Catholic Cults and Devotions: A Psychological Inquiry

he golden hair has thinned and those vivid blue eyes have dimmed a shade or two, but it’s hard to assume anything could eventually John Hoyt’s jawline, composed of two I-beams connected at the chin by way of a ball-peen hammer’s divot. Sitting at the bar at Casey’s Pour House in Berwyn on a frosty afternoon before New Year’s, watching meaningless college football bowl games and enjoying a couple of beers, Hoyt seems like he could easily jet to Milan, stride right into a studio and command the lens, just as he did 25 years ago.

In those days, Hoyt claimed the title of “First Male Supermodel” under the name Hoyt Richards (his middle name is Richards). He did things such as serve while the delighted sandwich meat between Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell on the New York party scene.

But Hoyt doesn’t do that anymore. He’s more interested in filmmaking and the casual acting gig. More than whatever else, though, he wants to make use of his art to simply help others who’ve endured what he has—and tell the entire world that, simply because you spend almost 20 years in a cult and bestow $4.5 million of one’s earnings upon its mesuda membership, you aren’t some simple-minded person capable of being brainwashed by a person with a Manhattan apartment and a wild story about intergalactic reincarnation. “I’ll never be boring at cocktail parties,” says Hoyt with a laugh.

You want stories? Hoyt has them. Some are incredible, like how a youngster from Princeton refused an offer—and a fat payday—to fly to Europe for a photo shoot because he had an econ exam that day. Although not these are upbeat—like the mental image of Hoyt having his head shaved by angry Eternal Values cult members tired of his preferred status. A little more amusing, perhaps, is how Fabio helped him escape.

It’s tough to listen as Hoyt covers recovering some sanity and esteem after being berated all night by EV acolytes about his unworthiness. He speaks willingly about his time in Eternal Values, his struggle to regain his life after leaving, and how important it’s for him now to simply help others heal from similar experiences.

Hoyt’s smile is ready, and his wit is more than a defense mechanism. He’s reached a spot in his life where his time in Eternal Values no longer defines him. He might look pretty very similar on the outside, but Hoyt has changed on the inside.

“It’s been a difficult process,” says Hoyt’s older sibling, Rory. “He’s grown a whole lot and matured. He left Eternal Values when he was 37, and he was still 20 with regards to his maturity. Now, he seems like a regular 54-year-old.”

Rory has seen his brother do lots of growing in a quick time. “And it’s taken lots of personal effort on his part,” says Rory. “Section of it’s been looking in, and section of it’s been looking out and saying, ‘Exactly what do I do to simply help people avoid this?’ ”

This is the story now. Hoyt is focusing on a documentary concerning the ordeal, plus a guide he’s writing with a former EV member. Hoyt once viewed Eternal Values founder Frederick von Mierers as a spiritual talisman of sorts, effective at opening fascinating worlds to a son whose life to the period had been more or less out from the “Preppy Handbook.” He wasn’t stupid—Hoyt holds diplomas from the Haverford School and Princeton—but he was vulnerable. As a result, what started as fun and games became a sad story of manipulation, humiliation and regret.

“When I was in that situation, I thought, ‘Nothing can beat this may ever happen,’ ” Hoyt says. “That has been my greatest vulnerability. It started simply, and as I obtained further and further into it and it got cultier and cultier, finished I said was: ‘This isn’t a cult. It can’t eventually me.’ Mind control works on everybody.”

John Hoyt didn’t want to visit the Haverford School. He was perfectly happy at Conestoga High School, where he was at the very top of his class. But after his sophomore year, his mom insisted he make the switch.

Hoyt was 2 when his family moved to Berwyn from Fayetteville, N.Y., a village of approximately 4,300 just east of Syracuse, in 1964. He was the fourth of six
children—four boys, two girls—raised by Bob and Terry. His mother’s reasoning for the change in school was based on the success Hoyt’s brother Rory had at Haverford, where he tightened up his academics and gained admittance to Princeton. “Rory was a notorious procrastinator and was struggling in public areas school, while I was succeeding,” Hoyt says. “When Rory visited Haverford for his senior year and found myself in Princeton, my mother said, ‘This is the solution.’ I said, ‘No.’ ”

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