On Jan. 16 David Adler left Washington for his vacation in three years. The 24-year-old publisher of a gossipy society magazine, The Washington Dossier, had planned to go skiing in Aspen. Instead he found himself caught in the fiercely effectionate political and religious indoctrination of the Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
Within a few days David Adler had made the spiritual journey from the Pisces club to the Ideal City Ranch, and he canceled his plans for Aspen. After two week he was ready to give Dossier for "The Devine Principle," Moon's answer to the Bible. Adler wasn't coming back.
When David's father Warren Adler - the Washington novelist, public relations man, part-owner and frequent contributor to Dossier - and found out what was going on, he traveled half the way around the world to retrieve his son. In the course of five days, he says, he spent $15,000, tried to enlist the help of Tongsun Park's girl friend, pleaded argued and threatened to commit suicide in efforts to lure David away from the church, efforts that appear finally to have succeeded.
The story of these past few weeks, as told by the Adler family and by members of the Unification Church, begin to sound like a plot for one of Warren Adler's books, and soon enough, according to his agent, it may be.
It is, by now, a familiar kind of story. The Rev. Mr. Moon's cult has attracted thousands of young people in recent years, many of them much like David Adler. He had come to a point in his life where he was wondering just what he should, or could, do next. When, the night before he was to leave on vacation, one of David's closest friends called him to say he'd met some wonderful people out on the West Coast who were changing his life, David thought, "why not?"
He was greeted at the San Francisco airport by two of these "wonderful people" who said they were members of the creative community project. Moon and religion were not mentioned.
They took him to meet their family - that is, their communal family - in a house on San Francisco's Washington Street.
His old friend couldn't be there, he was told, but Alexandra Fish was. S*he's the daughter of Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr., (R-N.Y.) and she told David she knew about his magazine. Like a politician, she judged his handshake with a smile and David began to feel right at home.
Still later the same night, however he was taken on a 2 1/2-hour drive to Boonville, Calif., to a place called the Ideal City Ranch. It was almost three in the morning when he was shown to a mobile home and there were perhaps 50 men "sardinized," as David puts it, sleeping on the floor. The Next Day
David woke to singing and the beauty of the green mountains around him, "Just like in 'The Sound of Music'" he recalls now. He and other arrivals were immediately thrust into a constant regimen of frenetic activity.
At breakfast, people were encouraged to talk about themselves. The deeper the feelings they expressed, the greater they were appreciated. News recruits were fussed over and complimented by those who had been with the Creative Community Project for a longer time. After a while the adulaton became addictive.
David Adler was soon telling his new friends that his relationship with his mother and father and brothers often seemed more like a "corporate structure" than an affectionate family.
The Adlers generally make themselves visible on the Washington party scene, which, David told his friends, he really doesn't enjoy.
At Boonville, however people were talking about "the purpose of life," about problems of society, about the need to create an ideal world. "That," said David, "is just what I wanted to do."
Soon there was also talk about God - or, rather, Heavenly Father, as he was invariably called - but David still did not think of the Ideal Ranch as a religious enterprise.
In fact, he was given very little time to think at all. When there weren't seminars, there was cooking to be done. There were games to be played (dodged ball was favorite) and songs to be sung. "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob Bobbing Along" became almost an anthem. "Love Bombing"
"We were like 2-year-olds," David now remembers. Everyone would sit in a circle. "It began to feel very comhate singing. I haven't got a voice" - fortable, everyone hand in hand, and I [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] But everyone told him he was just great. "You can be duped in two days," David says. "I was searching," and at Boonville, for the first time in a long time he thought he was finding. He felt needed and cared for. 'Love-bombing," some call it.
"I was pretty much of an athesist before," said David, but after a few more days of love-bombing, hand holding, confessions and the relentless, intimate eye contact with the committed people around him, "I got to the point where I believed in God, Jesus, and what they called the "Lord of the Second Advent." In the Unification Church it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish the Lord of the Second Advent from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
"I also got where I wouldn't go to the bathroom without their permission." The effect of the indoctrination for David was nearly total dependence on his "center" or "control" Bethie Rubinstein. (The church is structured in a kind of pyramid so each person has a "center man" right up to the top: Rev. Moon.)
David was meanwhile giving away what money he had. The first two days at Boonville cost $20, but then other contributions were asked for, and within a few days he had run through several hundred dollars in cash. He then wrote traveler's checks.
David Adler was in regular contact with his family by telephone, but he wasn't making it clear just exactly what he was doing. He said he was still planning to come home at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, however, Davids new friends had begun to tell him that his parents might be in league with Satan, that in any case they might try to kidnap him and drag him away from the community for "deprogramming." David was infected with a growing paronia about the outside world. Lecture Themes
At Boonville, then at Camp K in Santa Rosa and the old Hearst Street mansion in San Francisco, he listened to lectures that developed themes of virulent anti Communism and militant right-wing American patriotism.
