Nancy Rodes, Godkid to the Kids

Nancy died Friday, the 9th. She had an inoperable brain tumor. It could be that others have already reported this. I’ll add some thoughts.

We met in 1978 at the La Quinta base. She was an auditor, and during that period I was on a number of posts in Cine, the Sea Org unit making movies with L. Ron Hubbard. Nancy might even have audited me. I think I got to know her because she had married Jim Dincalci just before I arrived at La Quinta. I’d known Jim in the early 1970’s on the “Apollo,” we both had the Hubbard experience, we both had been busted and done our time,  and when I’d first arrived at the base, we worked together building sets.

At some point, because of the way Ron worked, the auditors also got posted to Cine, and Nancy was made Make-up I/C, or some such post title. I’m sure she commented about how little she knew about make-up tech, but I couldn’t recall it with any certainty. Regardless, in the Sea Org there is a universal assumption that everyone has done everything on the whole track so anyone can do anything on any post he or she is assigned to. For a brief breath in eternity, Nancy was L. Ron Hubbard’s Make-Up Artist.

I think she had fun making up the crew who got ordered to act in Ron’s movies, because Nancy was able to have fun or make fun in just about any circumstance.  Even in our last call, as she was slipping in and out of consciousness, she joked, and laughed at my jokes. Hubbard busted her from make-up after a flap shooting a sequence where Nancy had to turn some of Hubbard’s very white messenger babes into very dark native girls. The day in the California desert was scorching, the brown color made the messengers even hotter, and Nancy had used cocoa butter to spread on the nativeness. It could have been she had followed Ron the Director’s order for the cocoa butter, but it didn’t matter. The actors cooked, the make-up ran, Hubbard was fried, and Nancy was toast.

Hubbard assigned me to the RPF in La Quinta in September 1978, and in December the whole RPF moved to the new base at Gilman Hot Springs to renovate a house for Hubbard. I didn’t see Nancy or Jim again inside the cult, because they routed out in early 1979 from La Quinta. I met them once when I was driving around on the Hubbard biography project. Then in early 1982, my wife Jocelyn and I connected with them again after we had escaped and ended up in a trailer park in Orange County. I would stay friends with Nancy, and have all sorts of adventures with her the next thirty plus years.

She and Jim got into house renovation in the LA area after leaving Scientology, and later Nancy got into new construction and design in the San Francisco East Bay. There are a number of homes she built and has left for folks and families to live and love in. Before she hung up her hammer, she gave all kinds of strapping young men good work in her construction business, and was the friendliest, most understanding boss they could imagine.

There’s a Nancy incident from the southern California period, which made it into trial testimony in the first Scientology v. Armstrong case, and is worth telling again. For some days, cult PIs had been following Jocelyn and me around the clock wherever we went, and they were not hiding their presence but getting aggressive and in our faces to intimidate us. To leave the trailer park, we had to drive or walk past two vehicles and shifts of PIs, and they drove around in the park. We were sick of the madness of it all, so concocted a scheme with Nancy to escape and have some time away from these toughs the Scientologists hired to haunt us.

Jocelyn and I were to slip out our door at night and make our way deeper into the trailer park without being seen to a laundry facility where we would hide in a dark corner. Nancy was to drive in and pick us up. It started off badly because her car broke down, and she had to walk past the PIs to let us know. But we regrouped. Nancy rented a car, put on a blonde wig, plastered on too much bright red lipstick, pouted, and looked as bananas as possible driving past the PIs. Jocelyn and I made our way to the laundry at the appointed time, got into the back of the car and crouched down on the floor, and Nancy drove us off into the night and to relative freedom. So her Sea Org experience in Make-up for Ron the Movie Maker really did pay off.

Nancy testified at my trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in 1984.1 Her testimony was important not only about my state of mind during the Scientologists’ PI siege of Jocelyn and me, but about the Scientologists’ practice of culling preclear folders and providing useful intelligence information from auditing sessions to Scientology’s intelligence personnel. Nancy knew about this, both as a Scientology auditor and as a victim of the practice when she and Jim asked to leave. As ex-Scientologists who were auditors often do, she abhorred that practice. Her honesty and courage comes through in her testimony, as it did throughout her life. That whole day’s transcript is educational, with testimony also from Laurel Sullivan, Lyman Spurlock and Eddie Walters.

Laurel, Mike and Kima Douglas, Nancy and Jim, Jocelyn and I, were all ex-Sea Org, and we all followed a spiritual path of one shade or another after leaving the cult. In some cases, our path brought us into engagement in varying degrees with Scientology and Scientologists. All of us but Jim participated in the 1986 “settlement” that was supposed to resolve all our legal claims and end the threat from Scientology for everyone. After the settlement, we all continued to discuss our Scientology experiences and knowledge in violation of the Scientologists’ contractual silence conditions, because it was impossible not to, and perverse or a joke to even try. But the conditions, or really the Scientologists’ threats and efforts to judicially enforce the silence conditions, and impose their onerous penalties, changed our relationships.

It was different for me because the Scientologists continued to target me specifically, and after a period of seeming repose, I pushed back. I exposed and opposed their contractual conditions, spoke publicly, worked in a cult litigator’s office, helped the Scientologists’ continuing victims, and got sued, bankrupted, and crushed by frightful court orders. In 1994, Nancy bravely testified in a deposition in one of the Scientologists’ cases against me.2 Her testimony, as it had been in 1984, was open, honest and helpful; although no amount of help was going to derail the injustice being perpetrated. I left California for British Columbia in 1997 to be able to carry on my part in the Scientology war.

Nancy came to BC to visit once, in the winter, around 2000. I got to show her around the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, and we both got to talk about everything under the sun. It was actually under the sun those few days, which was rare in this part of the world at that time of the year. The last time I saw her was in 2004 when Caroline and I were in Marin County for the trial of the Scientologists’ sixth lawsuit against me. We met Nancy and went for a walk one more time in the hills, sat on the grass, and talked again about everything. Again it was a sunny day, and I am so glad that she and Caroline got to meet.

Nancy and Jim split up at some point, and Nancy never remarried and she never had children. Yet what I remember most about her are the kids she always seemed to have in her life. She loved kids and they loved her. Well, everyone loved her, and she had friends galore, except for maybe some deluded Scientologists or their agents, who haven’t yet learned that they loved her. But with kids, she was something — cheery, encouraging, generous, non-judgmental, a totally fake disciplinarian, and totally loving.

I think that it was Nancy’s secret, heart’s desire to be totally loving, because she worked so diligently at it, and had such success. During the ten years I lived in the Bay Area, she and I talked and laughed about such things countless times, and we read all sorts of holy books together. We had a version of the Dhammapada we both loved. She was a great sport, and she partied and danced, and sang at the drop of a word or a note. She noted, both wistfully and laughingly, the last time we talked that she could no longer carry a tune. She loved love. She knew, I think, that to be totally loving, she had to be the same as the kids she loved. And she was.

I got to talk by phone a couple of times to Nancy’s brother Tom and her friend and caregiver Aza during these past few weeks. And Nancy talked about them a lot before she didn’t talk any more. Thank you for your care and your love for her.

I think she’d love this beautiful rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” right now: