Immortality group fights on

The Phoenix Gazette/January 27, 1994
By Victor Dricks

How does $150,000 a year for the rest of your life sound?

Not bad, especially if you're going to live forever and get a free Cadillac, too.

A Scottsdale trio who preach the possibility of physical immortality may have no guarantee of postponing the hereafter indefinitely.

But they're not doing badly in the here and now, a financial audit of the Flame Foundation shows.

The Scottsdale-based organization, which claims 30,000 adherents in 18 countries, released financial records Wednesday.

The effort was aimed at rebutting recent charges that millions of dollars were being collected from members, with the bulk going to its three founders, Charles Paul brown, BernaDeane Brown and James Russell Strole.

The charges were made recently in GQ and Elle magazines and the London Daily Telegraph, and on the ABC-TV news program "Day One" and the nationally syndicated television program "American Journal."

They are complete poppycock, the group's founders said during a news conference.

"We commissioned this audit voluntarily to dispel the rumors, innuendos and accusations formulated by those who are either uninformed or who have 'hidden agendas' which have been spread by a small segment of irresponsible press who were quick to provide exposure but slow to check the facts," said Flame Foundation general manager Art Bejerno.

An audit of the organization's 1992-93 year, prepared by accountant Gregory Longstrom of Curosh & Williams, shows the three founders received salaries totaling $431, 597.

Strole was paid $164,616. The Browns, who are married, were paid $266,981.

The three also divided a $52,000-a-year housing allowance (they live together), and enjoyed the use of a late model Cadillac and a Land Rover, putting their total compensation each to more than $150,000 last year.

Bejarno dismissed reports that his organization is a "money-making machine" that "sold" the promise of physical immortality to the gullible who paid $650 each to attend the group's annual convergence in Scottsdale in July.

The founders' earnings are "delayed compensation" since they invested three decades of their time and money to develop the physical immortality movement before they received any compensation, Bejarno said.

"I know $150,000 a year sounds like a lot of money, but you have to consider the fact that these people work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They're always on the road," said the group's publicist, Bob Fisher, of Fisher & Associates of Los Angeles.

Adherents believe physical immortality can be achieved by reprogramming their body's cells to regenerate indefinitely, a claim most scientists dismiss as farfetched.

Nevertheless, the Flame enjoys $1,125,533 from event revenue, fund-raising activities, sales of materials and contributions during the 1992-93 administrative year, which ran from Sept. 1, 1992, through Aug., 31.

It reported expenses of $1,188,666, showing a net loss for the year of $63,133.

Peddling immortality may be lucrative, but financial records show the organization has been unable to squirrel away much for tomorrow. The organization reported total assets of $234,428, but liabilities of $177,349, as of Aug., 31.

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