[Occupied Clearwater: one city, one cult]Tilman's vacation diary (Clearwater 1999)

30.11: Be prepared

In the last few weeks I had made a list of over 100 things to prepare, to buy or to pack. For example, this time I bought 12 new pair of socks, so that I would not only wear new socks, but would even be able to change in the middle of the day.

The $ was much higher than last year. Instead of about DM 1.60, I had to buy the money for DM 1.98 a buck.

Wednesday 1.12: Taking off

It seems that each year, plane seats are more cramped, and planes are populated with more obnoxious people (who insist on setting their own seat back so that I have even less space). The movie on the plane was La Bûche. It is a story of three sisters who meet for Christmas and complain, complain, complain. There is no nudity, no violence, no action, no humor, no romance. At some time they realize that they don't even have the title pastry, and the movie is finished.

Scientology agent "wgert" had hinted that I would get arrested by the INS. It didn't happen and I had no problem at the immigration. However I almost missed my flight to Tampa because we had to wait for an hour to get the luggage. (Which has to be retrieved in the first US city to clear through customs).

The flight to Tampa was nice - I was sitting near the kitchen and could observe the good-looking flight attendant doing her "secret preparation". I had a burrito and for an extra $4 I got a good CA red wine.

In Tampa I saw no one picking me up. I thought: maybe I should go to luggage retrieval because that might be a location where one would expect me to be. I saw a woman waiting, and when coming closer, I noticed it was "Suse" whom I had met before, but who looked different. We went into the car of D.W.. I found out that the 10 people who, like me, had reserved a room at the Beach Hotel had moved to the Holiday Inn without telling me. We first went to a restaurant where I met several other people on the parking lot, some familiar and some new faces (Kim Baker, David Cecere). Then I saw a fast little good looking car. There was Patricia in it! And the car was a BMW Z3. Some people know and can afford a good transportation!

D.W. drove me to the Beach Hotel where I "had" to sleep for one night (one must cancel 1 day in advance). The hotel room was good but not great. The refrigerator was so loud that I switched it off. Traffic could be heard. The windows didn't close well optically, i.e. light from outside would come in. I had forgotten my toothbrush. I woke up in the middle of the night because it was too cold. I went back to sleep wearing a sweat-shirt. Thanks to a sleeping mask and earplugs that I got in the plane I slept till 8am which is better than last year.

Thursday 2.12: See you in court

I went to the beach and had a very short swim - it was cold. I checked out, paid lots of money plus tax and got a cab to the Holiday Inn, and checked in.

We went to the scientology area in Clearwater. To start, we went to the scientologist-owned new One Stoppe Shoppe on Cleveland 411 where I bought a toothbrush and toothpaste (The old One Stoppe Shoppe at Cleveland 512 had closed). When going to pay, I was asked whether I was one of the protesters. I had a XENU cap, an anti-scientology cartoon T-Shirt with OT3 on it, and answered "no". I paid and left. (I have learned later that people who identified themselves as protesters, namely Robert Minton and "Warrior", were refused service)

At the "bank" building, scientology had set up Christmas stands with children and a supervisor. We walked around more and I saw the green scaffold at the Ft. Harrison Hotel, and also a notice that they had set it up while failure to record it.

We went back to the hotel, where I took Beverly to lunch at Schlotzki's Deli. We then drove to the St. Petersburg court house. There was a rumor that jeans wouldn't be allowed but I got in. Fotographing was first allowed and then forbidden. Media were filming. The public was sitting separately: On the left, the scientology critics having fun, on the right, scientologists who behaved like in a Stepford village. Patricia showed me Bennetta Slaughter, who was hiding behind other scientologists. I also saw Mike Rinder, who seems to have lost weight.

As a reminder: Richard Howd, a scientology "hitman", had asked for a restraining order against Bob Minton, asking to prevent him from coming near 17 scientology locations, after Bob had bumped into him and the hitman "fell" down, and Bob got arrested. At the trial, Bob asked that the hitman be also restrained from approaching Bob.

The judge came in and read his decision. He first mentioned the problems that Bob Minton had in other states (getting arrested, etc). This didn't sound good. Then he said HOWEVER and it got interesting: blah blah charges dropped blah blah... in the face... blah blah blah... picket chicken blah blah blah citizens must tolerate insults blah blah blah TOO BROAD blah blah blah since both have done blah blah blah blah both must be restrained blah blah blah two people cannot occupy the same space blah blah blah. The result is that Bob Minton got what he asked for: the scientology hitman is also prohibited to come near him. The hitman must stay 20 feet away from Bob, while Bob must stay 10 feet away from scientology and the hitman.

