A feel-good father-son tale it is not.
Instead, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me, the tell-all memoir from Ron Miscavige detailing his estranged son David’s early life and take-no-prisoners ascension to the helm of the Church of Scientology, is a scathing, if sad, look at the dissolution of a family.
“He runs Scientology with an iron fist,” writes the elder Miscavige, a musician and businessman who introduced David to the religion in the late ’60s, in Ruthless, published today by St. Martin’s Press. (Ron left the church in 2012 after over four decades.)
“I believe his obsession with power and control have made him do things that will shock many.”
Among the assertions in the memoir that Monique Yingling, an attorney representing the Church of Scientology, dismissed as a “literary forgery” to ABC News’ 20/20, is the surprising role Lisa Marie Presley apparently played in Ron’s life once he left the church.
Here’s that account, plus more highlights from Ruthless:
1. Ron says that Lisa Marie Presley tried, and failed, to reunite him with his family
After he left Scientology, Ron says Presley hoped to help broker peace between him and his two daughters, who, according to Ron, remained with the church and immediately “disconnected” from him. (The church has steadfastly denied the existence of a policy of “disconnection,” saying members are not forced to sever ties with those deemed antagonistic towards the religion.)
“(Presley) was livid at the prospect of my not being able to talk to my daughters and the hypocrisy of the church’s claim that it has no policy of disconnection, yet clearly it was affecting the family of the chairman of the board!,” he writes.
Presley was reportedly raised in Scientology by her mom, Priscilla, but has long been rumored to have distanced herself from the church. Ron writes that he got to know her the years when they crossed paths at Gold Base, the 500-acre Scientology compound in Hemet, California, and they rekindled a friendship after he left. “She and David had been friends at one time, and she thought perhaps she could help,” he writes, recounting her visit to the church’s headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, where she allegedly could not meet with Miscavige but attempted to deliver a message directly to David by speaking into video cameras at Scientology offices.
“From what she told me later, she let him have it pretty good,” he writes. ” ‘How dare you not let your own father talk to his daughters? You are breaking up the family!’ ”
Days later, Presley heard back from the church officials, who apparently arranged for Ron’s daughters, Lori and Denise, to meet with her, Ron writes. During the meeting, as described by Ron, Denise “lashed out at Lisa Marie” and both daughters made it clear they had no interest in their father.
Presley’s rep had no comment on the incident, or on whether Presley is a practicing Scientologist.
2. David clicked with Scientology at age 9 – but his father now thinks the church is “evil”
Ron remembers seeing a profound change in David when the boy, whom Ron recalls being a once “lovable kid”, completed his first “auditing” session – a kind of Scientology counseling session – in 1969 at just 9 years old. “After 45 minutes, David walks out, smiling, bright,” he told ABC’s 20/20. “[That moment] decided his life, and mine.”
Earning a reputation as a Scientology prodigy, David was reportedly conducting auditing sessions of other people by age 12, and at 16, he quit high school to join “Sea Org,” a group comprising the church’s most dedicated members.
As he rose through church ranks, David grew distant from his father – and, writes Ron, became increasingly blinded by power.
“As a grown man, now middle-aged, he still possesses the energy and intelligence I saw in him as a child,” writes Ron. “But, while he employed those traits in his youth to get excellent grades in school or to become good at hitting a baseball, today he sits atop a multibillion-dollar church that is controversial, litigious, secretive, coercive and, in my mind, evil.”
3. Tom Cruise immediately captivated David, who was pulled by the “seductive lure of celebrity”
After meeting around 1990 when Cruise was preparing to shoot Days of Thunder, David and Cruise became fast friends, Ron writes in Ruthless, reportedly sky-diving in tandem during their first outing together. “The time they spent together obviously left David deeply impressed with the PR potential that Cruise could lend to Scientology. And to Dave,” Ron recalls.