David Adler says he was told that he and his publishing venture could be tremendously important to the church. Like Joseph in Egypt he would go back to Washington and work for Heavenly Father's cause. At the last moment, however, it was decided that his "foundation" was not yet strong enough. He would have to stay at least a couple of more weeks.
Before he called his mother to tell her, he and Bethie joined hands for the usual bit of emotional cheerleading, "Choo-choo-choo, choo-choo-choo. Yea! Yea! POW!"
The same day, Warren Adler had flown to England to visit another of his children who was getting out of the hospital. Just a few hours after Warren stepped off the plane he got a call from his wife, Sonia. "You got a sick son there," she said. "We've got a sicker one here. The Moonies have David."
As Warren Adler tried frantically to arrange for a flight through Dulles to San Francisco, Mrs. Adler called all over the country seeking help. She got the name of Daphne Greene. Voice of Experience
Two of Daphne Greene's children have come under the influence of the Rev. Mr. Moon. She supplied the Adlers with reams in information, including newsclips alleging connections between Rev. Moon and the Korean government.
Warren Adler, in a frantic state of mind, believed it - and he also began to think about his own connection with the controversial Korean Tongsun Park.
Warren Adler says he thinks of Park as a casual acquaintance although he has had some discussions with him about possible business dealings. The Washington Dossier frequently runs pictures of Park and refers to him as if the Justice Department investigation of his activities did not exist.
A few months ago the Dossier ran a flattering cover story on Park's long-time friend, Tandy Dickinson, and in hopes of getting her or Park's help with their lost son last month the Adlers tried to call her at Parks's home in the Dominician Republic. There was no answer.
The idea that there was some relationship between Tongsun Park and Sun Myung Moon however remained strong in Warren Adler's mind.
A day after their arrival on the West Coast and after careful coaching from Daphne Greene, Warren, Sunny and another son, John Adler, went to visit David at Camp K.
"I was totally scared stiff to walk into the place," said John. "They say they take the siblings and eat you up."
The Adler family had been told to "love bomb David the way the Moonies love bombed David," and they went in fixed smiles, but David greeted them coolly. Instead of taking him home they found themselves in what amounted to a preliminary negotiation session.All they could agree to was a meeting the next day in San Francisco. Something Clicked
A member of the cult followed them down the foggy road as they drove away. When he returned, David remembers he was told "they're definitely going to kidnap you."
At the meeting the next day David listened impassively as his parents and brother tried to sway him against Rev. Moon. They weren't getting through.
Then Warren Adler said he believed that in some way Tongsun Park was involved with all this. In some strange way this got through to David. "Something clicked," David remembers but only enough to make him want to get away from both the church and his family. He went to the Hyatt Regency Hotel to try to think.
That night, Sunny Adler believed she was threatened in the ladies room of the St. Francis Hotel. Two young women came up to her as she was brushing her hair and told her to "withdraw." She ran out the door on the verge of hysterics. She said at the time she thought they were threatening to kill her. She still is not sure.
The next day's event would be the climax of any book about David Adler's encounter with the Unification Church, but the accounts given by some of the people involved are contradictory.
It is clear that John Adler went to visit his brother in room 351. David said first that he would go home with the family and then after a phone call to his old friend Cliff, who was still thoroughly committed to the church, he decided he wouldn't. Warren and Sunny Adler meanwhile went to the airport in a driving rainstorm only to return to David's hotel. Shortly before they got there Bethie Rubinstein and other church members showed up.
"It was a wild scene, like out of a movie," Rubinstein recalls in a long distane telephone conversation. Return to District
At one point David refused to let Warren into the room. The anxious father, near hysterics, pounded on the door and then threatened to jump off the balcony into the hotel's indoor atrium.
At his David relented. The phone rang and Warren tried to jerk it out of the wall, but David had already called the police.
Finally, as sirens could be heard outside, David decided that he would accompany his family home, but he insisted on taking Bethie with him. (Sunny, meanwhile, was left sitting in the airport cab. The meter ticked up $30.40, she remembers.)
Most of the people directly involved remember it as quite a scene. The Hyatt Regency assistant manager on the other hand says it was all very orderly. In any case, the end result was that David Adler came back to Washington.
By keeping him separated from Bethie on the plane and by then forcing her to stay at the airport, David's parents won him away from her influence, they believe.
The following day, Daphne Greene flew to Washington to "deprogram" David Adler. He describes it now as "one of the best experiences of my life." He says he opened up to his real emotions.
He is thinking now about changing the approach of The Washington Dossier, cutting out much of the gossip, but he is also thinking he may leave it all together and go back to school.
After more than a week away from the Unification Church David Adler still sleeps with the light on in his room. He doesn't know when he'll turn it off. His friend Cliff, who entered the church camp only days before David, is still there. Last week Cliff's parents made an unsuccessful attempt to draw him away. They failed.