When the judge left the court room, there was applause for Bob. Picket chicken was the word of the day! I didn't understand this immediately and was explained that the game of "chicken" is the game with two cars racing toward each other, and the first one away is the "chicken".

Outside of the court, I finally got my opportunity to photograph Bennetta Slaughter. Then I saw a cute squirrel, whom I also photographed. I often saw squirrels in Clearwater!

We then went picketing without incidents.

In the evening we went to eat to a Tex-Mex restaurant near the hotel. I had Fajita and two 18oz Margeritas. Back at the hotel I was so tired that I went to sleep at about 10pm. The next morning I woke up at 10am!

Friday 3.12: The appearing red line

I woke up at 10am and a few minutes later Don NOTS called me. However I still had enough time left to get into my clothes but not for breakfast. We went to the Clearwater mall and distributed leaflets on the parking lot, until a 100 year old police officer lookalike told us to go away or he would call the police, and said "I don't care what the Supreme Court says. I'll call the cops and have you trespassed". We decided not to lose time and drove off to another mall. I was annoyed and didn't distribute leaflets there, and went shopping at PUBLIX instead. I bought supermarket tabloids (sadly the Weekly World News wasn't available), Aspirin and Sunscreen ("only" SPF-8 since I don't mind to get a tan). The sunscreen was a good idea, since I found out two days later that I had a slight sunburn near the right hand at the right edge of the arm, which I probably didn't cover. (It means that had I not used sunburn at all, I would probably have both arms fully burned)

In the night, Scientology had painted orange lines 10 feet away from their properties, presumably in the belief that the restraining order applied to all Scientology critics, not just to Bob Minton.

Don Nots had bought orange dots, and many people used them on their bodies. A photograph of "dotted" people appeared the next day in the St. Petersburg Times.

We went to the Scientology area and walked around with signs (except me, since I'm photographing). A Scientology Santa Claus (with a real beard - maybe it was Glenn Barton?) walked around. The Christmas stands with the children were there again, with each child and the supervisor having a Santa hat. I was wondering how the (young female) supervisor looked. I made an attempt to use my communications skills.

Would a non-Scientologist ("wog") be able to direct a Scientologist ("clam") to fulfill a wish?

I explained to the supervisor that it is probably pretty hot under that Santa hat. She said that I had the same problem with my baseball cap. I said "well I can take it off anytime". She said she would like to, but was afraid that I would photograph her and she doesn't want to have her photograph on the internet. I explained that I didn't plan to photograph her and the children, since I concentrate on security people and senior staff, and put my camera away. She took off her hat and Wow! it was a beautiful blonde. She later put her hat back on, but her hair could still be seen.

I later explained her that I did photograph the children last year because they were doing hard physical work, and if I would ever see this again, I would photograph again, and that I was "slightly" unhappy about the children sitting at these stands all day. She said that they love doing it. She asked one child "are you forced to do it", the child answered correctly "no". Another child claimed not to be a scientologist. I told him not to become one.

Many people, including me, wondered why the children weren't at school. The answers were 1) school's out after 3pm, 2) we go to school on the evening, 3) we don't go to school yet.

One of my occupations was showing my $CIENTOLOGY KILLS T-Shirt to Scientologists getting out from their buses. I regularly had the opportunity to do this in the small street parallel to Harrison. At one time, a little lady jumped in front of me and blocked me and the view on a part of my T-Shirt. Maybe she thought this was a basketball game? I thought this to be very funny and asked her for her name. She wouldn't tell me so I said I would call her "tough little lady". She said "great! I like that!" Shortly after that Peter Alexander told me her name: Debbie Springer. She is a local customer of Scientology and had been quite upset that Peter had left Scientology.

I also met a familiar face from last years picket: a Scientology security guy whom I had photographed last year. I learned that he is identical to the guy nicknamed "Croc". He was very abusive to female critics, but was silent everytime we saw him.

We ("Suse Hartwig", "Merkabah" and me) went to lunch at Schlotzky's Deli, which was good.

When back picketing I noticed "Ethercat", who had a stroller with two space aliens dressed in purple clothes. One space alien was holding a globe, the other one was holding a space alien doll. A sign said XENU.NET. It was hilarious and a great piece of art! I made several photographs of them on Santa's Chair (which blocks the entrance of the "bank building").

Cars often honked at us. A fire truck also honked, and it was very loud!

