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Opening of ‘Last Temptation’ Draws Protests Nationwide With AM-Last Temptation, Bjt

August 13, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Protesters damning ″The Last Temptation of Christ″ marched behind a mannequin dressed as Jesus, carried crosses, taunted moviegoers and splattered a theater with paint and glue as the movie opened in nine cities Friday.

In New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, uniformed security guards checked the purses and bags of movie patrons.

Guards were stationed at each side of the screen at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York, where about 100 protesters demonstrated, including a man who denounced moviegoers as ″reprobates″ and ″homosexuals.″

″I believe that as Judas sold him (Jesus) out the first time, that Hollywood is selling him out the second time,″ said demonstrator Carol Sergio of Queens.

Rabbi Yosef Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, carried a sign reading, ″Rabbis Protest Mockery of Any Religion.″

″We see it as an attack on morality and traditional family values,″ Friedman said of the film. We feel these people who are mocking Christianity today would also be willing to mock Judaism.″

However, movie patrons vastly outnumbered the protesters in all areas, standing in lines by the hundreds and buying out the first screenings of the film based on the 1955 novel by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene and Harvey Keitel as Judas.

Some Christians have branded it blasphemous for its portrayal of a doubting Jesus, who, in a dream sequence, has sex with Mary Magdalene.

In Washington, D.C., about 30 people waved placards and marched behind a mannequin dressed as Jesus outside a theater where the early afternoon show was a sellout, officials said.

One protester, Rita Warren of Falls Church, Va., said she hoped people would be discouraged from seeing the film but did not think it should be banned.

″They have a right to see it as much as we have a right to be here protesting against it,″ she said.

Although a demonstration by 25,000 people at Universal Studios was peaceful on Thursday, 75 Los Angeles police officers monitored the movie house where ″Last Temptation″ opened Friday.

Vandals tossed paint at the Century Plaza Theater about 5 a.m., splattering the building and a glass-enclosed movie poster with yellow paint, said Fabian Munez, head of the firm that provides security for the ABC Entertainment Center, where the theater is located.

Police Cmdr. William Booth said no officers would be inside the theater in Century City despite fears of slashed or spray-painted screens.

By noon someone had spread glue on the floor in the women’s rest room, said theater patron Jo Drott, 24.

The 200 protesters included children with ″I Love Jesus″ T-shirts who sang ″The Battle Hymn of the Republic″ and mothers who pushed strollers with such taped-on signs as ″Don’t Crucify Jesus Again.″

One huge poster aimed at Universal’s parent company, MCA Inc., said: ″The Last Temptation of Christ will do for MCA What Pearl Harbor Did for Japan: They Started a War and Lost it.″

Catherine Romero, 19, of Whittier taped a sign to her chest that said ″I Love Jesus but that doesn’t stop me from having an open mind.″ She said she was raised a Catholic and her mother, a church choir director, encouraged her to see the film.

″This morning my mother said ’Go ahead, be careful, keep an open mind and make up your own mind,‴ she said.

Hundreds of people waited in line for the first showing of the movie in San Francisco, which sold out. But only about a dozen protesters were outside the NorthPoint Theater at Fisherman’s Wharf.

″I wanted to see the first show so that I could tell all my Christian friends that they can come see it without believing the propaganda that they are receiving in the mail,″ said Chuck Hilbert of San Francisco.

About 50 demonstrators gathered outside a theater in Chicago, where the Rev. Nikitas Lulias, chancellor of the 200,000-member Greek Orthodox diocese said, ″We have called upon our people to go with prayer in their hearts - that God might anoint these individuals to stop showing the film.″

In Toronto, an actor challenged the protesters by waving $20 bills and offering to buy them tickets to see the film. The only takers, however, were four ordinary filmgoers.

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