I'm starting a new thread for this...the other thread's long and devoted to Tom and Katie http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-scientology18dec18,0,2963052.story?coll=la-home-headlines SNIP GILMAN HOT SPRINGS Nearly 30 years ago, the Church of Scientology bought a dilapidated and bankrupt resort here and turned the erstwhile haven for Hollywood moguls and starlets into a retreat for L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded the religion. Today, the out-of-the-way 500-acre compound near Hemet has quietly grown into one of Scientology's major bases of operation, with thriving video and recording studios, elaborate offices and a multimillion-dollar mansion that former members say was built for the eventual return of "LRH," who died in 1986. Like the previous owners, the church also has used the property as a sanctuary for its own stable of stars. It is here, ex-members say, that Hollywood's most bankable actor, Tom Cruise, was assiduously courted for the cause by Scientology's most powerful leader, David Miscavige. Scientology has long recruited Hollywood luminaries. But the close friendship of these two men for nearly 20 years and their mutual devotion to Hubbard help explain Cruise's transformation from just another celebrity adherent into the public face of the church. The bond between the star and his spiritual leader was evident last year when the two traded effusive words and crisp salutes at a Scientology gala in England. Calling Cruise "the most dedicated Scientologist I know," Miscavige presented him with the church's first Freedom Medal of Valor. "Thank you for your trust, thank you for your confidence in me," Cruise replied, according to Scientology's Impact magazine. "I have never met a more competent, a more intelligent, a more tolerant, a more compassionate being outside of what I have experienced from LRH. And I've met the leaders of leaders. I've met them all." ------ SNIP A Scientology spokesman, Mike Rinder, called them the "best of friends," men who've achieved great success through "their force of personality and their drive to excel." At the same time that Cruise's increasingly vocal advocacy of Scientology has drawn attention to his faith, it has collided with his career. While promoting "War of the Worlds" this year, the film's director, Steven Spielberg, grew concerned that Cruise was talking too little about the movie and too much about Scientology and his wide-eyed-in-love fiancee, Katie Holmes, who turns 27 today. Their romance generated even more buzz when Holmes was seen in the nearly constant company of Jessica Rodriguez, who is from a prominent family of Scientologists. Holmes, who said after becoming engaged to Cruise that she was embracing Scientology, described Rodriguez as a close friend, though she was widely seen as a church-appointed companion. Unlike Holmes' embrace of the church, Cruise's is not new. Long before he sprang onto Oprah's couch, jabbed an accusing finger at Matt Lauer and blasted Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants, Cruise undertook intensive Scientology study and counseling at the church's compound, according to current and former Scientologists.