God takes many forms in Hollywood, all of them fairly strange. There are, of course, many traditionally religious celebrities who keep their God opinions to themselves. For every zany Jesus freak with a crack addict zeal, like Stephen Baldwin, there’s Tom Hanks with a personal and private relationship with Christianity, or the late Dennis Weaver’s who practiced Buddhism, and many other celebrities on any number of other spiritual paths.
“Religion” in old Hollywood was strict and uniform. It was just understood that one participated, at least by giving the world the impression they did. These days, fundamentalist religion in Hollywood seems to attract out-of-control celebs who thirst for an authoritarian religion to contain them (which they insist everyone else who can behave must also embrace) because they can’t do it themselves. Kelsey Grammer, Stephen Baldwin and Jon Voight come to mind.
More recent religions often prefabricate their own little celebrity recruiting systems. The Mormon Church has high-profile adherents like the Osmonds, and more recently Stephenie Meyer. Mormon folk are known to encourage new people to attend their church with promises of meeting celebrities. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have (although they probably wish they didn’t at this point) the Jackson clan. Jimmy Stewart was another Witness, though a much quieter and more dignified one.
And then there’s the religion that Charlie Manson studied for several weeks and then rejected as “too crazy.” It’s the religion that the Church of Satan has requested stop using CoS as a nickname due to negative associations. It’s the church of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and tons of other well-known and less-well-known stars. Even Jerry Seinfeld played the Thetan game for awhile. Scientology is a hugely powerful religion and, like all hugely powerful autocracies, it is immensely paranoid. Everyone knows about that. No revelation there.
L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology, once remarked, “If you want to get rich, start a business. If you want to get really rich, start a religion.” At least he was honest about it.
Actor/singer Della Reese didn’t start a religion, but she did found her own church, the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, CA. On Sundays, she becomes Pastor Della to her faithful following. And no one is getting rich from it.
Far less benign and more secretive, we come to the Holy Family Chapel in the rural Santa Monica area. It is 9310 square feet and sits on around twenty acres off Mulholland Drive in Agoura, CA.. The Holy Family Chapel, although Catholic in essence, is not affiliated with the Catholic Church. Holy Family Chapel prefers to use a doctrine that is pre-Vatican II. An elderly priest is flown in from Seattle every weekend to serve Mass, which is always and always in Latin. The church is run by the mysterious A.P. Reilly Foundation. The foundation becomes less mysterious, though, when you find out that A.P. Reilly was the late wife of a man named Hutton Gibson. A.P. and Hutton had eleven children including a son they named Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson.
It seems Hutton Gibson is of the opinion that the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s was a Jewish-led Masonic plot to take over the church. He also privately expresses the opinion that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Apparently, Mel was able to persuade his church that his twenty year marriage “didn’t happen” either. It was recently annulled, after numerous children had been born.
Mel’s church is carefully screened for the unfaithful so be sure to show your God card at the door. Mel is probably also watchful for the occasional low-flying Mason. It is said he can be heard during most Sunday services singing very, very loudly and rarely on-key. There are a couple of hundred regular worshipers.
Actor Gary Busey also created his own church — and really his own religion. He just kind of put the pieces together by himself. He has a private Sunday morning service which is held inside his own home. Church begins promptly at 5 AM. Surprisingly, there are about as many Church of Busey parishioners as there are guests at your sister-in-law’s crystal party. Still and all, Gary Busey has had something of a career resurgence with his street preacher maniac persona. It may be real, the result of brain damage caused in the long-ago motorcycle crash that very nearly killed him. Or it may be a useful idiot image. Either way, at least he’s funny and strangely charming in his more lucid moments.
If only the same could be said for Mel Gibson.