The Washington and N.Y. visits this week by Pope Benedict XVI reminded me of the 1987 L.A. visit by Pope John Paul II. He was introduced by Lew Wasserman at Universal City where the Pope’s speech was close-circuited from the Universal Amphitheater to young audiences in three cities. Invitees from the industry to hear/meet the Pope included then-DGA President Gil Cates, Academy Board Member Charles Powell, Michael Ritchie, Lee Rich — and Roddy McDowall, who was busy photographing the Pope as he made his entrance from the wings — though he departed walking down the center aisle, shaking hands with all as Cates recalls.
The theme of the Pope’s talk to the showbiz group urged a decrease in sex and violence in film and tv. And the LAPD’s web site reports that the Pope’s 1987 visit “created the highest level ever of security in the city’s 470-mile area.”And the web site noted “during the 47 hours the Pope was in Los Angeles, there was a decline of almost 50 % in bookings at local jails. One murder was recorded.” As for past Presidential-Papal meetings, then-President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy had met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1982 and 1987, as well as in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1984. And Nancy was with him at Immaculate Conception School on Sept. 16, 1987 during his visit to L.A.