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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

A Holy Shrine to Warren's Sis? Shirley You Jest

April 10, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

For Christians, Jews and those who pray to Shirley MacLaine, this is such a busy week. So much to do. So much to contemplate. So much reason to rejoice.

And we all must observe our beliefs in our own way.

Today, for example, is Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion of Christ. It will be followed by Easter Sunday, which celebrates his Resurrection.

These are my holy days.

Friday, meantime, is the beginning of Passover, which commemorates the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.

These are the holy days for many of my dearest friends.

And then, there was Thursday.

I don't know how you spent the morning, but at 11 o'clock sharp, I was in a little room on the second floor of 1101 Crenshaw Blvd., at the headquarters of the Beta Israel Temple of Los Angeles, at the behest of Dr. Ernesto A. Moshe Montgomery, its spiritual leader.

Dr. Montgomery was kind enough to invite me to the dedication of the temple's new shrine, which I wouldn't have missed for the world.

It isn't every day that I get to consecrate a Shrine of the Weeping Shirley MacLaine.

*

Maybe I should give you a little of my own background, before I get into any theological theorizing here.

First, I believe in organized religion. I am not a heretic. I have a healthy curiosity about all faiths, and a need to know what makes people worship the way they do.

My childhood church was St. Liborius, named after a saint I never heard of, which was OK by me.

I attended services, knelt, sang, prayed, put money in the collection plate and confessed my sins. I was baptized by a priest, with a splash of water on my brow. That's the way our faith did it.

Later, I saw how other faiths did it.

I moved to California, where one night, at my apartment complex, I noticed a number of people in a Jacuzzi, by the pool. I wondered why they were standing.

When I got there, I found out that a clergyman was conducting a baptism--in a hot tub.

I remember telling friends that California must be home to a new sect, Our Lady of the Sacred Spa.

At that point, I made up my mind to keep an open mind.

So, when my invitation came from Dr. Montgomery, I gladly accepted.

"The shrine," he noted, "will be erected in a Garden of Eden setting resplendent with a waterfall, emitting holy water, and pilgrims from throughout the world will be invited to view it and be lifted up by the mighty spiritual powers of the Weeping Shirley MacLaine."

Shirley MacLaine, the actress?

I had no idea shrines were being erected to her. I know she's probably been to the Shrine Auditorium. I know she once wore an outfit in the film "What a Way to Go" that made me want to erect a shrine to her.

This, I had to see.

According to Dr. Montgomery--described as a British Jamaican clairvoyant, seer and futurist--at 30,000 feet one day in MacLaine's private jet, he picked up a vibration and told her that by the year 2000, she would be "a catalyst in bringing peace to mankind throughout the world."

I entered the Beta Israel Temple office to find an altar. Atop it were candles, a menorah, a bed of grass like you'd find in an Easter egg basket, and three large pictures--one of Princess Diana, one of a Black Angel of Peace, and a blown-up photo of Dr. Montgomery with Shirley MacLaine. The latter was recently "observed shedding tears," resulting in many praying to it and testifying of miraculous healings, Dr. Montgomery said.

Naturally, this called for a shrine.

Nine of us witnessed the ceremony.

*

Remember, we all pray in our own way. You know what they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Who am I to judge?

We began with a minute of silent meditation. A recording of "Ave Maria" was played on a stereo. An aide to Dr. Montgomery doused the lights. The other eight pilgrims lined up before the altar, single file. They prayed to Saint Shirley in silence. I just watched.

Dr. Montgomery then enlightened us on a few things, including his theory that Princess Di was actually murdered. I took notes. He said viewings of the Weeping MacLaine would be on Wednesdays by appointment--(213) 930-2027. Why was she weeping? He suspected "man's inhumanity to man."

I left feeling a little older, a little wiser. Shirley did not attend.

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