In the summertime of 1973, Conrad Romo, a 19-year-old young boy from L.A. whose Catholic childhood had actually been thwarted by books like Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha and John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks— anything that “mentioned more than simply this world”– switched on the TELEVISION and enjoyed an ad for a brand-new faith called “ Scientology. ”
The advertisement was memorable– a tight one-minute clip with a jingle from ’70s radiostar Edward Bear and the unclear pledge of much deeper significance. When a contact number flashed throughout the screen, Romo remembered.
“I’m a sucker for a little advertisement,” Romo, now a grey-haired Buddhist with a goatee, informed The Daily Beast. When he telephoned the line to hear more, the kid spoke with a female who called herself “Spanky.” Later on, he would acknowledge her as Spanky Taylor, a representative for Scientology’s promotion arm, Axioms Productions, and John Travolta’s individual “auditor”– lingo for a type of therapist. In the minute, he believed she appeared cool. “Spanky had a truly attractive voice,” Romo stated, chuckling. “I was captivated.”
Forty-five years later on, Conrad Romo would indicate that ad as the genesis of a 14-year commitment to the questionable spiritual group. In some methods, Romo’s story of Scientology looks like numerous of the survivor tales informed by ex-members: he got seduced, invested years of his life and countless dollars on Scientology, then “awakened,” puzzled and lonesome, at some point in the late 1980s.
But in current interviews with The Daily Beast, Romo and numerous other previous members discussed another element of scientologist life– one seldom reported on in the documentaries or chart-busting tell-alls– a specific niche market that used numerous enthusiastic converts around Los Angeles and San Francisco for almost a years: offering meat.
For 4 years, in the name of Scientology and its charming, sci-fi-writing leader, L. Ron Hubbard, Romo drove a climate-controlled truck around higher Los Angeles, parked it outside food stamp shops, and hawked costly steaks to anybody who went by.
When Romo spoke with Spanky, she informed him to come down to a put on L.A.’s 8th Street, near MacArthur Park. It was a Friday night around 10 p.m., simply after a lecture had actually ended. Romo was at first shut off, he remembered. The location was type of seedy, he stated, and Spanky had not discussed anything about a “church,” which sounded catholic and stodgy. Romo presented himself. He checked in. A member calmly led him to a personal space.
In the space, Romo saw a brief video of L. Ron Hubbard setting out the group’s standard tenets, and browsed a copy of Hubbard’s very popular text, Dianetics. The member asked him to purchase the book, Romo remembered. “I stated no and he left.”
Romo may have simply left then and there, cult and meat-free. As he was leaving, a lot of members welcomed him to a celebration. He stacked into a vehicle with the group of attractive youths. They were talkative and the celebration was enjoyable, Romo believed, although, as a guideline, scientologists remain quite straight-edge.
When the night was over, Romo’s brand-new good friends had actually persuaded him to register for the very first Scientology course, “Communications.” Hubbard supposedly obtained much of his practices from other religious beliefs and Romo stated the very first course appeared raised directly from Zen Buddhism. “It was a kind of meditation where you simply sit, not doing anything, being still,” he stated. “As I remember, we would sit dealing with another person. You simply sit 3 feet apart from each other and you do not blink. You’re simply there.”
The class just cost $30 or $35, Romo stated, and after he attempted the very first session, it appeared worth every cent: “I felt something sort of shift in me.” He registered for the next class right away after. The cost was a little greater, although still sensible– but quickly, the rates “simply got crazier and crazier.”
Unlike many significant faiths, Scientology needs considerable monetary contributions from its members, by method of these courses and an alternative type of treatment they call “auditing.” After the very first course, trainees are motivated to enlist right away in the next level, so that they can start climbing exactly what members call “ the Bridge ,” an increasing scale that assures to help trainees to “go clear,” or reach the Scientology equivalent of Nirvana.
As in Romo’s experience, the very first sessions for these practices are constantly the least expensive– some are now used totally free online– however with each extra course, the rates skyrocket.
“The entire thing is loan,” stated Tory Christman, a previous scientologist whose ex-husband operated in the meat-selling circuit. “It’s not a religious beliefs. It’s an organisation. Consider it as a triangle– the greater up you get, the more pressure to invest more. You constantly need to purchase the next thing.”
The installing monetary pressure on scientologists like Romo and Christman typically required them to discover additional earnings, birthing a string of micro-markets that were controlled by members of the cult seeking to payroll their method to “overall liberty.”
