Alas, what exactly that something is? We aren't sure! The stretch of SW Third in front of the organization's newly expanded and rennovated offices—which happen to be right by the Mercury's offices—is largely blocked off. Several Klieg lights, turned on and bright even in the middle of the afternoon, are set up on the opposite side of the street from the building's entrance, near the Silverado gay bar and the Portland Outdoor Store. These lights are pointed at a stage that's being erected in the street, beneath a giant green bow that's been affixed to the building.
I asked the employees of a nearby food cart if they'd heard anything about was going on; their response, which I desperately want to believe, is that ANTONIO BANDERAS is coming to town this weekend to celebrate the grand opening of Portland's spiffed-up Scientology HQ. (Banderas isn't on this list, but he was in Interview with the Vampire with Tom Cruise... COINCIDENCE??!!)
The first thought I had about this big production is that it might be related to Scientology's practice of setting up the "Ideal Orgs" that former Village Voice editor Tony Ortega has written about:
As [Scientology leader David] Miscavige has pushed his followers to raise money in extreme quantities to buy up these large buildings and renovate them, there's been a real question about their purpose. Church membership itself hasn't been growing, and the Ideal Orgs are replacing smaller facilities that weren't out of space.
That info seems to match with Portland's previous, far more humble Scientology offices, which were always sparsely populated whenever I'd walk by. But back to Ortega: While he notes that openings of such buildings come only after "local Scientologists... are encouraged to mortgage their homes and max out their credit cards in donations so the church can buy a historic property in their area that needs renovation," Scientology's PR department focuses on the dramatic impact those buildings can have—particularly their grand openings, which "are attended by thousands of parishioners, guests and dignitaries from across the social spectrum."
Which leads to something else interesting, this time from Ortega's dedicated Scientology site: A recent story headlined "Scientology is Staking Everything On Portland Like It Actually Matters." That post takes a look at information gathered by former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, with particular interest paid to this Portland-centric flyer that calls Portland "The First Scientology City."
A call to that number from the Mercury office has yet to be returned.
So now, my fellow Portland residents, we are left with one very important QUESTION:
• Will ANTONIO BANDERAS be in Portland this weekend???