On the evening, we watched FOX13, which had "Suse Hartwig" several times, and mentioned that the picketers mocked the orange dots. We saw also reports from the violent anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle. Ours was quite a contrast!

We went to Perkins. I ordered some sort of sandwich and a beer. The waitress (Sue) asked me for an ID ! (I am over 30). Luckily I had one, so I got my beer. I was informed by fellow picketers that getting "carded" was a sort of rite of passage in the US.

Saturday 4.12: The disappearing red line

Clearwater's Police Chief had told Scientology to remove their graffiti. And this was done: in the morning, we saw Scientologists armed with metal brushes and chemicals trying to remove the paint.

At the same time, a conference was held at the Holiday Inn. I did not go there, since we were asked to "keep a presence" on the streets and the conference would be seen on XENU-TV later anyway.

At the corner of Harrison/Cleveland, a different Scientology Santa Claus (with fake beard) waving at cars. He said to one critic that "I do not allow you to take my picture"! He was later joined by a rather ugly "Mrs. Scientology Santa Claus".

Scientology had set up facilities for bands to play. However the sound system was completely overworked, i.e. the kind of sound that happens when it is "too loud to handle".

I saw a good looking girl with long curly hair and a sign - that was Maggie Council. I photographed her baby on Scientology-Santa's chair.

We had lunch at Harrison's, I had a Cesar's salad and an ice tea. The food was OK (I also liked that they did not put sugar into the ice tea), but the service was too slow.

I got a hint to go to the Sandcastle, a location where rich Scientologists get pampered. What I saw was hilarious: right in front of the the entrance, between two giant U-HAUL trucks, Dr. David Touretzky and Don NOTS had parked a pickup truck. They were sitting there in plastic garden chairs, and were sipping coke and ice tea. Don NOTS was making regular "public service announcents" that "Ron is Xenu." Scientology had also parked U-HAUL trucks in their entrance, but it didn't help. Every Scientologist had to see the signs WHY ARE YOU HIDING and RON IS XENU and SCIENTOLOGY: TAX PARASITES AND LAW ABUSERS. Additionally, an inflated green space alien waved. That was the most funny idea of the whole picket.

Later came the candle-light vigil. Scientology got another surprise: the words LISA WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU appeared in light on the wall of the Fort Harrison Hotel. Scientology doorboy Paul Kellerhals was visibly irritated. I have been told that he complained to the police, which was unable to find any crime. Many wondered from where the projection came from - it came from a car, driven by BP, and the projection was arranged by Frank Oliver.

Reverend Gregg Hagglund held a speech, and the bagpiper played well. A wreath was taken by "Gypsyblue" and transported to the place opposite to the room where Lisa had died. Later, reporters interviewed Dell Liebreich, her sisters and the Lisa's estate's attorney Ken Dandar. We then went to "Ottavio's place". I ordered "Fettucine Alfredo" because I had heard nothing but negative information on it ("a heart attack on a plate"). It was rather like Spaghetti Carbonara without ham. I will not eat this food again. At the restaurant, Patricia Greenway received an "SP6" plate, and several people gave speeches. One of the couples at the restaurants were apparently Scientologists, who were quite irritated. Bob Minton spoke with them before they went away.

5.12: Cruising

The first picketers were already flying home, but there was still enough presence for enturbulation. I first went to the "Entheta Truck" to see if it is intact - it was. No vandalism. "Ethercat" was there and we decided to go to the "bank building" for some photographing.

At the corner Harrison / Cleveland, Scientology-Santa was there again. I asked Beverly to get hugged by Scientology-Santa, and offered to take her sign in advance. It worked: she got her hug, and I got my photograph of Scientology-Santa hugging a Scientology critic.

I placed a plush Xenu and a space alien on Scientology-Santa's chair and shot a photograph, while at the same time Scientology-Santa pushed me, probably to prevent the photographing. Ethercat quickly rescued the items. The girl supervisor was suddenly there and yelled YOU CAN'T PUT YOUR STUFF ON MY CHAIR! I asked "your chair"? She then corrected herself and said that it was "church property". I asked why she had told me that it is a "city event" the day before and she got enturbulated. The chair was a Scientology chair.

The girl supervisor later told me that I didn't need to buy my drinks at the newsstand but that I could buy it at the Christmas stands with the children. I explained her that I don't feel like giving money to Scientology. She said that the stands aren't Scientology thing, it is a city event. I tried a different approach and asked where the profits go? She said "it goes to the children". I asked "which children?". She said "the foster children". I said that I don't believe her, since Scientology always comes up with fronts like "Applied Scholastics", "The Word Literacy Crusade", "The Children against Psychiatry" or whatever, and it is ALWAYS Scientology. She got visibly annoyed and said "I know but THIS time it is different, it does not go to scientology" and asked to please go on.

