Columnist Dan Neil observes in his column in Sunday's LAT Magazine that "Either Tom Cruise or Scientology is crazy. Which one is it?" To find out, he drags his wife to brunch at the church's domain in Hollywood.
The Celebrity Centre's Sunday brunch—$25 per person and open to the public—seemed like a relatively safe way to look behind the ivy. Would my wife and I see glowing thetan beings busing tables? Would they make us buy a time-share in Ocean City, Md.?
The main parking lot was full, so we parked in a lower-level deck, behind a motorized gate that rang shut behind us. I wondered if they would let us out.
The facility, called the Manor Hotel, is actually quite lovely, all white-walled and gilt-corniced in the faux-rococo style so well-practiced in old Hollywood. The place was conspicuously free of spacemen. The building started life in 1929 as the Château Elysée, a luxury apartment house and hotel, and the feel of well-established finances remains. The first thing visitors see when they walk up to the house is the very large, very splendid Rose Garden Café, an espresso bar.
OK, time out. If, according to Cruise, Ritalin is an unhealthy psychotropic crutch, what is a three-shot grande latte? On the wall outside the café was a banner announcing a drug rehabilitation seminar, inviting me to get "clear." Fine, I'll go, as long as there is coffee.
My guess is that a fair number of curiosity-seekers come to the Sunday brunch every weekend just to see if Scientologists have two heads or something. Fortunately, the food is good and the coffee is excellent.
Neil begins the piece with this sentence: "I don't believe in god, but my faith in brunch is unshakable."