Evangelist Billy Graham recalls in his new book the pivotal point in his young ministry when, during a 1949 Los Angeles crusade, a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst to "puff Graham" made him an instant celebrity nationwide.
The sudden front-page coverage showered on Graham by Hearst newspapers in mid-October (after three weeks of little notice) was quickly matched by other newspapers and newsmagazines--literally a media circus descending on his rallies under a big tent.
The elder statesman of evangelical Christianity contends in "Just as I Am" (HarperCollins), however, that he never learned why Hearst took an interest in him. "Hearst and I did not meet, talk by phone, or correspond as long as he lived," Graham wrote.
Graham's autobiography makes no reference to a theory by William Martin in his acclaimed 1991 Graham biography, "A Prophet With Honor," (William Morrow) that noted that all Hearst papers had boosted the nationwide Youth for Christ organization to which Graham belonged. Martin said Hearst also sent a "puff YFC" telegram in 1946. The Hearst-owned Los Angeles Examiner gave Youth for Christ leader Roy McKeown a weekly column to report on the group's activities.
Graham ended his extended tent crusade Nov. 20, 1949, amid some much publicized celebrity conversions.
A hit with many Hollywood figures, Graham opened his own Burbank movie studio, World Wide Pictures, in 1951 to make religious dramas that ended with Graham on screen inviting audiences to commit to Christ.
In an episode in 1950, Graham wrote that he turned down a film offer from the president of Paramount Studios, Y. Frank Freeman. It came during a lunch attended by Cecil B. DeMille, then about ready to remake "The Ten Commandments," and by actors Anthony Quinn, Barbara Stanwyck and Betty Hutton.
"I'd like you to consider doing a film with us," said Freeman, according to Graham.
"I looked him straight in the eye, with the others listening, and told him that God had called me to preach the Gospel and that I would never do anything else as long as I lived," Graham wrote.
Ironically, years later the evangelist got a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame for his media-savvy use of radio, television and films to supplement his mass crusades.
The National Lawyers Guild, a 60-year-old organization of human rights attorneys and legal workers, will honor the Rev. James Lawson at its annual dinner meeting Sunday at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel. Lawson, active in civil rights protests with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is the longtime pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. (213) 653-4510.
* Adaire Klein, who directs the extensive library and archives at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Beit Hashoah Museum of Tolerance, started with only 50 books in 1978 and will be honored Monday night by the Assn. of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. The meeting will be at the MidValley Regional Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 16244 Nordhoff St., North Hills. (818) 981-6920.
* Maestra "Mimi" Noemi Garcia de Watson, who taught Spanish for 25 years at Belmont Community Adult School in Los Angeles, will be presented an award by Jose Pescador-Osuna, Mexico's consul general in Los Angeles, at 10 a.m. Monday. The ceremony will precede a luncheon at Los Angeles First Baptist Church, 760 S. Westmoreland Ave., where Watson has been a member since 1953 and active in women's ministries. (213) 384-2151.
Theologian Matthew Fox, founder-president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, will speak Friday night at the Recovery Ministries annual conference, which begins Thursday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Also speaking will be Episcopal Bishop Frederick Borsch of Los Angeles and Episcopal priest Leo Booth of Long Beach. Recovery Ministries addresses all forms of addiction, compulsive behavior and abuse issues, a spokesman said. Conference events cost $25 to $135. (562) 427-6003.
* Relating spirituality to business life and work routines is the topic of a three-day conference at Loyola Marymount University's Center for Pastoral Life, starting Friday and led by Jesuit Father Francis Stroud of Fordham University. Cost: $175. (310) 338-2799.
Shavuot, the Jewish holiday marking Moses' reception of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, will mean for some Jews staying up all Tuesday night studying, observing rituals and enjoying refreshments such as coffee and cheesecake.
Groups include Temple Beth Hillel, a Reform synagogue in North Hollywood, whose participants plan to celebrate from 10 p.m. to noon Wednesday. (818) 763-9148.
A joint observance in Westwood begins with an 11:45 p.m. talk on "Resurrection: Jewish Style" at Westwood Kehilla, 10537 Santa Monica Blvd., and moves to Kahal Joseph, at 10507 Santa Monica Blvd. for a 2:45 a.m. talk on the Ten Commandments. (310) 441-5288.
Also, Temple Mishkon Tephilo, 206 Main St., Venice, will begin a "Torah marathon" at 10 p.m. and leave at dawn to the beach for a closing service. (310) 392-3029.
The Prison Fellowship annual fund-raising dinner Thursday night at the Los Angeles Hilton Hotel will feature a talk by Barry Minkow, an assistant pastor at Chatsworth's Church at Rocky Peak who served prison time for swindling $26 million from investors in his ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning business in the 1980s. Prison Fellowship was founded by ex-Watergate convict Charles Colson. Cost: $75. (310) 671-5463.
* Retired Judge James F. Nelson, U.S. chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais, will discuss on that faith's scriptures at the June luncheon meeting of the Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council on Wednesday at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, 3233 Pacific View, Corona del Mar. Nelson was on the bench for 20 years in the Los Angeles Municipal Court. Cost: $5. (714) 760-9199.
* "Battle for the Minds," a documentary on women's ordination controversies in Southern Baptist churches produced and directed by ex-lawyer Steven Lipscomb of Los Angeles, will be shown on PBS stations Tuesday night, including Los Angeles' KCET at 10 p.m.
Few mainline Protestant churches in Southern California hold Sunday evening services. But Crescent Heights United Methodist Church in West Hollywood is an exception.
"Some of the older people in our congregation wanted to have an evening service and sing the songs which they remember from the days of their youth," said the Rev. Tom Griffith, the pastor.
Eleven months ago, twice monthly hymn-sing services were started at the church at 1296 N. Fairfax Ave. "Now, we're expanding it to every Sunday night," Griffith said.
He said the 7 p.m. Sunday service has strong appeal for at least two reasons:
* The church uses a hymnal first published in the 1930s instead of the contemporary United Methodist Hymnal.
* Actress-singer Laurie Franks, who moved to Hollywood after a 40-year career in New York, leads the services. She currently stars in the local stage production of "Broadway and Beyond" and appears in occasional commercials and TV shows.
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Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark of La Mirada will be installed Sunday as president of the Southern California Board of Rabbis--a 250-member body noted for bridging religious differences within Judaism.
Goldmark, a Reform rabbi, will succeed Orthodox Rabbi Abner Weiss in the two-year post in ceremonies at Weiss' Temple Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills.
Many Orthodox rabbis shun contacts with their Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist counterparts because of their less than traditional approach to Jewish religious law.
"In some cities, such as Washington, D.C., not one Orthodox rabbi even belongs to the board of rabbis," Goldmark said. "But we have had substantial Orthodox participation in the past as well as board presidents who are Orthodox."
Goldmark, 54, has been active on the board since arriving in Los Angeles in 1971 to join the rabbinical staff at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. In 1979, he became spiritual leader of Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada. Goldmark also serves as executive vice president of the Pacific Assn. of Reform Rabbis.