If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.
Nancie Brown’s son David was one of the eight followers who walked into the office of the L.A. Weekly unannounced in 1994. TI had died of liver cancer in 1985, and DO had led the group, with continuing astral guidance from TI, who had now told him to gather a “second wave” of recruits as “crew” for the craft. They resurfaced for another round of cross-country recruitment, taking out ads in USA Today and publicizing their free public meetings with radio, TV and newspaper interviews like the one that got started in the Weekly’s conference room.
Dave Gardetta’s article appeared in the January 21, 1994, issue, a few days after the Northridge earthquake shook Los Angeles. To Rio, the earthquake was both literal and metaphorical, an omen that made perfect sense when he picked up the paper with “Remains of the Day” on the cover and the mysterious visitors on the last page.
“I was looking for answers,” Rio recalled at his apartment. “I was gathering information. I had read a lot about Atlantis, UFOs and government cover-ups. When I saw this L.A. Weekly article, I thought, ‘Well, let’s see if these people are who they say they are.’ ”
Fifty or so people showed up that Sunday at the Marina International Hotel in Marina del Rey. During the two-hour presentation, Rio felt a shock of recognition. I asked him to describe it. “Something just changed,” he said, after a long pause. “I could feel it physically,” he said, again looking me square in the eye. “My mind started to awaken, as if I was remembering things I’d always known.”
He wanted to join instantly. Rio had been married — he and his ex-wife were both musicians — but had divorced in 1986. They had a son, and shared visitation. After one custodial weekend, Rio, who at that time was still called by his birth name, Richard Ford, dropped his son off at his wife’s parents’ house, along with his guitar, art portfolio, photo albums, books and extra clothes. There was no explanation, no warning. And then Richard Ford was gone.
When questioned about his family, Rio told me, “They’re not important to this story.” I’d read and watched several interviews Rio did in the immediate aftermath of the suicides, and noticed that he used the Heaven’s Gate language to refer to himself in the third person, describing his son, for example, as “the child of my vehicle.” When I met him, that usage had mostly abated, but I did find it surprising when Rio told me that after the suicides, he didn’t contact his mother for a year, even when she could see that he was alive from watching him on TV with Diane Sawyer in 1997. He didn’t reconnect with his son for another four years after that.
I asked Rio if I could talk to his family; he said no. The media had hounded them, he explained, and he wants to protect them. Fair enough. But another reason Rio didn’t want to talk about his family was his extreme sensitivity to the many (false, in his view) Freudian analyses of his motivations that peppered stories about him 10 years ago, which went something like: missing father + abusive, pious mother + unhappy marriage = fertile mind for cult indoctrination.
I’d also like to resist pop psychology as much as possible, but Rio’s own book begins with his father disappearing when Rio was 3 years old and his “unhappy, angry and abusive” mother constantly in and out of work, marriages and new towns. Rio’s closest attachment was to his grandmother, and when she died in 1988, according to Rio’s ex-wife, he was “emotionally devastated.” I had to take notice when Rio cried while describing how his first meeting with DO at a campground in Arizona was “like finally meeting my father.” His voice broke at the very thought of it, years later. This was the first of many tearful moments when Rio talked about his “new family.”
He changed the subject to his book. “That’s what we need to get out there,” he said. “We need to talk about what happens after the Second Coming.”
Rio’s a very nice guy. He digs healthful food, does odd jobs in art and design, and doesn’t like Bush, making him not that different from anyone else in West L.A. — except for his celestial predestination to reveal secret knowledge to the world. When he finds out I don’t believe that the Grays — the big-headed, almond-eyed aliens — are abducting humans for genetic sampling to save their species, he looks surprised, as if such knowledge is axiomatic, and says, “Well, you’ll get there eventually.”
Among the suggested interview topics in Rio’s cover letter to the L.A. Weekly are “Truth and Clarification.” One of the fundamental truths Rio hopes to get across, I learned, is that the Heaven’s Gate crew did not actually commit suicide, a semantic argument made by redefining suicide from “disengaging from the body or vehicle” to failing to learn the teachings of DO (in which case one must note that nearly everyone on the planet besides Rio is suicidal). And clarification is difficult to come by when the subjects for clarification are (1) the Earth as a heavenly garden for “growing souls”; (2) the special “pocket” in the body in which aliens deposit said souls; (3) how our galaxy is designed in a platterlike shape for ease of soul harvesting; and (4) the 2,000-year spirit-reincarnation cycle in which Moses, Jesus, and DO and TI came as extraterrestrial garden tenders — none of which, according to Rio, is religion or theology, but rather a series of teachings meant as a tool for receiving what DO called Next Level Mind.
This was a very frustrating conversation. I wanted to do justice to Rio’s ideas, because he really means them. It was difficult, though, when I realized he was literally suggesting that alien craft insert intangible essences in select human beings. So I asked a lot of detailed questions, which was equally frustrating for Rio, since many of them amounted to a challenge. “I don’t expect you to believe me,” Rio said at one point. “I wouldn’t believe me. But this works.”
“This system for growing a soul that DO brought back to Earth.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know. I can feel it. It’s something I experienced.”
It’s hard to argue with fundamental subjectivity. I’m guessing that Rio has not followed much of the 20th-century debate about epistemology, since the proof for Rio — the bedrock upon which rests the undeniable, immutable, universal truth of DO’s teachings — is a dream he had regularly as a kid. He would find himself in a vast, dark room, as big as an oil tanker, isolated and alone. He could never feel the walls. When he joined the discipline of Heaven’s Gate, the dreams returned, but the room started shrinking. Eventually, he felt the walls and could see out. “I asked DO about it,” Rio recounted, his voice again straining with emotion. “And he said, ‘Your soul is evolving.’ ”
When I asked Rio why he’s come out of the woodwork only now, he seemed slightly annoyed. “Haven’t you read my book yet?” he asked. I admitted I hadn’t gotten all the way through. “I talk about all that in there.” After I ask several more questions he felt he’d already answered in his manuscript, we agreed to break until I’d read the whole thing.
And that’s when he showed me his screenplay.
“This is something we started writing in the group,” he said. “We’d shown it to some producers, who gave us notes, and did a few revisions. I just recently totally reworked it. Got it down to a tight 96 pages. Maybe you should read this too.” The title was SIRUS FROM SIRIUS, a SCI/FI-ACTION-ADVENTURE-COMEDY. I flipped the script open at random and saw:
INT. PYRAMID DOME-CYDONIA REGION-MARS . . .
REPTILIAN LIEUTENANT ZOR
Your orders have been carried out, Admiral.
We stand ready for your command.
Tags: New, World, Order, Secret, Societies, Illuminati, Anti, Jesus, Christ, Satan, UFO, Aliens, Reptilians, Dragons, Lizards, Serpents, Intruders, Phoenix, Lights, Sightings, Star, Wars, Hale, Bopp, Comet, Heaven's, Gate, Triangle, Military, Flare, Mind, Con
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