When devoted Scientologist Cathy Schenkelberg looked around the room, all she could see were nervous faces staring back at her.
The young women were all waiting in the lobby at the Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, about to be given the chance to audition to become Tom's Cruise's girlfriend.
Schenkelberg was a great catch for any high-ranking Scientologist - she was a successful actress, had spent $1million on Scientology courses and had the looks to take on Tinseltown.
She was also a friend of the stars - her daughter was buddies with Isabella and Connor Cruise, she'd hang out eating burgers with John Travolta and Kelly Preston, and was on first name terms with all the A-list Scientology stars. She even shared a nanny with Tom Cruise's sister, Cass Mapother.
But no one knew that being a Scientologist had taken the voiceover actress's whole life savings, pensions, medical insurance, and reduced her to living in her car.
But, unlike some others in that waiting room, she genuinely didn't have a clue that she was on Tom Cruise's girlfriend hit list - she thought the audition was for a Scientology training video. It was only on leaving the room that that she found out, by which time the damage was done.
Schenkelberg, who left the church in 2009, now explains in a Daily Mail Online exclusive interview: 'I was called into an audition for a video run by Golden Era Productions [Scientology media department].
'I was on a really high level, I was a successful Scientologist, I was one of America's top voiceovers. I remember there was a load of us in the lobby of the Celebrity Centre.
'I didn't know I was being auditioned [to be Cruise's girlfriend], so I was being asked on camera: ''Where are you from? What level are you on? Then, "What do you think of Tom Cruise?"
'I thought I was auditioning for a training course, so when he asked about Tom Cruise, I said: "I can't stand him, I think he's a narcissistic baby!" I said, "I'm really bummed about him splitting with Nicole". I hate the guy, even before I was in Scientology I didn't like him.
'I then go on a litany about him and I remember saying at the end: "Do I have a script now? What do I need to do?" And they said: "No, you're finished." I was like, "Huh, I thought this was a training video".
'When I left the room, there was another actress outside and she asked: "How did you do?" I said: "What do you mean?" She said: "Well, that's an audition to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend", and I said: "I don't think I got the gig."'
Schenkelberg was made to pay for her anti-Cruise comments through hours of intensive auditing, as they would 'security check' her to investigate why she had any form of hatred for the Mission Impossible star.
She recalls: 'I would have to get audited on this, they'd want to know why I didn't like Tom Cruise. I would get into so much trouble over this.
'I’d be like: “Nothing, I just don’t like the guy.” In your security check, it asks you certain questions: “Have you committed a crime? Have you raped anyone? Have you practised homosexuality? Have you had an unkind thought about Tom Cruise or David Miscavige?”
It would come up in one of my auditing sessions, but I’d stand firm on it, I don’t have to like everybody. I don’t care if he’s gay or straight, the guy is insecure, I just never got what everyone else saw in him,’ says Cathy.
Although Schenkelberg was friends with most other celebrities, she never met Cruise personally and was always banned from the parties he'd attend.
She says: 'John Travolta is a lovely guy. His sister Margaret and I did the voiceover seminars at the Celebrity Centre. I hated them. I hated lying to people, I'm telling them they can do voiceovers with a lisp.
'Course you can, sign up for this course, pay for this, pay for that. I'd see John in Clearwater and we'd have a burger together.
'Cass, Tom's sister, and I shared a nanny, and we were very good friends, we hung out as our kids were the same age.
But after the audition things changed.
'I'd get invited because of my daughter to say, Nancy Cartwright or Leah Rimini's party then they'd say: "Sorry, you can't go because Tom doesn't know you." If I was in the party, I'd get uninvited, I was in the B Group.'
She did know Isabella and Connor, and says that rumors they 'disconnected' from mother Nicole Kidman after they split up in 2001 were true.
'I used to see them, as my daughter knew them. They'd bad mouth Nicole, and the Church badmouthed Nicole to the kids. Nicole was suppressive, they couldn't see their mom. I said it was not OK for that to happen,' says Schenkelberg.
'Eventually I think those kids came back to Nicole, but they got special treatment at the Celebrity Centre. They took special courses and classes.'
Schenkelberg says that celebrities get an easy ride compared to normal Scientologists, who will be charged for every course they do, including being 'fined' if they do anything wrong in the Church's eyes.
'They don't even mingle in the Celebrity Centre, they're in the President's [David Miscavage"s] Office, and I'd be there with them until a bigger celebrity showed up, and then I'd have to leave,' says Schenkelberg.
'I'd say hi to Kirsty [Alley]. She's met me five times, and she'd ignore me,' she adds. 'Celebrities get a free pass, they can do whatever.
'One Hollywood celebrity would brag to me about being stoned and f***ing three people at a time, but she'll just 'audit' [Scientology confessional] it out on Monday. I'm like, wait a minute, I just masturbated and had to tell them [in an auditing session] and it has cost me 800 bucks!'
Schenkelberg first got involved in the Church in 1991 through an actor friend; she says she was Chicago's best voiceover actress and was making more than $300,000 a year.
I've six brothers and three sisters, and was raised a Catholic, but my brother died when I was 13, and I started searching as I didn't want to believe in the God who'd taken my brother,' says Schenkelberg.
'I did a commercial with an actress friend and she said I should join this group. They say you're contributing to the world, we're the only hope to mankind. You can help the universe and suddenly the world will be clearer.
'So I began doing all my levels and courses. I didn't mess around. My thinking was that I'll be done in a year. I kept thinking I was changing the world.'
