomach was upset after driving around. Dr. Lottick was sitting opposite me at lunch and I asked him what people should care for when picketing. His advice was simple: 1. drink lots of fluids and 2. don't stand too long in the sun. Coincidence: not following advice (1) is what killed Lisa McPherson. Luckily, I had already following his advice even before receiving it.

We then went to "our" event. (Scientology had accidentally left that "window" open so we had three hours exclusively in the front of the Fort Harrison Hotel. Scientologists were often coming in and out of darkened vans. The green booger was making pictures of people regularly, and some (including me) made fotos of them with him. He is probably the most fotographed Scientologist. Scientology had set up Christmas music in the Garage entry to prevent us from yelling information towards them. Many cars honked and people yelled "it's about time".

At 6:30pm we had a break to change T-Shirts, for the candle-light vigil. Many residents of Clearwater were coming, and I chatted with a woman from Rumania. Her husband had joined Scientology and she had not. The result is that the family has been destroyed, the children changed. I told her not to lose contact with the children, and wrote down Steve Hassan's book for her to read.

The candle-light vigil started at 7pm. It was done on the sidewalk and on the grass of the pink Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church near the Fort Harrison Hotel (Jeff had asked them, they didn't mind). Dell Liebreich (the aunt of Lisa McPherson) had come. (She had received death threats, as I learned later). Gregg Hagglund spoke a few words, the bagpiper (sucked! She had no talent!) did one song. Gregg then spoke the poem written by Charlotte Kates. It was wonderful, and Dell Liebreich was crying. A wreath was taken and put on the lap of "Nukewaster" (the girl in the wheelchair), and we walked / rolled silently to the back of the "Hotel", near the room where Lisa had died after 17 days of captivity. People then put their flowers down and we left.

"Deep Wog" had planned to hide to capture the moment when Scientology (in the person of the green booger) would remove the wreath, as done last year. We later learned that he was discovered, but that another person took all the materials, and planned to put it on his church, because he knew that Scientology would take it away.

Some went to the Clearwater beach hotel, I didn't for some reason; went eating with a few critics nearby.

After that, I had an interesting conversation with a female critic. The conversation was about ADHD. I recently read (in the Frankfurt airport) an article in my newspaper that people who have ADHD are actually "hunters", and that their behaviour would have been useful many thousands years ago; but when the human race evolved to farming, such people were no longer useful. Today, their behaviour can only be useful in jobs like e.g. stock broking and similar. Since a few months, I have considered the possibility that I do actually have ADHD. Another conversation with that person was about fashion trends in male swimsuits, especially my own.


6.12: beached
Nukewaster, Sandy, Karsten and me had planned to go swim on Clearwater Beach. Before this we picked up films, water and sunscreen. I also took copies of the Weekly World News, National Enquirer and The Star. (I always like to read the "worst" of media). We also visited the Virgin Mary building.

A plane was circling with the text: SCIENTOLOGY REMEMBER LISA MCPHERSON.

[Image of plane with banner]
Copyright Grady Ward, used with permission

Water was good at the beach, and it wasn't crowded. Sand was fine. I did swim there, and so did Karsten. As we left, we met a local who encouraged us.

We had lunch at Schlotzky's, I liked their food. We then went picketing as usual. But someone had found a site where people, among them children and elderly, were working under terrible conditions. Girls were spraying paint without wearing a mask, a guy welding with electricity (the kind of welding that has a croco grip on the part being welded) without wearing safety goggles (I didn't get a foto of it). I made fotos of the people and yelled "you can leave any time, you can go back to school, you can go back to college, you should wear safety masks, you do not have to work for $50 a week". A police officers advised me not to "heckle". He explained that I may not address the people individually. It hurt me to see these people working there. They looked all unhappy; at some time, a green girl seemed close to breakdown.

I did ask a police officer why they didn't stop it. He told me that one can only make a report to the labor office and that they would do an investigation.

I also learned a new "feature" of my camera: in "sports" mode (shortest possible exposure time), the flash wouldn't fire even if popped up. I was afraid of having ruined a few shots because of this - but thanks to using a 400 film, the damage was minimal.

A guy came to set up a stereo. The protesters laughed at him because he had initially forgotten the extension cord, and then had problems to set up the music. The purpose of the music was of course to prevent the Scientologists from hearing us. A light source was also set up in the direction of the protesters, but this was not done perfectly so I could still fotograph.

Seeing the Scientologists working like this was very disturbing to me. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that some day some of them whom I saw will come up and speak out, and tell their side, like Charlotte Kates had done about the protesting against the german parliament Enquête Commission.

Our picketing was basically over. I advised "green booger" that he would get his personalized WWW page from me, and that he could even get prints, and told him that he could leave, get a job, maybe as a PI. I also told him the story about Charlotte, and that maybe we could some day have a laugh about these days.

Back at the hotel I did not join the group because I had eaten not long ago enough. I watched some TV; Homer Simpson was donating one kidney to his Grandpa. I went back to the bar where I had some beers and a conversation with a fan. (You know who you are - I enjoyed it!!).


7.12: lonely

I went to the Clearwater Mall. The shopping music made me crazy. Maybe there is brainwashing after all. I left. Back to the hotel, I met Jeff who drove me to criminal court. I wanted to look into the Tony Strawn case (about a Scientologist who had raped two of his step-children, with Scientology trying to cover-up the matter). Sadly I could not get the file. It has to be "sanitized" and I would need to come back the next day. Since this would not be possible, I left. I do have a part of the file. The person who got it originally did apparently find a way. I am glad that I did myself "sanitize" the file before posting the contents to the net in 1996 (I XXXed the names of the wife and the children, because I did not want them or their friends to find their names on the net).

I called a cab... Clearwater does not have a central number for cabs - one calls the individual companies. I called the Clearwater Cab Co. which picked me up quickly and drove me back to the hotel and I went to the Kash'n'Karry.

Then, I went swimming and went again to the Clearwater Mall. I felt better now, somehow. I bought a Dilbert calender, a Dilbert Squeezie, and three shorts. I will wear these at work in summer, and at future pickets. The price of the shorts was about $25. This wasn't cheap, but wasn't expensive either; they were of good quality. When paying I was surprised - the price was reduced so I ended paying less than $20 per short.

Back at the hotel I read a bit and watched TV; on the evening I had a beer with Rod Keller.


8.12: return
I watched a bit TV (Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, The People's court (now with Ed Koch!), the Sally Jesse Raphael show). A van took me to the airport for $13 plus tip. The movies were "Small Soldiers" and "Perfect Murder". An alternative was a sports movie produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner - not for me! After coming home (9.12), I retrieved my mail and gave up 13 rolls of film for processing.


10.12: The day after
I woke up after almost 14 hours of sleep. (I never sleep on the day after such a time zone change, i.e. I wait until the evening). I went to the store to pick up my fotos, and Wow! over 75% are good, i.e. that they are sharp and one can recognise the person. (Surprising to me is that in "almost-poor" light conditions, i.e. at the press conference, the ones with flash look more natural than those without). Just looking through them felt like a long intellectual orgasm - so much could have gone wrong, but it went all right! Life is good. The cost was DM 214.32, the films were probably about DM 10 each, so the whole "fun" did cost about DM 350, about $200.


The End?

No... I am considering to retire to Clearwater. Weather is good, life is unexpensive, most people don't like the scientologists, there are many germans, and I can still make extra money as a self-employed internet developer.

Tilman Hausherr, in December 1998


Tilman Hausherr's Clearwater vacation pictures
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tilman@berlin.snafu.de