In a declaration to The Daily Beast, an agent from the Church of Scientology rejected any main relationship with the pursuits of their subscription.”Scientologists, like people from lots of faiths, participate in a variety of occupations,” a spokesperson composed. “Scientologists originate from all strolls of life and from practically every possible profession.”
Even without main recommendations, nevertheless, insular Scientology markets grew up as early as the 1970’s, producing pockets of salespersons with specializeds in pretzels, gold, black velour paintings, aluminum etchings, Olympic flag tschochkies, chimney sweeping services, a weight-loss beverage called Slendernow, numerous various multi-level marketing products (consisting of the billion-dollar nutrition company Herbalife), insurance coverage, and– in Romo’s case– wholesale pork chops, hamburger patties and beef by-products.
Only months into his newly found way of life, Romo stated, he was currently strapped for money. He was operating in a factory and disliked it. When he saw an advertisement at some Scientology occasion for a gig in sales, he stopped his task. His very first address offering started with exactly what struck him as a not likely item: pretzels.
The business was run by a couple of scientologists from New York. Pretzel stands were still mostly an East Coast business, and they were a novelty in Los Angeles. The scientologists would park their carts by outlet store or outside the Rose Bowl and lose consciousness hot pretzels, making 7 or 8 cents for each piece offered. In a single day, Romo made someplace around $120.
Soon, he finished to larger foods. He became aware of a wholesale meat supplier called Mr. Sirloin in San Francisco, which was working with young scientologists to assist with sales. Another business called Tully Premium Meats had actually begun a comparable practice in Gardena, a city in southwest L.A. County, and closer to where Romo lived.
In meat sales, Romo would still make commission. The items cost more than pretzels, so his day-to-day incomes would increase. When he appeared for training, Romo fulfilled among the owners, a high, charming redhead called Brian Tully.
In a declaration to The Daily Beast, an agent from the Church of Scientology rejected any association with Tully. (“Mr. Tully of Tully Meats was expelled from the Church years earlier,” she composed, including, “We have no records of a Mr. Sirloin,” misinterpreting the name of a meat supplier for an individual). In the late 1970s, Tully was still really much part of the Church, and so were many of his workers, both Romo and Christman declared.
Tully offered his students a long discussion on their service strategy: salespersons would lease a freezer truck on credit, then purchase some solidified carbon dioxide and a week’s supply of meat. They would patrol communities, knock on doors, and want to negotiate.
In training, they practiced their pitches: “Hi, my name is Conrad and I’m with Tully Meats,” Romo kept in mind. “We’re a dining establishment and wholesale shipment service and I got some steaks out in the truck that thick.” They would hold their fingers up 2 or 3 inches, to reveal their size. “We ‘d make them appear far larger than the steaks that we had. We ‘d state, ‘Wait here!’ We were expected to do it with a great deal of interest,” Romo informed The Daily Beast.
Tully’s training was brief– an hour, at many– however Romo studied up on sales technique in his leisure time. He had not gone to college, so he chose to make offering his profession. “I discovered I had a flair for sales that I didn’t recognize I had,” he stated, “and I liked that.”
Senior employee of Scientology studied sales as part of their recruitment work, and Romo started to gain from them. He checked out a book called Big League Sales Closing Techniques, composed in 1971 by a person called Les Dane. Dane wasn’t a scientologist, however after the book came out, Hubbard made it needed reading for all “registrars”– the scientology team member accountable for signing individuals up.
“It’s amusing to hear [President Donald] Trump utilizing the term ‘Big League,'” Romo stated, describing an event in 2016, when Trump, then a governmental prospect, assured to accelerate the migration procedure “major league,” suggesting a lot. “Back then, that was the Scientology handbook.”
Scientology salespersons likewise check out Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the ancient Chinese military writing composed in the 5th century B.C.E., and Romo stated its lessons were prevalent throughout the meat-sales company.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak,” Romo stated, pricing quote among Tzu’s maxims. When he was pitching an item, he would frequently play dumb, letting the purchaser believe they were the ones scamming him.
“Sales was everything about withdrawing and reaching. You’re reaching when you’re talking. When you’re listening, you’re withdrawing,” Romo described. “We would physically lean forward and return. We would knock on the door and state, ‘Hey, I simply talked with your next-door neighbor and they got a lot of these, and we believed you may desire a few of them too. I do not know.'”