Schenkelberg did many courses and levels, called Operating Thetan Levels, the highest being Operating Thetan 8 (OT8). But it was also financially draining, the courses were taking all of her money. In 14 years, she spent $938,000.
According to the website thetruthaboutscientology, Schenkelberg has completed 30 courses.
She also claims that the Church also made life especially difficult as she had a daughterwith a non-Scientologist.
She says: 'I would always question what I was doing, but I was scared of getting into trouble. I became disenchanted over time, especially when I ran out of money. I did all the levels up to OT7, I've kept every receipt. I've got invoices for these huge bills.
'I kept going back and doing new versions of the same courses, they'd keep making me repeat the same stuff and it'd cost me more and more.
'I bought an apartment near the HQ in Clearwater [Florida] so I could do all the levels, but they'd still want me to stay in a hotel.
'I paid $5,000 to go on a new year's trip on the Scientology ship and I had to sleep underneath the kitchen because some celebrities had taken my room.'
Over the years, Schenkelberg saw her fortune dwindle, as she spent more time doing courses at the cost of her voiceover career.
She had two homes in her home town of Chicago and one in Clearwater, but she lost bothl of them, and declared herself bankrupt in 2009.
'I lost three homes, a pension and medical and dental insurance. I was on food stamps and was kicked out of my rental house as I was in arrears of over $20,000,' adds Schenkelberg.
'I gave $1million in 14 years, but I wasn't a celebrity, I was a single mom, who believed I was helping mankind. I fell for it hook, line and sinker.'
Desperate for cash, she even begged the Church for $17,000 she'd paid in advance for a course she never actually did, saying in a letter: 'I am broke beyond broke… this is a survival issue. I qualify for food stamps.
'I'm now $20,000 behind in my rent. I have a tax lien of $20,000. I have already gone through bankruptcy and foreclosure in 2009. Remember these services were not used, The money is on my account and I need it returned to me so I and my daughter do not have to move.'
She claims it took two and a half years to receive that money and has a receipt to prove it.
Schenkelberg, who lives back in Chicago now, says that the Church even tried to recruit her daughter, then only nine years old, into the ultra-hardcore Sea Org, where members sign billion-year contracts.
On the Church website, it states: 'Minors are permitted to voluntarily join the Sea Organization, with the consent of a parent or a guardian approved by the parents.'
Schenkelberg says: 'I also found out that while I was doing my voiceover seminars, they were trying to recruit my daughter for the Sea Org, she was only nine, and I'd said she was off-limits.
'She actually came home and asked me: "What's emancipation mommy?" They had told her that she can do what she wants at 18, if I did not agree with her joining the Sea Org.'
Since those dark days, Schenkelberg has been trying to turn her life around.
Her daughter is a talented musician and Schenkelberg cleans houses and housesits cats and dogs. She doesn't have a home, only her trusty car, a Ford Escape.
'The Church raped me. It's not the million dollars, it's the time, that's the hardest thing. I was a successful actress but the roles I would have played I don't get anymore, as I'm older,' says Schenkelberg.
But she's still doing theater work and came up with a novel way to solve her problems by talking about her days in Scientology on stage in a one-woman comedy called Squeeze My Cans.
She's just finished a sell-out stint in Chicago and Los Angeles, and is booked in to do Edinburgh Festival next year as well as New York, England and Sydney.
She talks about the audition with Tom Cruise and how she blew her fortune, but with a smile on her face.
She says: 'I've had a blast. Since the gigs in Chicago, we got calls from all around the world. This little piece of theater is making an impact. I feel like I'm helping people.
'We even had two people from Scientology come to see the show, asking for information, one even started filming it in the front row. Even if he did send it back to the church, so what? This is my story.'
Rumors have swirled for years over the casting couch-style interviews that were held in hopes of finding Tom Cruise a girlfriend in the mid-2000s.
Allegedly disappointed by his split from Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz in 2004 after she failed to embrace Scientology, Cruise allowed senior members of the church to summon the unwitting stars to read for a non-existent part in the 'Mission: Impossible' series.
This was in addition to the female members of the church who were brought in to audition for a Scientology Training Video, as was Schenkelberg.
The tell-all book, penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, alleges that Scientologist matchmakers arranged for 'auditions' at the organization's Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles and invited the bevy of what were young and promising actresses.
The book claims that each of the girls, including Lindsay Lohan, who was 18 in 2004, Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth and Scarlett Johansson, were not chosen and in 2005 Cruise instead settled down with Katie Holmes..
Holmes, who is now 37, split from Tom cruise in 2012 and took primary custody of their child, Suri.
Prior to the auditions of the would-be stars, Cruise was also reportedly set up with British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi.
According to 'Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison Belief', several celebrity women were interviewed.
Vanity Fair magazine's special correspondent Maureen Orth reported that Shelly Miscavige, the wife of David Miscavige was part of the search to find Tom Cruise a suitable girlfriend.
The magazine contended that Boniadi was convinced by Scientology leaders that she had been selected for a project that would help further her religion and would lead to her meeting 'world leaders' and having an influential role in the church.
Allegedly, top Scientology official Greg Wilhere told the actress to darken her hair, remove her orthodontic braces and that she break up with her long term boyfriend, who was also part of the controversial religion and with whom she was reportedly deeply in love.
When she refused to do that, Wilhere allegedly showed Boniadi evidence that her boyfriend had cheated on her and that led her to break up their relationship.
The Church of Scientology has vehemently denied claims made in the book Going Clear, published in 2013.
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