• Third Trumpet Ron Miscavige and the “Incredible Lie” He’s Telling


    “He was a belligerent cranky old man with never ending complaints.” —Denise Sommerville
    SEE THE FULL VIDEO OF DENISE SOMMERVILLE
    Director of Audio Operations, Golden Era Productions 

    I worked with Ron for 25 years while he was in the Church’s band at Golden Era Productions. Nearly all of that time I was either his direct superior, his superior’s superior or the head of his department. So I know him very well.

    Ron was a simple musician in the band. The Church back-up band. This was his job for over 25 years. His story in the Church is the story of a musician. That’s it. And let me tell you, as his superior, a musician that required more babysitting, coddling and attention than any other band member in history.

    “…a musician that required more babysitting, coddling and attention than any other band member in history.”

    Let me detail some specifics regarding this last statement:

    • Ron knew how to play the trumpet but lacked the dedication it takes. Some of our music productions utilized a full brass section on recordings. Unfortunately, Ron refused to practice and this went on year after year. As a result, his playing went more and more downhill to the point of embarrassment. The other brass players here at Golden Era practice daily to stay in top form and have for years as professional musicians do who take their craft seriously. In fact, they are some of the top players in the industry. But not Ron. Despite being told to practice over and over through the years, so he could be used on recordings, he refused. Because he played out of time, out of tune and could never keep up in band rehearsals, Ron was relegated to playing occasional background parts in live performances. The parts were always written in a way that it wouldn’t matter if he played or not, as he couldn’t be counted on to hold his part. Often the mixer had to mute Ron’s part so the audience couldn’t hear it because it was degrading the sound of the band, and it would cause a dissonance that would offend the audience, not to mention the rest of the players in the band were top professional level players with a reputation for being so. Often Ron did not even play on songs (because the parts were too difficult for him and he refused to learn them), and Ron would just go on stage as a sort of shill to fill out the brass section. Ron would often try to talk the band out of playing the more impressive arrangements as he couldn’t pull off the parts.
    • In the late 80s and early 90s, Ron tried his hand at being master of ceremonies for the band. He was not the band leader, though he pretended to be while on stage. The Music Director made all the decisions and directed the band—Ron was just the mouthpiece as he had a big mouth. Unfortunately, because Ron is so crass, the things that would come out of his mouth when talking to audiences were offensive and inappropriate—akin to what you would hear from a washed-up comic at a Catskills resort. So, eventually, we made him a scripted MC—and had to drill him before every performance to make sure he knew what he was supposed to say and was not supposed to say for fear he would blurt out something stupid and embarrassing to the audience (and the band). Here’s an example: He introduced Golden Era’s local public relations officer as “Ladies & Gentlemen, she dances on one leg, she dances on the other, and in-between she makes her living.” Can you imagine a CHURCH band leader saying such a thing to the local public? Inevitably, despite all efforts to keep him in check on his inappropriate comments, he would blurt out some insult that made the band (and everyone in the room) want to cringe. Ultimately the band refused to let him MC anything because after many, many chances, he could not be trusted to not bring the show down to his gutter-level humor.

    On this count, to illustrate Ron’s proclivity for insults and offensive humor, some real live examples are in order. Ron particularly liked to make fun of Nazis. In 1989, we went to Germany to perform at the Frankfurt Book Fair. We were in a 5-star hotel, where we would be performing for a large reception. Ron, in all his glory, walked into a room with a piano, sat down at the piano, and started loudly playing and singing “Springtime for Hitler in Germany” (from the Mel Brooks movie “The Producers”). We all immediately reacted to this and had to get him to stop as he was in the middle of Frankfurt, Germany. Ron was also famous for painting cork mustaches on himself and imitating Hitler whenever there was a cork in sight. I’ve attached photographic evidence of this one, so you can see it for yourself. Lastly, on this front, Ron had a gag he used to pull, where he would tell some innocent person he was doing a grammar test on them and ask them “What is the present tense of the word sought?” The person would of course say “Seek,” to which Ron would say (a la Hitler) “Heil!” I’ve seen him do this at least 30 times—one time in Germany, to a German.

