The Bare-Faced Messiah Interviews

Interview with Richard DeMille,
Santa Barbara, California, 25 July 1986


Photo of Richard
DeMille Richard DeMille (right, with "Barbara Kaye") was one of L. Ron Hubbard's earliest celebrity recruits, though it was perhaps more a case of reflected glory - he was the son of the famous director Cecil B. DeMille. He became one of Hubbard's right-hand men during the traumatic two-year rise and fall of Dianetics, saw the establishment of Scientology and participated in Ron's kidnapping of his daughter and wife. He left in the mid-1950s as he became increasingly doubtful about the usefulness of Hubbard's work. His recollections were recorded in an interview by Russell Miller, the author of the unauthorised Hubbard biography Bare-Faced Messiah. The following is a transcript of that interview.


I read the article [on Dianetics] in Astounding SF and made the mistake of believing it had been written by an honest person. If it had been, it was earth shaking. I got in as early as possible, about Aug 5 when the Foundation opened in LA at 715 Parkview, went to the lectures, saw Hubbard.

Later in the year the Foundation moved to 260 South Hoover in very large premises there. I went to more lectures and met Van Vogt who was an official at the time, got more and more involved. He had an editorial staff, guy named Dewey something, a sci-fi writer who was making publications out of lectures, doing editorial work. I got involved in that and worked on one of the first publications of lectures. Most of the people were either frantic or illiterate there weren't too many people who could do useful work.

My work came to his attention and he also liked the fact that I was the son of Cecil B. DeMille, although it never occurred to me at time. He liked to collect celebrities.

When there was a lot of turmoil and dissension and he was accusing Communists of trying to take it over, a big period of turbulence, he asked me to be his helper and we went off together to Palm Springs with Sara and the baby as he was getting out of town to think things over. He was already having difficulty with Sara. Then we came back to LA and about that time Sara ran off with Miles Hollister. Hubbard said things were not going well in LA and he was going back to Elizabeth NJ and he wanted me to go with him and be his lieutenant.

He had a pattern all his life of picking young people in whom he placed great confidence for limited periods of time and all of a sudden they're traitors and have to go away. I was one of the first.

I said, "OK, I'll go." This was at the time Alexis got abducted. He and Frank Dessler (Frank was a convicted felon who had served his time and was trying to be good - he was very nervous - he was retired gangster). Frank was deputised to find baby sitters to take charge of Alexis, and a young couple took Alexis in their car and drove all the way to Elizabeth NJ without Sara's permission.

Hubbard saw an opportunity to abduct Alexis and did so. Hubbard and I and Frank Dessler then abducted Sara and drove with her on a very circuitous route around southern California, I was driving the Lincoln. We stopped off at San Bernardino and Hubbard wanted to take Sara in to get a doctor's opinion that she was out of her mind. Sara would have been eager to get the same opinion about him, but he had the troops at that point. That was a little farce conducted in the heat of night in Bakersfield. He couldn't find a doctor to talk to him, I suppose. We went to the state or county hospital, or something. We finally ended up in Yuma, Arizona in the morning having driven all night and they came to some kind of agreement, I don't know exactly what. He put Sara on a plane and she flew back to LA, or he gave her the car, I don't remember which. We got in a little aeroplane and flew to Phoenix and then flew to Chicago, where Ron proceeded to be interviewed by a psychiatrist and psychologist. He wanted to establish an answer to her charges that he was, in the words of a psychistrist who hadn't even seen Ron, a paranoid schizophrenic. He wanted a testimonial from a professional who would say he was OK.

He and I together went to the psychiatrist. It was a short interview, the psychiatrist didn't like the smell of it and thought he was being manipulated so he made a few psychiatric noises and nothing much came of it. We paid him $10 and left. Then Hubbard went to Murray Krout, who was a prominent diagnostic psychologist of that era. He did projective testing , Rorschach tests and that kind of stuff, of Hubbard and said he would send a report. The report he sent later was very bland encouraging, man of creative talent who is upset by family problems and dissension and so forth depressing his work... an upbeat harmless report. The main value of it to Hubbard was that it didn't say he was crazy. He claimed he had been given a clean bill of health by the psychiatric profession. He was pleased with it. No psychiatric judgement of Hubbard on the record has any validity, because the only ones accessible to the public were made after he no longer submitted himself to examination.

