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Agenting for God

How pastor Kim Dorr found her calling and began saving souls in Hollywood

December 24, 2006|Deborah Netburn | Deborah Netburn is an entertainment reporter for latimes.com.

In this company town there are power restaurants and power gyms, power high schools and power yoga studios. There are also power churches, and Bel Air Presbyterian, high up on Mulholland Drive, is one of them. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were members, and Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly prayed here after 9/11. It is the sort of church where seasoned studio heads sit next to aspiring actresses fresh off the plane from Texas or Ohio or New York. It is also the sort of place where the Rev. Mark Brewer is handed head shots and scripts from faithful entertainment hopefuls desperate for a break.

The leaders of Bel Air Pres, as it is fondly called, figure that half the congregation works in the entertainment industry, which is why they decided to create a ministry called the Beacon to support this community. "When I had a church in Detroit we tried to serve people in the Big Three auto, so when I got here, we thought, 'How do we reach the entertainment industry?'" says Brewer, who took over as head pastor five years ago. "A lot of people working in the industry feel, 'My career doesn't understand my faith and my church can't understand my career.' What Beacon is trying to do is create a community where people can grapple with faith and issues of career, and also support each other. Because Hollywood is a butt kicker and you better suit up for your game."

Around the time the church elders were beginning to conceive of this new ministry, Kim Dorr, an active Bel Air Pres member, was studying to become ordained in the Presbyterian Church. She was an obvious choice to lead the Beacon. "We wanted to have someone ordained to bring a seriousness to the mission, and we wanted someone to be in Hollywood, working full time," says Brewer. "Not just, 'I did a show one time.' She was running an agency."

Kim Dorr is blond. She likes to wear boots. She's older than she sounds on the phone, but not that old--44. She's smart and easy to talk to and not afraid to divulge information about her divorce or how she found Christ or why she once sent a client on an audition for Showtime's soft-porn "Red Shoes Diaries" (or what she did when the client cried afterward and had trouble facing herself in the mirror). She discovered America Ferrera and Jessica Alba, but they both left her agency for a larger one when they began to get famous. She's still not big time, but she has actors with recurring roles on "Dexter" and "Hannah Montana." ("It only takes one person to stay," she says. "Jim Carrey built UTA.") She thinks "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams is asking very provocative spiritual questions on his show: "Sawyer wakes up from a coma and says, 'Are we saved?' Why did he use 'saved' and not 'found'?"

Dorr really loves Hollywood, and she really loves God. "It's just, God is amazing," she says, "just his patience and his forbearance and his grace and all those things." And in some ways, she believes, agenting can be godly. "Jesus stands in the breach between us and our savior, the holy God, and takes upon himself the justice that was meant for us. In a funny way I feel that is a lot of times what an agent does. There are actors who don't mean to shoot themselves in the foot, but they do. And an agent is the one who has to throw herself in front of the bullet and say, 'Here's what happened. It's my fault. How do we make it better?'"

Dorr wasn't always an agent or a pastor or even a believer. She grew up nominally Christian (Easter, Christmas, that's it) in Denver. She studied to be an actress, but after following her husband to L.A. she wound up as a casting director at an independent production company. As her marriage began to deteriorate she dabbled in what she calls "the New Age." She read Shirley MacLaine and tried to contact her own spirit guide. She bought crystals and "cleared" them in the ocean. She went to psychics and checked out Transcendental Meditation. Within a year of divorcing her husband, she lost her job at the production company and took a new job as an agent. Right in the middle of all that she was born again.

The night Dorr became a Christian she had agreed to attend a church service with a friend. "I just wanted to hang out," she says. "I didn't care if it was a bar, Disneyland, whatever." As they drove down the 405, Dorr confronted her friend about her newfound religious devotion. "I said, 'I don't like that you look at me and you think I'm wrong.'" Her friend was taken aback. "She said, 'I don't think of you as wrong. I think of you as being distracted from the path.'" They got out of the car with those words hanging in the air, and that night the sermon was about people who had been distracted from the path. "It's like, I got it," Dorr says.

After her conversion, she joined Bel Air Pres and threw herself into all sorts of church activities--Bible study, teaching Bible study, prayer groups, a mission trip to Cairo. It wasn't long before the senior pastor told her that he felt she was being called into the ministry.

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