    • In the music studio itself for a short period, Ron was supposed to be a composer, to write melodies and do the basic composition of music pieces for films and videos. Because Ron would not study and bone up on different genres and types of music, his melodies were always the same—just monotonous and boring. They were always unimaginative and unmemorable, and rarely got used for anything. Ron sat in his composing room, writing junk that never saw the light of day 95% of the time. Ron blamed his ineptness and lack of creativity on the fact that he didn’t like modern music, and made a career out of advertising how he was too old to learn it. Repeated and continued assistance was offered to Ron so he could learn music composing and arranging. The Music Director gave him many drills to help him improve his musical skills, so he would be able to produce music that could be used on our films and videos. Ron continually refused to take advantage of that help, and in fact the only thing he ever lifted a finger to do was complain about it.
    • The one thing that Ron did do—which he used to try to pass off as actual production—was sit next to the musicians actually doing the composing and arranging work on the music that was being produced. Ron prided himself on being the side man on the music scoring team—literally—sitting next to the arranger full time while he played his fingers off, doing nothing but what could only qualify as “glorified cheerleading.” He would sit there and say “yeah, that works great” or, acting like a PR salesman, telling someone like me who would come by to see how the production was going how great it was and how fast it was going. All while he was doing nothing but sitting around gabbing, while someone else did all the work. And, to add insult to injury, while he sat next to the musician writing the music, Ron would do things to continually distract the person while they were trying to work. He’d pick up the phone and make loud calls having nothing to do with the music being produced (like finding out when his car would be ready at the shop, or when his food he ordered was coming in)—all full volume, about six inches from the ear of the person trying to write the music.
    • Ron was an expert at doing anything but his job. When he wasn’t being an arranger’s side man, or wasting time with his disposable melodies in his scoring room, Ron spent his days hanging out in one of the two fully appointed studio kitchenettes, where he had a continually filled, full-size refrigerator with his personal food. This fridge was meant for all musicians to be able to use, but Ron took over the majority of space and everyone else had to fight for a little bit of room for their food or drinks. Ron had a second refrigerator in his office that he also kept full of food. Ron’s car was full of food. It became part of my daily routine to discover Ron in the kitchen when he was supposed to be working and to tell him to get back to work—which was met each time with an argument about why he had a valid reason to be goofing off in the middle of the day and how I was picking on him. I want to add that if he had worked hard and produced anything of value, no one would have cared if he was in the kitchen 50 times a day.
    • Similarly, it became routine that I would find Ron wasting time when he was supposed to be working–eating, shopping on the Internet, making personal phone calls, ordering things on the phone, hanging around outside the Music building trying to start conversations with people walking by—basically anything he could come up with to avoid work and do his job.
    • I could never get Ron interested in anything that extended beyond the four walls of his own tiny self-involved trailer-trash world. The only things that interested Ron were food, sports, food, his car, food, making degrading jokes at someone else’s expense, distracting people from production, yelling at the other musicians, complaining, catalog shopping, buying presents for his wife—and I actually think that’s pretty much about it. Ron did not attend production or planning meetings, and the only “inside” information he was privy to was upcoming music productions, when I was able to get him involved, which honestly was not often and was the exception more than the rule.
    “He lied to all of us. He was a belligerent cranky old man with never ending complaints.”

    He lied to all of us. He was a belligerent cranky old man with never ending complaints. He was constantly getting attention and assistance from friends to make sure that everything was okay with him and that he was doing things he felt he could do. Right to the very end. And to find out that he was planning for five years to take off without a word. I tolerated him during those five years as did all his fellow band members and the many people he worked with here who thought they were his friend, while he was busy conspiring and being dishonest. He was acting like he was my friend the entire time. He acted like the other musicians were his friends. Betrayal does not begin to describe his despicable behavior toward all of us who cared for him for so many years and worked beside him right up until the very last day.

    I imagine that Ron has invented this web of lies to justify and explain away the fact that he wasn’t willing to do a scrap of work to contribute to anything or for any cause but his own.

    Denise Sommerville
    Director of Audio Operations