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Around The Sun: Settling Into The American Dream

Steve Harrison tells of escaping from the clutches of the Scientologists and the Moonies.

The American couple that I had met in Spain were very gracious to me. The husband worked at the Beverly Hills Hotel as a haircutter to the stars. Daily he took me to the pink hotel and introduced me his famous clientele. During that stay in L.A. I met Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and many of the other "greats''. We said our g'days and shook hands. He introduced me to Hanna Barbara. I went to Joe Barbara's office with my portfolio and he politely managed to persuade me away from a career in cartoons. Looking back that was a good thing.

About this time I was almost brainwashed by the scientologists. I was walking in downtown L.A. when some cute bit of skirt asked me to take a personality test. I completed their initial questionnaire, then it was suggested that I needed further analysis. Back at their main office I completed a more rigorous test. This resulted in searching stares and downward glances. Was I okay, they asked. No major hang-ups?

They were convinced I was an accident about to happen. My test results pointed to an unstable personality with multiple defects, and they assured me that the test results were always accurate. They further assured me that I was in need of special training and re-adjustment if I wanted to live a long and fruitful life.

They offered special courses. I could sign up for a one-month course, six months or twelve months. It would only cost... Sorry guys. I don't have that kind of money. All I have is $20. So they convinced me that I needed a copy of a book called Dianetics by L.Ron Hubbard. I made my escape clutching the booj, around $8 the lighter.

That evening I told of my encounter to my host in the Beverly Hills barber shop. He said that he used to go to school as a kid with L. Ron, who said that the best way to get rich was to create your own religion. I did not read the book.

Soon after the Moonies tried to abduct me. Another pretty young thing invited me to sample free coffee, conversation and music. I followed her upstairs, where there was a hippyish group of young people. They asked if I wanted to go along to a weekend retreat in the San Bernadino mountains. This was free, and it sounded a lot better than what the scientologists were offering.

One of them said they were leaving in half an hour. No need to bring any stuff. Just yourself. Soon we were scooting along in a 16-seater bus. We went up into the mountains to a wooden cabin retreat sort of place. There we talked, played guitars, sang and ate cookies. Then things became weird.

Hey man if Jesus was gonna come back youd expect him to come back soon right? Hmm yer, I replied. And if he were coming back then instead of Jerusalem and the promised land, the new birthplace aught to be at the opposite side of the world somewhere like Korea, perhaps? Hmm right. Well guess what, Jesus has been reborn, in Korea and his new name is Sun Yat Moon. Hmm not impressed. This is highly confidential and you must promise to tell no one. My warnings lights were on and a red light was flashing inside my befuddled brain.

From that moment on I was badgered. I tried to move away, to sit alone and think. They battered away at me. Hey man, you gotta accept the new Lord.

There were eight of us unbelievers on that bus. Some had already accepted the new lord and were rejoicing and singing his praises. Off they went in threes, one unbeliever and two of the saved, Back they would come some time later, the unbeliever miraculously converted.

Two others shared my doubts. You could see it in their faces. We sat together. The saved ones tried to break us up. To sit between us. Hours passed.

Well Ive had about enough of this, I announced. A little food would be great, and a good night's sleep. I went with the other two to a dormitory room. The saved wouldn't leave us alone. If you sleep, they said, trying to alarm us, it will give the enemy time to attack your souls. Food would weaken our resolve, so no more food until we came to our senses.

The three of us tried to regroup. These saved guys were crazy. They played music in the dormitory and chattered away constantly like dripping taps, determined to keep us awake all night long. Man you three are being stubborn. You need to accept the new lord.

I slept only a short while. Then bang, bang, bang, and the crash of cymbals. Those guys had brought a drum kit into the dorm to wake us up. Daylight was just dawning. You brothers, or whatever you call yourselves, are mad, we told them. What time is that bus leaving for L.A?

They told us the bus left about 10am, but we would not be on it. Our souls were in grave danger and unless we accepted the Korean lord we would be missing out on salvation.

I became the spokesman for the three of us, seemingly the only sane people there.

Sorry guys, we are not stopping here for a moment longer than we have to. When the bus leaves, we will be on it. Sorry, came the reply, no seats on the bus available.

The hours ticked by and the bullshit got thicker. There were times when I thought I would go crazy if I listened to one more word from these "enlightened'' fools.

The bus arrived. Hey guys, they said, you really do need to stay just one more night, then you will realise the truth. Don't lose your souls, they pleaded. You have been chosen.

I protested. I am not a violent man, but I told them that if I and my two friends did not get on the bus I would punch someone's lights out.

We got on the bus. It was great to be back in good old L.A. again.

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