We got in a plane at O'Hare [Chicago] and flew to one of the most unattractive places in the world, which is Elizabeth, NJ, where the main central foundation was. The two guys running it were Jack Maloney and Jim [unintellible]. It was in a much less turbulent condition and John Campbell showed up for a meeting. Alexis was in a hotel with a nurse. She was about 13 months, just learning to walk.

Then Hubbard said he had to get away and write his book, the second book, which was called Science of Survival. He said, "Well, Dick, we're going to Florida, where the weather is nice." It was snowing in Elizabeth.

We went to Tampa, Florida, where we looked at property for the Foundation, Hubbard, me and Alexis. In Tampa we were interviewed by an amateur writer and dianeticist and real estate agent. He showed us a nice place on edge of town. Hubbard was very edgy. He had a loaded .45 calibre service automatic. I went and knocked on his door and he opened the door with the gun. "Dick, you shouldn't creep up on me." This was in a hotel in Tampa. He said, "I don't like the way things feel around here. I want to go where I can breathe free. We're going to Havana." We got on a plane with the baby and flew to Havana.

It was the first time I had seen a tropical airport. Coming in over lush vegetation it was a remarkable change, warm damp air. We got in a taxi and went downtown and found a very noisy hotel on the Paseo Marquis [?], the main drag of Havana. We stayed there for a couple of nights. I had Alexis in my room, taking care of the baby. Hubbard had his room with a typewriter he managed to rent, a very old one with all kind of Spanish characters on it. He was madly banging away on his typewriter and I was trying to sleep with rattling water pipes in the wall.

It was a family hotel and we ate in a big dining room. He wanted a better place so we went to a real estate agent and were taken out and shown various places, including the country estate where Hemingway wrote something, and we rented an ground floor apartment in the Vedado district, the Beverly Hills of Havana. We moved in and hired two Jamaican women to do something they described as "Care de baby". They did, which was a great relief to me. I had been giving it bottles, changing diapers, everything.

The young girl and her aged grandmother took care of the baby.

We were there almost a month. He stayed up most of the night with a bottle of rum, which was empty in the morning, and he dictated the whole book, Science of Survival, onto little green discs on a recording machine he had purloined from the Foundation in LA.

He began to get very nervous and said he was not feeling well. He said we had to move downtown, so we broke out to leave (the landlord was very irritated). I was speaking halting Spanish, he couldn't speak any, so we went downtown to the Packard Hotel on the park which faces across the entrance of the harbour to the prison. You could see it out of the hotel window. Hubbard proceeded to get to sick, I think it was an ulcer. He claimed it was the result of a pain-drug hypnosis by Sara and Dr Winter. He ran engrams giving the commands and somatics and jabs and needle and so forth. They did it way back but it caught up with him.

I think what really caught up with him was he felt he losing control of the organisation and his ulcer came back. That's what it amounted to.

He sent a desperate telegram to Don Purcell in Wichita and Don sent a little plane with a pilot and young woman to take care of de baby. They came and stayed overnight in the hotel, next morning I handed the baby over to the woman, said goodbye to Ron and they flew off to Wichita.

I was to stay there and transcribe these little green discs because it was not safe to bring them back to US because the communists would steal them. I was to send them to him in the mail. I stayed in the hotel for another month doing this work. I was also instructed to deliver the little green discs to the US Embassy to be kept safely so they wouldn't be stolen from me in the hotel. I had to deliver them to Captain Remick of the US Embassy who had listened to Hubbard's tale of conspiracy and Communists. Remick was very sceptical but Hubbard appealed to him as one officer to another and it worked. All he had to do was accept his stuff. I had to walk over to the US Embassy every couple of days, take my papers and get more discs.

Havana in those days was the fun capital of the western hemisphere - its atmosphere was very hedonistic. I finished my work, sent everything in the mail and then I got on a plane and went to Wichita where I met Sue. I was there a month. Don Purcell fired me, as by that time Hubbard felt he didn't need me any more and he allowed Purcell to fire me. I went back to LA and then, when Hubbard had his big blow up with Purcell, he moved to Phoenix - he called me and hired me again. So I went and was with him in his house in Phoenix in '53, with Mary Sue, and did some more work for him. Finally I began to be more and more sceptical of the whole thing. The claims were constantly mounting but the performance was always deficient. The answer to this deficiency was that we didn't have that step exactly right but now we have the new step and it's going to be right. This was the constant pyramiding of claims which was the device. Now there's a very infinite series of steps, so there is no way to escape.