Then, the salespersons would go peaceful, Romo stated, leaving the consumers to complete the silence. “We would place on this face like we were so dumb, and state absolutely nothing. Constantly, they would state, ‘What are they?’ We would act like we had not heard them. We would state, ‘scuse me’? And they would state, ‘What are they? The 2nd time, they would usually have a smile on their face, like they were speaking with the stupidest individual on the planet.”
The company was something of a fraud, in part since meat was a dangerous, high-pressure item. “It’s a disposable product, so you truly needed to hustle. Otherwise you ended up needing to either toss it or consume it,” Romo stated.
To make sure they made back their financial investment, the salespersons would target bad individuals. “You weren’t going to offer meat in Beverly Hills,” Romo discussed. They would explore low-income areas and real estate jobs, or stake out food stamp shops.
One of Romo’s colleagues, a guy called Larry Wollersheim (who would later on take legal action against Scientology for $86 million in a case that extended for 22 years, then among the longest cases in California history), even leased a shop front right throughout from a food stamp workplace, and worked with stringers to lose consciousness leaflets.
The managers at Tully Premium Meats appeared to believe that individuals on food stamps would quicker invest their “complimentary money” than other prospective customers would invest non-food-stamp cash, although little research study bears this out. It held true, nevertheless, that parking outside a food stamp workplace offered the scientologists with a stable stream of individuals all set to purchase active ingredients.
At the time, Romo didn’t believe the meat-racket was a rip-off. He typically consumed the hamburgers himself or offered the bonus to his household. He did keep in mind that the items were substantially marked up from comparable meats at significant grocery shops. “If you did the mathematics, no, it wasn’t a good deal,” he stated. “But we had to consume too.”
Eventually, the meat ended up being more of a rip-off than Romo understood. Almost 10 years later on, inning accordance with a 1988 Los Angeles Times short article , a number of Tully executives pleaded guilty to charges that they had actually lied about their components, including chicken gizzards to their hamburgers, and passing them off as pure beef. Among the offenders confronted a year in prison, and another battled a fine of as much as $100,000.
Most of the meat sellers were scientologists, however the suppliers likewise worked with residents. Sam Quinones, an L.A. Times reporter who blogged about a lady called Leona Logan, the mastermind behind a comparable racket in Clearwater, Florida (where each year she offered over $1 million worth of black velour paintings to cover training expenses), stated he worked for among the meat providers in the late ’70s.
“They had this primary workplace with refrigeration and all that best throughout the shopping center from the food stamp workplace. My task was to provide these individuals leaflets to obtain them to purchase pork chops and things like that,” he informed The Daily Beast. “But it was odd. I keep in mind [the scientologists] having a long discussion among themselves, and thinking, ‘I wish to go work. I do not wish to relax speaking about whatever strange things they were discussing.’ It was total mumbo jumbo. There, I was like, possibly I need to go.”
He stopped the next day. Romo stuck with the task for years, up until his partner Larry Wollersheim persuaded him to join him in a brand-new business: travelling art dealership.
“They were these sh * tty, postcard size, four-by-six example. They were foil, when you moved them a bit, they sort of captured the light and had the result of motion,” he stated. “We would have these things matted and framed. I went on the roadway for nearly a year to Denver, Houston, Dallas, Chicago. We would knock on doors. We would hire individuals and train individuals. We would leave a workplace running and we would go to the next city.”
Then, in 1986, L. Ron Hubbard passed away of a stroke, and Romo’s faith in Scientology began to fluctuate. In a wild power grab to takeover Hubbard’s seat, the Church’s present leader David Miscavige stated another leading scientologist, David Mayo, a “suppressive individual”– the Scientology variation of ex-communication.
“It was actually astonishing. It resembled, wait a minute, how could he be stated a suppressive?” Romo stated. “Scientology declares that 2 percent of individuals on earth are these antisocial types that would be called a ‘suppressive.’ Here was Hubbard’s right-hand male. How could Hubbard not have seen that?”
Within 6 months, he had actually stopped going to classes and left his belief system, his good friends, and his substantial sales profession behind. Now, years later on, when the semi-retired Zen Buddhist can lastly discuss his old religious beliefs without “shaking and sweating,” he states the sales lessons he discovered resembled the extremely recruitment strategies that brought him to Scientology.
“Oh yeah,” he stated. “It’s directing attention to where you desire it to be. It’s not taking no for a response. It’s large control.”