For treatments like these (plus the men’s circles, the acupuncture, the standard talk therapy, and everything else on offer), Moonview’s clients pay a single flat rate of $175,000 per year, or lesser fees for shorter periods. Cases are actively managed by a team of ten to twelve practitioners, who meet frequently to discuss the best course of treatment.
The sky-high price and L.A. setting tend to attract a clientele stocked disproportionately with celebrities and Hollywood players. About 50 percent of Moonview’s clients are dealing with some sort of addiction problem—alcohol, drugs, sex—and to cater to this crowd, Moonview guarantees absolute privacy and confidentiality. The facility is located in a nondescript office complex in Santa Monica. A celebrity can be driven into an underground parking garage, ushered into a private elevator, and led into Moonview’s offices entirely out of sight.
Inside Moonview’s corridors, the discretion is maintained. Group sessions (like the drum circles) don’t involve multiple clients in a circle with one staff member—instead, it’s multiple staff members with a single client. The staff also coordinates client movements to ensure there are no random encounters in the hallways. When I was given a tour, staff members peeked around every corner before signaling that it was okay for me to follow. Laurie emphasizes that this degree of personal service is what distinguishes Moonview, where the programs are “all designed for the uniqueness of you.” I get the sense that she views herself as a sort of social activist, bettering humanity one fragile, wealthy soul at a time.
“Moonview is a temple of transformation, and I’m the poster boy,” says Jerry Levin. “Ultimately, we’re trying to break down male culture.”
Many of Moonview’s treatments are in and of themselves fairly mainstream and widely practiced, including EMDR, though Harvard psychology professor Richard J. McNally feels the lights and buzzers of the machine are (almost literally) “bells and whistles.” He says that no convincing evidence has demonstrated that the eye movements the machine induces have any effect. As for equine therapy, McNally had never heard of it. When I described it to him, his response was a chuckling “Ooookaaaay.”
Gerald Levin believed in cable television. He believed in AOL. Today, he believes in his wife. I’ve seen Jerry and Laurie smooch in the hallways of Moonview, and their body language is all giddy adoration. The most recent time I spoke to them, over the phone, they’d just returned from a vacation in Kauai, where she hiked, he jogged, and they meditated together every morning and night. “It’s hard to fight when you meditate together,” says Laurie. I ask Laurie what attracted her to Jerry. “First of all, I’m stroking his head as I answer,” she says. “You can write that. To answer your question: I love the generosity of his wisdom and the patience with which he listens.”
I then put the question to Jerry. “I love the profound nature of our relationship,” he says, “which is constantly searching, aspiring, and questioning together. Laurie radiates a light that makes you feel warm and inspired at the same time.”
I’ve sensed only genuine love and devotion between them, but it’s clear to me that their relationship could be construed by some as distasteful, or perhaps even sinister. Cast in the coldest, most cynical terms: Laurie sought a meeting with a wealthy man and, after laying a bit of groundwork, told him she’d communicated with his tragically murdered son. The wealthy man believed—no doubt wanted to believe—in her supernatural tale, and within months, he became both her lover and her business partner.
Jerry and Laurie view this as a “narrow” and ridiculous interpretation of what really happened. Jerry has emphasized to me repeatedly that their relationship is “the most unusual thing. Other people like to put things in a familiar category, but this relationship is unique.” Laurie dismisses the notion that their love was built on a foundation of grief. “Jon had been dead five years when we met,” she points out. “It wasn’t about the resolution of grief. It was about the inspiration of a new perspective: that we are eternal.”
Despite Jerry’s protestations about how “unique” these circumstances were, I was struck by something odd that happened in the midst of one of my interviews with Laurie. She suddenly interrupted the conversation. “Is there a connection that you have with Ian Schrager?” she asked. I told her I’d spoken to the hotelier once for a story. Oh, and I’ve stayed in his hotels on occasion. “So you have spoken to him, and he’s someone you’ve connected with,” she nodded, latching onto an inflated notion of our relationship. “I think you’re a link to help me get to him. I’ve been trying to get in touch with Ian because if Moonview expands, I felt like we could do something as a partnership.”