I was an odd combination of someone who wanted to find the true answer to everything, but I didn't like the contradictions, failure of things to prove out, So I became somewhat critical and Hubbard called me and said, "I miss you. Why don't you come back". I expressed scepticism and he said, "Who's gotten to you Dick?" That was typical, there was no such thing as just being unconvinced. That would have been late '53.

I first saw him in the Shrine Auditorium giving lecture in '50. I remember someone yelling "Are your cavities filling up?" Hubbard had very bad teeth, he was always having trouble with dentists, which fit in with his engram thing - they were always giving him laughing gas.

First impression. My girlfriend (now wife) was, "I don't want anything to do with this rube, this slob." I thought this is the great man who made this great discovery and whatever his shortcomings may be they must be discounted because he has the answer. He was fluent, informative, his tricks worked on the people they worked on. It was a packed meeting. It's an enormous building.

Impact of Dianetics? It was a national craze, it was exciting, right across the country. The time is never wrong for a cultist movement. LRH was the Madame Blavatsky of 1950. Lenin was the LRH of 1917. People present new ideas which are going to change the world and there are a certain number of people willing to believe those ideas. There is never a time which isn't right.

He was living with Sara when I was first with him. Sara came with us to Palm Springs - she made up a bed for me. He was living in LA at a house in Palm Springs, that was the first one I saw. In Wichita he had a big two storey wooden house, in Phoenix a one storey country house.

My impression of Sara was prejudiced by the relationship between them. I can't say I knew her. She could sing and play the piano, she sang Robin Adair and England's Green and Pleasant Land [Jerusalem], songs she'd probably learned at college. She was large, gangly, energetic, and carried the baby around her hip. Plain faced, long strides, not prepossessing. Their marriage was about to break up. He told me she was fooling around with Hollister and "I don't trust her".

The marriage broke up because Sara got fed up with Ron. She was very critical of him.

When I worked for him he talked about himself a lot, but as is true with that kind of person, he didn't give me any confidences, he was telling me his story as I ought to know it. He told me about Jack Parsons, the magick and all that. He told me an important principle of magick which is straight from Aleister Crowley, which was "Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law" - the rest of it is "And thou harm not another person" but he left that part off. I was impressed by this, it was the first time I heard the main rule was do anything you like.

He didn't take any responsibility for the black magic rituals; he blamed them on Parsons, but admitted he was there.

I saw him write on mimeographed masters, the wax stuff you type mimeographs on. He wrote on those, first draft, and they were run off perfect. He was writing stuff like running engrams, and the bulletins. Most of them at beginning were not just written by LRH but typed by him on mimeograph master. He'd take them out of the box, put it in and started at the top and wrote it right out. very fast. I was very impressed. He was a man with an abnormal ability to put words on paper, a virtuoso. The story of him writing books fast might be an exaggeration but an exaggeration of something very unusual.

His rate of writing was about 25,000 words a day. Miles Hollister was working at 2600 S Hoover at the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation. He met Sara there, she confided in him. He was younger, not bad looking.

Sara filed an action in LA. He wasn't there. It was a reaction to him abducting the child.

He abducted the child to try and get control of the situation. It was attempt to use what he had to get control. He took the child from their home when she went out and took it to some nursery people. He wouldn't tell her where the child was and he hired someone to take the child from there to Elizabeth. Sara got the child back when she came to Wichita for the divorce. I think she got the child back by agreeing to divorce and not saying anything bad about him. The divorce was quite bland, I gave testimony, that the marriage was not going smoothly and the disturbance was impairing his creative work, that's what I testified. Her testimony was not anything heavy and it was relatively amicable.

In Wichita they had come to an agreement.

He told me in LA she had said he was a paranoid schizophrenic because a psychiatrist had told her that.

I saw the people who took the baby. It was an attempt to keep Sara from doing anything too damaging. When we took the baby he didn't do any of the work but expressed pride of parenthood, he wanted her to be a clear.

He went to Chicago because that's where the plane went. He stopped there to try and find an answer to the charge that Sara had made that he was nuts. This was before her charges had been made public. He had heard her saying it, wanting testimony to prove he was not crazy. He was deriding psychiatry but he was a practical person and used them when he needed to.

Elizabeth was a shabby sort of place, but was alive with activity. Because of the way it started, it appealed to engineers in Astounding SF, very physical, very nuts and boltsy, not the slightest hint of an thing spiritual, everything was mechanical and materialistic. Engrams are cellular recordings, all that stuff. He knew where his audience was .

