CARMEL — When Pope John Paul II arrives in Carmel, probably attracting droves of visitors, most of the town's residents likely will take cover. But one of them, Paul Laub, has laid out the welcome mat.
Laub--the self-proclaimed "King of Schlock"--has been cashing in on the presence of the town's most famous resident, Clint Eastwood, since the movie star became mayor in April, 1986. For Laub, the impending papal visit is shaping up like heaven on Earth.
"It's like going to a concert back in the '60s," said Laub, who plans to unload vast quantities of trinkets commemorating the Pope's Sept. 17 visit. "People want to get involved. They want mementos of what's happening."
Laub, 43, gained recognition last year when he turned his small souvenir shop into "Clintville" after Eastwood was elected mayor of the wealthy town.
T-shirts that say "Make my day," women's panties that say "Make my night" and other mementos still sell like hot cakes.
Now, some of the shelf space has been saved for "Pope-abelia"--such as T-shirts that read, "Pope John Paul II 1987 U.S.A. Tour" and "Thou hast made my day," buttons that read "Go ahead, bless my day" and other items that capitalize on a planned meeting between the mayor and the pontiff.
Eastwood, known for his roles as a gun-slinging cowboy and hard-nosed detective named Dirty Harry, is one of several local officials scheduled to greet the Pope at Monterey Airport when he arrives from Los Angeles.
The diocese and Vatican officials also agreed to allow Eastwood to meet with John Paul when he stops at Carmel's San Carlos Borromeo Mission, burial site of an 18th-Century Spanish missionary who helped settle the West, after the Pope celebrates Mass for about 100,000 people at the Laguna Seca amphitheater.
Laub's pride and joy is an original portrait by a local artist of Eastwood dressed as an ice cream vendor, handing the Pope a cone. Eastwood made headlines last year when he helped repeal a law that prohibited ice cream parlors in Carmel.
"There are those people who think these things are in bad taste, but I don't sell to those people," Laub said, insisting he sells nothing tacky. "I've thought of selling T-shirts with the Pope surfing and rock concert-type Pope tour shirts, but I don't."
He does, however, intend to sell Pope hats, bumper stickers, certificates and posters of Eastwood signing his autograph for the Pope.
Laub said he has a committee of Catholic employees whose approval he seeks before putting any Pope items on the shelf.
The diocese has a resigned attitude toward Laub and his trinkets. Diocese spokesman Ted Elisee said he finds most of the items "disgusting," but he added: "People are in the business of making money. We realize America is a land of free opportunity."
Laub said the Diocese of Monterey itself should have printed Pope T-shirts and buttons instead of allowing private vendors to capitalize on the Pope's visit.