You can take the Scientologist out of the hit show, as singer-actor Isaac Hayes demonstrated this week by quitting the ”South Park” cast over an episode that satirized his religion. But taking show biz out of Scientology is a trickier proposition, given the number of celebrities who’ve been advertising their ties to the controversial church lately.
Leading the pack are Tom Cruise, described in a recent Los Angeles Times story as ”the public face of the church,” and John Travolta, producer and star of the $80-million clunker ”Battlefield Earth,” based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. But the list of celebrity Scientologists extends well beyond them. Former or current practitioners include Kirstie Alley, Beck, Jenna Elfman, Al Jarreau, Kelly Preston (Travolta’s wife), Juliette Lewis, Karen Black, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Nicole Kidman (Cruise’s ex), Anne Archer, Chick Corea, Chaka Khan, and Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart Simpson. By 1993, the Hubbard-Hollywood axis was strong enough to inspire two journalists to coin the term ”Scientollywood.”
”The Simpsons” aired its own sendup of a Scientology-like sect in a 1998 episode revolving around a group called the Movementarians. Recruits are promised a ride to the planet Blisstonia, but Marge leads her family out of the cult’s clutches with the help of deprogrammers.
Hayes played Chef (inset) on ”South Park” for nine irreverent years, during which the show mocked virtually every religious group under the sun. Nevertheless, he asked to be contractually released Monday, saying, ”Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored.”
On at least one ”South Park” message board yesterday, Hayes’s departure seemed to elicit few tears. ”Now that he’s left,” wrote one poster to www.1up.com, ”all I can think is, what a hypocrite. He doesn’t care when every one else gets [parodied], but when it’s his religion, he quits. What a big baby.”
Just another day in Scientollywood.