Story by THOMAS C. TOBIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 25, 1998
avid Miscavige was born with a twin sister into a Polish-Italian family. Home was a new, two-story colonial house in southern New Jersey.
And while the family of two boys and two girls attended public schools and didnt always make it to Sunday Mass, the youngest son of Ron Miscavige Sr. and his wife Loretta, received his first communion and first confession in the Catholic church.
The father, who made a living playing trumpet, said he first heard of Scientology by chance at a meeting about a business opportunity. He read some of Hubbards books and began to receive auditing, a Scientology counseling process with the goal of locating negative emotions and purging them from the mind.
One day, as David Miscavige struggled through a serious asthma attack, his father took him to a Scientologist. According to both father and son, the attack stopped suddenly after a 45-minute auditing session.
It was the reactive mind, David Miscavige said, referring to Hubbards belief that mental images called engrams are stored in the unconscious and can cause negative emotions and physical pain.
From that moment I knew this is it, he said. I mean I absolutely know that that is the point in my life where I said, This is it. ... I have the answer.
A short time later, the entire Miscavige family began to study at a local Scientology mission. From there, they graduated to higher levels of Scientology services at the churchs advanced organization in East Grinstead, England.
Ron Miscavige Sr. said he sold belongings, put furniture in storage and took his family to England.
Before I made this decision I had planned on getting them an education, he said. Once I got in Scientology I said, Wait a minute. This is something that theyve never had. ... And I knew this would help them more than anything I could possibly get them to do.
By age 15, Miscavige was back in suburban Philadelphia for his sophomore year of high school.
It was the spring of 1976 and Hubbard had just established a land base for Scientology parishioners in Clearwater after years of operating from a ship known as the Apollo.
At the time, Miscavige said, he found the drug use among his classmates appalling. He decided Clearwater was a good place to work with Hubbard, and he quit high school on his 16th birthday.
I totally sanctioned it, said Ron Miscavige Sr., who today is a staff musician for Scientology in California.
I wanted to dedicate my life to this, David Miscavige said, explaining his decision to drop out of high school. The thought of hanging around two more years in that existence so that I could match up with the status quo meant nothing to me because I knew that in two years I would go and work with the church anyway.
He would get a much different education in Scientology.
Once in Clearwater, Miscavige joined the Sea Organization, the Navy-style staff that pledges eternal service to Scientology. He worked in the Commodores Messenger Organization, a group charged with making sure Scientology management was functioning according to Hubbards policies.
He bunked on the Fort Harrison Hotels ninth floor, delivered telexes, helped tend the grounds and worked as a steward serving food. He also took pictures of Clearwater for Scientologys promotional brochures.
Before long, he was assigned to help with problems caused by the sudden influx of parishioners and staff in Clearwater. Miscavige was reviewing and training staffers, a job that allowed him to give directives to people many years his senior.
The teenager from New Jersey showed no timidity.
When someone 15 years younger than you is starting to tell you something, you either have tremendous respect for that person ... or you dont listen to them, said Greg Wilhere, then the leading Scientology official in Clearwater who now works under Miscavige in California. Miscavige, he said, had the ability to make things go right.
Miscavige was coming of age in a culture that believes each person is a spirit or thetan who operates with all the experience and competence born of many previous lives.
Hubbard wrote that a child is not a special species of animal distinct from adults, but a man or a woman who has not attained full growth.
After 10 months in Clearwater he was picked -- hes still not sure by whom -- to join an elite group working directly with Hubbard, who was producing Scientology training films in LaQuinta, Calif.
Miscavige recalls meeting the founder in 1977. Hubbard, then 66, wore a straw cowboy hat, slacks, a short-sleeved shirt and boots. He was leaving a dining room when the teenager from Clearwater introduced himself. Oh I know who you are, he remembers Hubbard saying. Welcome aboard.
As most Scientologists do, Miscavige often refers to Hubbard by his initials, LRH. He says Hubbard called him by the nickname Misc (pronounced Misk).
I never thought LRH was looking at me as: Oh, Dave is 17 years old or 18 years old, Miscavige said. It was just Dave, person to person. Spiritual being to spiritual being, so to speak.
Miscavige, a photography bug, quickly grasped filmmaking concepts such as camera angles and continuity, said Norman Starkey, who was on the camera crew and now is a high-ranking Scientologist. He was always thinking ahead, thinking of the future, predicting it and taking action.
Hubbard appointed Miscavige camera chief and considered him his best friend, Starkey said. And in the mornings, when the film crew gathered for work, David Miscavige was always the first person whose hand hed shake.