For his part, Cruise, who tapped David as best man for his 2006 wedding to [CELEBRITY_LINK” “” “” “0” ], can be generous with gifts, Ron writes, on a lighter note. To wit: Cruise gave David an “automated skeet launcher” early on in their friendship; later, for Ron’s seventieth birthday, Cruise sent him an enormous blown-glass vase, “literally the size of an aquarium”, and a Harman/Kardon sound system Ron still uses to this day.
4. Scientology had Ron followed by private investigators
In July 2013, authorities in West Allis, Wisconsin, questioned Dwayne Powell and his son Daniel after following up on a call about a man acting suspiciously in the neighborhood where Ron Miscavige was living with his wife Becky.
Dwayne Powell told police he was a private investigator working with his son, and a search of his SUV revealed a cache of handguns, rifles, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, a stun gun, a GPS tracking device, a high zoom camera, a satellite computer, a bag of license plates for five different states, and what police said “appeared to be a rifle silencing device,” according to a police report.
Dwayne Powell “stated that he was hired by the CA based Church of Scientology to conducted [sic] full time surveillance of a Ronald Miscavige,” the report said, adding that Powell said he was being paid by attorneys for the church, “and that the main client is a David Miscavige.”
Daniel Powell also told authorities in a tape-recorded interview about an incident involving his father, Dwayne Powell, observing Ron Miscavige and believing the man to be having a heart attack. According to the police report, Daniel Powell said his father “called and reported it.”
“A couple minutes later, his dad told him that David Miscavige called him directly and told him not to intervene and let Ron die if it was his time,” the police report said.
Ron writes in Ruthless that the “heart attack” incident – which he says was him merely reaching for a cell phone inside his shirt pocket – and the subsequent appearance of police at his doorstep, left his “mind racing.”
“To say that I was shattered by [the detective’s] words is the understatement of the century,” Ron writes. “I heard it but did not accept it for quite some time. I think it is one of the most basic human impulses to help others, especially someone who is in dire need and especially a family member. And for a son to say that about his own father – just to let him die?”
An attorney for Scientology confirmed to ABC News that the church did hire private investigators to track Ron after he left the church in 2012, but asserted that David had nothing to do with them and never spoke to them.
“They [the church’s attorneys] decided that the private investigators were following Ron, first of all, for his own well-being and his own safety,” said Monique Yingling, a lawyer for the church. They were also concerned that he might somehow, because he was an elderly man with David’s name, become the pawn of some of the anti-Scientologists out there.”
5. Ron plotted his “escape” from the Church for months
Ron and his wife Becky spent months laying groundwork for their 2012 “escape” from Gold Base.
For one, the couple created a routine of taking regular Sunday trips to a music studio across from the Base, where they grabbed snacks from the studio refrigerator for the appreciative guard who manned the Gold gate.
He writes they had a couple of other things going for them: “I was 76 years old. I was the father of the leader of the church. Nobody would expect I was trying to escape at my age.”
Once Ron and Becky pulled out of the gate, Ron “punched the gas and we peeled down the highway, away from the base,” he writes. “We had made it. We were free.
“I firmly believe that, had we been caught, Becky and I would have been locked up in a remote part of the base under 24-hour guard, and I would have spent the rest of my life like that. I never would have gotten out. Never.”
The church disputes the entire “escape” premise. Church attorney Yingling told 20/20 that Ron’s claims were untrue as the estate “is not a prison,” thus does not require an “escape.”
“People can come and go as they please, and they do,” she added.
Likewise, the church takes issue with the memoir as a whole and addressed Ron’s accusations in a statement posted to its website:
“Ronald Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son,” the statement reads. “David Miscavige has taken care of his father throughout his life, both financially and by helping him in even the most dire circumstances.
“Ronald Miscavige was nowhere around when David Miscavige ascended to the leadership of the Church of Scientology, mentored by and working directly with the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, and entrusted by him with the future of the Church.
“Any father exploiting his son in this manner is a sad exercise in betrayal.”
Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me is available in stores today.