"It was sort of like an upscale country place," said Karen Schless Pressley, a former Scientology "image officer," whose duties included interior design and creating military-style uniforms for Scientology staffers.
She said she and her ex-husband shared a two-bedroom unit with another couple and were not allowed to make personal phone calls. Schless Pressley said she left the church because of what she alleged were invasions of members' privacy and other deprivations — a claim church officials say is unfounded.
At the same time, she and other former members say, Miscavige was seeing to Cruise's every need, assigning a special staff to prepare his meals, do his laundry and handle a variety of other tasks, some of which required around-the-clock work.
Maureen Bolstad, who was at the base for 17 years and left after a falling-out with the church, recalled a rainy night 15 years ago when a couple of dozen Scientologists scrambled to deal with "an all-hands situation" that kept them working through dawn. The emergency, she said: planting a meadow of wildflowers for Cruise to romp through with his new love, Kidman.
"We were told that we needed to plant a field and that it was to help Tom impress Nicole," said Bolstad, who said she spent the night pulling up sod so the ground could be seeded in the morning.
The flowers eventually bloomed, Bolstad said, "but for some mysterious reason it wasn't considered acceptable by Mr. Miscavige. So the project was rejected and they redid it."
Other ex-members say it wasn't the only time that Miscavige put them to work to please Cruise.
Miscavige, a firearms enthusiast, introduced Cruise to skeet shooting at the compound, according to an ex-member who said the actor was so grateful that he sent an automated clay-pigeon launcher to replace an older, hand-pulled model. With Cruise due to return in a few days, Miscavige again ordered all hands on deck, this time to renovate the base's skeet range, the ex-member said.
Dozens worked around the clock for three days "just so Tom Cruise would be impressed," the ex-member said.
Rinder, head of Scientology International's Office of Special Affairs, said such accounts were fabricated by "apostates," members who had abandoned the religion.
He said he knew nothing about the skeet range incident. The wildflower planting never occurred and might be a confused version of repairs done after a 1990 mudslide, he said, adding that he couldn't account for ex-members' detailed recollections, including those of Bolstad, whom he specifically described as not credible.
"I don't know exactly how to explain every one of these bizarro stories that you hear," he said.
Rinder also disputed the contention by numerous ex-members that Cruise's stays at the facility were exceptional, saying that many celebrity Scientologists had stayed there.
Cruise has made no extended visits to the complex since the early 1990s and has done 95% of his religious training elsewhere, Rinder said. Miscavige, he said, spends only a fraction of his time there and divides the rest of his time among offices in Los Angeles, Clearwater and Britain. He also stays aboard the Freewinds, Scientology's 440-foot ship based in Curacao in the Caribbean, Rinder said.
However, voter registration records list the Gilman Hot Springs complex as Miscavige's residence since the early 1990s and as recently as the 2004 general election. Rinder said the church leader simply had not updated his registration. Miscavige's wife, father, stepmother and siblings also have resided at the complex, according to voting records and interviews.
The base has changed significantly in the years since Cruise spent long days in intensive training, from which he would occasionally take time out to ride dirt bikes or go sky diving with Miscavige, ex-members said.
For years, the property has been home to Golden Era Productions, where Scientologists work around the clock producing videos, audio recordings and e-meters, to be sold to church members. Rinder said nearly all of the members at Golden Era have signed billion-year contracts to serve the church.
Since 1998, the church has poured at least $45 million into expanding the facility and has bought dozens of nearby homes and vacant lots, public records show. The additions include an $18.5-million, 45,000-square-foot management building with a wing of offices for Miscavige.