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New Age Priestess Testing TV Act at Nightclub

May 01, 1990|CHRIS WILLMAN

"When you're out there speaking a positive philosophy that says you create your own reality and you can change it if you want, there will be people who criticize," says Terry Cole-Whittaker, rival to Shirley MacLaine as the poster girl of the New Age movement.

Five years have passed since Cole-Whittaker stepped down from her pulpit at the La Jolla Church of Religious Science and the accompanying television ministry that made her Southern California's most prominent priestess of positivism. Long faded are those bumper stickers that promised: Pro$perity--Your Divine Right .

To those who haven't been networking within the movement, attending holistic growth conventions and browsing in New Age bookstores, Cole-Whittaker may have seemed in seclusion, content as she's been to farm, write books, and lecture on the metaphysical circuit.

All that may be about to end. The unfailingly upbeat teacher and lecturer is preparing a syndicated television show, the unusual format of which will be previewed Wednesday night at Cafe Largo in Hollywood, where Cole-Whittaker will sing pop standards and host a variety of like-minded acts.

"It's not just to entertain, but there's audience participation," said Cole-Whittaker.

Cole-Whittaker never did take her ministry to big stadiums, but after breaking away from the tiny Church of Religious Science in La Jolla in 1982, the former Mrs. California built a congregation of several thousand and drew a reported audience of millions with her weekly television show.

As the author of a book titled "How to Have More in a Have-Not World," the preacher caught on with a yuppie audience and caught flack for emphasizing materialism.

Feeling the pressure of the criticism and of a mounting debt, Cole-Whittaker announced her resignation in 1985 at a two-hour Easter service at her church. "I was burned out," she said.

So what can participants at tonight's club appearance expect? First off, those making reservations for the show will be asked to bring a favorite quote. Noisemakers and clay--with which to "mold something that they want with their lives"--will also be handed out to attendees.

There will also be visualization exercises and TV astrologer Terrance Guardino will do a comedy routine. At the beginning and end, Cole-Whittaker will croon inspirational standards ranging from "When You Wish Upon a Star" to "We Are the World."

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