Many engineering types were attracted, like Evans Farber. There were also wierdos and occultists because of the millenarianism of it, the ultimate answer to all man's problems. He had quite a split between the engineer types who rallied around Van Vogt later on and the spiritual types who followed LRH and they were nothing alike. In general all of them were people who were dissatisfied with the world the way it was and wanted a quick fix.

A very early split was materialism versus spiritualism. Van Vogt is totally materialistic. Very intelligent, very weird, has very strange ideas but he is very benign and sincere.

When I went to Elizabeth with him we stayed in a hotel. I think the baby was with us.

GUN. We sent the gun back to Jim in Elizabeth in the mail with the bullets in the chamber. We sent it from Tampa because he didn't want to take it into Havana. Hubbard was street smart.


(Record called Road To Freedom by LRH.)

Hubbard has claimed several times that S & S ordered Campbell to publish everything he wrote. I don't think anyone who knew John Campbell would believe it, but he said it three times and there is no one left in the world to contradict it.

Picture in front writer shows an unhappy little boy determined to come out on top.

Was taking Alexis to Cuba difficult? Cuba in those days was a country known as a wide open place, you could do anything you wanted to do. They didn't care what you did as long as you brought money. It was the corruption centre of universe. You didn't need a passport, it was a place for Americans to go and have a good time.

He was not planning to keep the baby, he was just using her. Of course she was his daughter - she looked exactly like him.

Most of the time in Cuba he dictated almost every night. As I was transcribing the material I thought it was dull - the dullest book he ever wrote - it was nowhere. I thought it was horrible. He thought it was true and important, but it was terribly boring and repetitive.

We walked into the embassy, asked to talk to the officer of the day and this young captain showed up, Ron talked to him, officer to officer. The officer said, "Well, Mr H., we'll try and help you out." Hubbard said there were people who wanted to get hold of his material and destroy it and he needed help and protection from a fellow officer.

He wrote a letter to a senator pledging to have a military aeroplane sent to Havana to pick him up. One of the old senators, probably somebody he'd met. He knew a lot of people in Washington. There was no response.

Purcell sent a plane for him. I suppose Purcell had been either to LA or Elizabeth and said, "If you ever need any help..."

When I got back to Wichita Ron was living with his housekeeper, who'd already made designs on him, but she didn't last. He enjoyed women, liked to have a woman to go to bed with and if the woman got pregnant you just had to handle that. Mary Sue was just another student in the programme when I got there. I liked her and we talked when we went out to dinner. Not long after that she got hooked up with Hubbard. She said she'd like to go out with me but I said I had to go to LA and said let's do it when I come back. But I didn't come back.

Hubbard was sleeping with his housekeeper. She was an attractive woman in her 40s. He didn't like to have a woman around without making use of her. He had a large old house in a pleasant residential area.

Purcell was a successful builder and real estate developer. He was skinny, chronically constipated and wanted to get over it with Dianetics, this was what Ron told me. It was well known Don was constipated. He was emaciated-looking. I suspect that what went wrong was that Ron wanted to spend too much of Don's money and Don probably clamped down and Ron got pissed off and went to Phoenix. I went there in '52.

By the time I got to Phoenix it was Scientology and Ron was living in a nice house on country road - I guess with Mary Sue - and classes were being held downtown. I stayed with them maybe a week and then I was assigned some work to do in LA and I wrote a whole series of material to supplement his lectures, trying to expand on his ideas. The author's name purports to be "D. Folgere", really Folgere, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "follower". He wanted me to put my name on it, but I wouldn't.

He didn't change at all, ever.

He did it the way everyone did - he promised heaven, "I have the key which can open the door. Do you want to go there?"

The justification for Dianetics was that it worked. It took some time to realise that it only worked to a very limited extent.

We knew that Sara didn't like us taking the baby. The only publicity was the article in the LA Times when we were in Cuba.

My role was to see the baby survived. "Why should the baby go in your room?" He was the leader, I was the follower. He gave the orders; I was privileged to serve him.

I think Sara came to Wichita to get the baby and they made a deal.

Last time I saw him in Phoenix was Xmas '53, it was to attend a conference. I saw LRH was giving lectures and it turned out to be LRH Jnr, which enraged me. This was after the telephone conversation when he wanted to know who had gotten to me.

His history is of people becoming recruits, right-hand men and then out. It is what people don't understand about this kind of person - the lack of personal attachments. People are there to be used, to serve the user. People don't have any importance in their own right.

He called from Phoenix in the middle of the night and said, "I miss you, Dick. When are you coming out?" When I finally saw him he had written me off because I had failed to obey.


Last updated 10 Jan 1997