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Bill, Monica Given Hot Spots in Hell

October 30, 1998|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ARVADA, Colo. — A woman in a dark beret sashays toward the president, who is entranced. World affairs take a back seat as they start making out on a desk.

This may be the only place in the country where the saga of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky has been unfolding every weekend since Oct. 16. It's Hell House, a Halloween haunted house attraction run by the Abundant Life Christian Center of suburban Denver.

For four controversial years now, the fundamentalist folks behind Hell House have moralized against abortion, homosexuality and other issues such as date rape and schoolyard shootings (caused, according to Hell House, by too many Marilyn Manson CDs).

This fall, Hell House founder and Christian Center associate pastor Keenan Roberts, 33, has taken on the president as well--with elaborate sets and costumes and a troupe of hundreds. In one of Hell House's seven "scenes," Clinton succumbs to the sins of falsehood, lust and adultery.

"Tomorrow is your wife's birthday," one demon hisses, as Bill puts a lip lock on Monica.

"This is your fearless leader," the demon tells the group of 35 people who have paid $7 each to come in to see what Hell House is all about.

Roberts believes that attractions such as his may have started in the '70s. He says he ran a relatively modest one in Roswell, N.M., back in '92 before heading north to Colorado and expanding the concept.

The nondenominational Los Angeles International Church, in the old Queen of Angels Hospital on Bellevue Avenue, is sponsoring its first Hell House this weekend, according to church worker Chrissy Keeville. They won't have a Clinton-Lewinsky scene, though.

Just as Hell Houses have popped up all over, so has opposition to them. Several groups--including other religious organizations--have attacked them for their focus on sins of the flesh and have accused them of trying to harness the power of fear instead of the power of love.

But Roberts says Hell Houses work. Of the 20,000 visitors who passed through his doors in the first three years, he says, 7,000 were inspired to renew their faith, according to response cards they filled out.

Roberts says Hell Houses are the Lord's MTV, focusing on hot-button issues that matter to young people.

But 14-year-old Crystal Garcia wasn't impressed. Especially given the recent beating to death of gay college student Matthew Shepard in nearby Wyoming, she was bothered by Hell House's antigay preaching.

"I think they should just leave the gay people alone," Crystal said. "I think they should just leave the president alone, too. That's personal business."

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