KCRW joined with Writers Bloc tonight to pack a couple of hundred people in the new Moss Theater on the Westside. The draw was New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright talking with Kim Masters, host of "The Business" on KCRW, about "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief," his new book that authoritatively gives further exposure to the unusualness of the church founded in the 1950s by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard. Los Angeles was portrayed as the home of more Scientologists than anywhere in the world. I've noticed that as more and more realities of the church get detailed by reporters like Wright and Masters, the response tends to be....amusement. Wright wasn't trying to be funny, but repeating core church beliefs and practices out loud spurred laughter in the room numerous times. The dark side to Scientology's image wasn't ignored, of course: Masters introduced two women who she credited with helping defectors get out and of helping journalists through the years. Sorry, I didn't make a note of their names.
When asked about the future of Scientology, Wright compared the church's members to 19th century Mormons -- a vilified group that changed course and became more mainstream over time. He said Scientology might thrive if the church adapts, but since the number of followers seems to be shrinking it also might just go away eventually for lack of interest.
The melding of KCRW's UpClose series with the 17-year-old Writers Bloc program was new, as was the venue on the campus of New Roads School. KCRW general manager Jennifer Ferro said the station would be putting on programs like this regularly.
Masters and Wright: LA Observed