Scientology critic "Warrior" had an interesting encounter. Since it is KRed anyway, here is what happened: he met "Beth" whom he had known at ASHO. I did not directly listen to their conversation, but looked at it, and it was a moving moment as they had a conversation for 15 minutes. Communication is the universal solvent! (Yes, even Elron can be correct sometimes) I would loved to have photographed it but I didn't want to disrupt this magic moment.

Then came the Mormons. I had never seen any before, but from descriptions, I knew they were. They began a conversation and identified themselves as "Mormons". (I was surprised because I thought they don't use the word). They asked about the protest and I explained them what it was about. Then I explained that their Church is currently using Scientology methods to go after critics (using copyrights to prevent criticism). I explained that although I have nothing against the Mormon Church, that I think that "copyright path" is a dangerous one. They said that they don't know about this controversy.

We had lunch at Emily's restaurant. I had a steak sandwich which was sadly just that, i.e. they didn't slice the steak.

Don NOTS and Dr. Dave had become bored of sitting in front of the Sandcastle, so they hit the road, while taking some people with them. They cruised the streets of Clearwater, with the inflated space alien, Dr. Dave dressed as "Xenu" and the rest waving at passers-by. It was hilarious.

At about 4pm we decided we had enough and moved to the hotel bar, had a few drinks and watched TV. We later went to a "ribs" type of restaurant where Jeff invited everyone. I had a T-Bone steak that was the best of my life - it had a "smoked" taste. I assume the people had put it on a charcoal grill.

A woman came to our table who explained how she had been defrauded of her life savings by a Scientologist company, and that was currently threatened to have her professional future destroyed. Without telling too much details, it is a company that is well known to sell fraudulent services and has been featured on my "pro-scientology page" for some time already.

Later were approached by a woman "divorced with no child support" who was moonlightning there. She recognised us and mentioned her trouble with Scientology: a Scientologist had told her child not to take the medication needed, and also tried to recruit other children into Scientology. This was making such trouble that the Scientologist had to be excluded from the recreational group her child was in.

In both cases, the message was given that "we're moving in to Clearwater", i.e. that the Lisa McPherson Trust would become a presence in Clearwater.

6.12: The return

I went to the Clearwater Mall. I bought a Dilbert weekly desk calendar. I got a 20% rebate coupon for Waldenbrooks; I went there and bought a KJV bible for only $6 (sadly for this money I didn't get a leather hard cover). I like the KJV version because the english is so funny. Now I can look up quotes without connecting to the internet. I also went through a book "praying for celebrities". I looked up John Travolta: the prayer for him included praying for the Scientologists so that they find the path to God. Other books were called "The Buddhist Bible", "Jesus for complete idiots", etc. I also tried to find a "Kenny" (from the show South Park") squeezie but was unsuccessful. Squeezies of "Cartman" and "Chef" were available but I wanted "Kenny". The shopkeeper searched the back but couldn't find him - he said "Kenny is very popular". Haha!

Jeff drove me to the Tampa airport, while Don NOTS missed his ride. On highway 60, we observed a white Mercedes car with a scientology logo on the trunk. A banana peel flew out of the passenger window. The car plate is SUW 03S. Note that the booklet The Way To Happiness promoted by Scientology, says in Nr. 12-2: Take care of your own area.

On the plane I was sitting near a guy who was obviously ill, and who had also not yet learned how to use a kleenex. The food was something called an Omaha Steak ® however it didn't even taste like beef. Maybe Omaha Steak ® is just a word for something that very poor people buy in the hope of fooling their children that they are eating a steak, while actually they're just eating molded proteines? The movie was Don't go breaking my heart. According to the description it is about a guy who hypnotises a girl into loving him. However I was so incredibly bored after 15 minutes that I stopped watching it and put a blanket over my head instead, and went into energy-saving semi-sleep mode.

7.12: The days after

On tuesday I first read some of 172 new e-mails, brought my photographs for processing and checked my stock portfolio (some stocks went up, some went down). I slept from 6pm to 11pm, then again from 4am to 12am, retrieved my photographs, which were mostly good. This year I did "only" four 36-rolls of film, mostly because this year I made no photographs of average scientologists (because I don't publish these anyway).

Tilman Hausherr, in December 1999

Tilman Hausherr's 1999 Clearwater vacation pictures
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