Stanley Adamakis took St. Cross Episcopal Church by storm.
The dark, bearded Greek Orthodox priest, who arrived at the Hermosa Beach church a little more than a year ago, first fascinated and then repelled a congregation accustomed to quiet sermons and muted passions.
"Father Stan" was big and blustery and, at times, a lot of fun, parishioners said last week. To hear Adamakis talk--in a Boston accent as flat as St. Cross's marble altar--he had hobnobbed with rock stars, performed the marriage of one of the world's wealthiest men and been promised a White House appointment.
Teen-agers in the church youth group called his monologues "The Tidal Wave." Adamakis talked so fast, they said, that you could never pin him down on a single topic.
Some parents thought it odd that a Greek Orthodox priest had adopted an Episcopal church. But they were comforted by the thought that Adamakis was an old friend of Father Richard Wescott, the church's second-ranking priest.
It was only after Adamakis, 47, was arrested late last month for allegedly molesting an young man, 18, connected to the church youth group that a different picture began to emerge. Parishioners read news accounts that the portly, 6-foot priest was a convicted child molester on the verge of being defrocked by the Greek Orthodox Church. He had lost two jobs because of allegations of sexual misbehavior. Then a second teen-ager, this one a 17-year-old boy who was a member of the youth group, went to police with similar charges about an incident in August.
Adamakis and his lawyer have declined to comment about the two teen-agers' separate claims that he visited and drank beer with the teen-agers while chaperoning them at parishioners' homes. The charges allege that he fondled them after they went to sleep.
He will be arraigned on two felony molestation charges Jan. 23 in South Bay Municipal Court.
The St. Cross youth group and parents met last week with a psychologist to work out feelings of anger and betrayal. They also shared "Stanley stories" with the bemused resignation of those who have been fooled.
"What can you say?" said Father Jack D. Eales, St. Cross' rector. "This is one of the most charming, delightful people you could want to meet."
Adamakis came to St. Cross in September of 1988, moving into Wescott's parish home next to the church on Monterey Boulevard. The two priests had become friends when they worked together in the early 1980s at a psychiatric and drug rehabilitation center in the San Fernando Valley. Wescott said in an interview that he offered Adamakis a home because he was out of work and could not pay the rent on his San Fernando Valley apartment.
A 1988 church bulletin, announcing that Adamakis would be a guest speaker at St. Cross, described him as a graduate of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., who was completing a doctorate in "nonprofit corporate law" at USC. It described him as a Greek Orthodox priest.
In fact, Adamakis never graduated from the theological school and USC does not offer such a degree in law, officials at the two schools said.
Adamakis did earn a bachelor of theology degree in 1966 from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., and was ordained a priest. But more than a year ago, he was banned from ministering at Greek Orthodox churches because of repeated, but never substantiated, allegations of sexual misbehavior, said a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.
"He was kicked out of the church," said spokesman Takis Gazouleas. "He is no longer a member of our clergy."
Formal defrockment proceedings were postponed while Adamakis underwent counseling but are expected to resume because of the new allegations, Gazouleas said.
Adamakis' questionable claims extended beyond the listing in the church bulletin.
Teen-agers and adults talked about Adamakis' brazenness almost with fascination at the recent counseling session. They shared "Stanley stories" and anecdotes about tales Adamakis had told them: He was a major fund-raiser in Gov. Michael Dukakis' bid for the presidency, and Dukakis had offered to make him the White House priest. He knew Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and presided at one of the billionaire's weddings. He conducted a funeral Mass for actress Natalie Wood.
A Dukakis spokesman said the governor had never heard of Adamakis, and news clippings on Onassis and Wood do not mention the priest.
"In a way, we all questioned the stories at some point in time," said one woman, at the meeting. "But then we just glossed it over."
It was "glossed over" mostly because "Father Stan" was a hit in the youth group, which had been reinstituted last August by Wescott.
"He was a barrel of fun," Wescott said. "He was like a big adolescent."
Some of the teen-agers said Adamakis had a way of talking to them that boosted their confidence. He told one boy that his play on the high school football team would improve. He showed another how to fix a stereo. No matter what topic they were interested in, he seemed to know all about it.
But there were incongruities, too. The teen-agers recalled:
Adamakis showed much more interest in the boys than in the girls. They had never met a priest who liked heavy metal music. And several boys said Adamakis asked them if they were gay.
Others told police that they would brush aside such questions by saying, "No Father Stan, I'm not that way."
"If all the parents could have put together all the isolated anecdotes," one mother said, "maybe they could have done more."
Wescott resigned last Tuesday, accepting blame for bringing Adamakis into the parish, but said he knew nothing of his fellow priest's troubles.
Adamakis served 78 days in jail and was placed on five years probation in 1986, after pleading guilty to molesting two Torrance brothers, ages 12 and 13. He had been forced to resign as director of the South Bay Free Clinic in 1981 after two boys in the clinic's teen-advocate program said Adamakis had "come on to them," the clinic's former administrator said. According to a probation report, Adamakis was forced to leave another job, in which he worked with abused children, after his unnamed employer learned that he had been arrested for molesting the Torrance boys.
Members of the church vestry said that in the future they will check the criminal records of all employees and volunteers who want to work with youths.
"We are teaching loving Christian values," said Graham Lewis, the psychologist who met with the youth group. "But we also have to keep our guard up."