Seeing Stars: Churches of the Stars.
 

10828 Moorpark Street
North Hollywood, CA / (818) 766-3838


Quite a few stars live in the Toluca Lake / North Hollywood / Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley, so as you might expect, the local Catholic church has seen its fair share of celebrities.

St. Charles Borromeo was the home parish of Bob Hope, legendary actor, comic and star of movies, radio & TV. He lived just a short way down the road on Moorpark.

Actually, it was originally his wife Dolores Hope's parish - Bob didn't convert to Catholicism until very late in life - but he often attended services here with his wife. (Back in 1969, Bing Crosby attended the wedding of Bob Hope's daughter, Linda, at St. Charles.)

In 1998, Mr. Hope was made a Knight Commander of St. Gregory by the Vatican, for the couple's charitable works and philanthropy.

Bob Hope died at age 100, and his funeral at St. Charles was a small, private afffair, limited to family members, held on the morning of July 30, 2003 - after which he was buried at San Fernando Mission cemetery (where his mother is buried.)

A month later, in August, a belated public memorial at St. Charles brought out celebrities such as Mickey Rooney, Phyllis Diller, Kelsey Grammar, Nancy Reagan, former President Gerald Ford, Sid Caesar, Tom Seleck, Ed McMahon, Barbara Eden, Loni Anderson, Raquel Welch, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, Connie Stevens, Joey Heatherton, and fellow golfers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, for a Mass said by Cardinal Roger Mahony.

(Cardinal Mahony himself graduated grammar school there in 1950. His Mom and Dad were married at St. Charles, at the original church on Weddington St. in North Hollywood.)

On another sad note, the funeral for Bob Hope's friend and co-star, Dorothy Lamour, was also held here at St. Charles. Famous for the sarong she wore in all those "road pictures" she made with Bob & Bing Crosby, her funeral took place here on on Sept. 2, 1996. (She was later buried at the nearby Forest Lawn Hollywood.)

In April of 2003, the funeral for John Wayne's eldest son, Michael Wayne, was held at St. Charles.

A lesser star, but one well-known to TV viewers, was married here: Tracey Gold, who played Kirk Cameron's sister 'Carol Seaver' on ABC's "Growing Pains," celebrated her wedding at St. Charles on Oct. 8, 1994 (after overcoming a serious bout with anorexia.)

Her TV parents, Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns, attended the nuptials. (In fact, Joanna brought the couple together in the first place, after making a TV movie with the groom.) Her real dad, who walked Tracey down the aisle at the wedding, used to be Leonardo DiCaprio's agent, back when Leo started out on the same "Growing Pains."

Actor Eric Estrada ('Ponch" on TV's "CHiPS") and his family often attend Sunday Mass here.

"Jeopardy!" quizmaster
Alex Trebek and wife were seen in attendance for one of their children's First Communion.

On April 19, 2002, the church was the site of the funeral Mass for actor Robert Urich, best known to TV viewers as private eye 'Dan Tana' on the TV show "Vega$" and later as "Spenser for Hire". Celebrities in attendance at the service included Tom Selleck, Tony Danza, fellow "Love Boat" captain Gavin MacLeod and Olympian Bruce Jenner.

Actress & singer Ann Blyth ("Mildred Pierce", "The Great Caruso", "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid") was a regular attendee at St. Charles. In 1953, Ann wed Dr. James McNulty (the brother of Jack Benny sidekick, Dennis Day) and had five children.

A reader tells me that he saw actor Andy Garcia at St. Charles on Ash Wednesday a few years back.

While another parishoner tells me that singer/actor Frankie Avalon attends Easter Mass here, and that Angela Cartwright ('Penny' on TVs' "Lost in Space") and her sister, actress Veronica Cartwright ("Alien") are both regulars at St. Charles.

Local KABC newsanchors Laura Diaz and Harold Green often attend services, and LA District Attorney Steve Cooley is a member of the parish.

Veteran character actor Bob Gunton is also a regular at St. Charles. You may know him as the warden in "The Shawshank Redemption" or as the heavy in "Broken Arrow." He also was nominated for a Tony for his work on Broadway as "Sweeny Todd." Mr. Gunton is a member of the parish's eucharistic ministry and often serves as a lector.

Paul Salamunovich, another member of the St. Charles congregation, was the director of the esteemed Los Angeles Master Chorale (arguably the world's greatest choral conductor), and has also conducted choirs for many Hollywood films, including "My Best Friend's Wedding," "First Knight," "Waterworld" and "The Devil's Advocate."

Yet Dr. Salamunovich arranged his busy professional schedule so that he could be home for Sunday, when he played the organ at the 7:00 a.m. Mass at St. Charles, and then directed the St. Charles Choir in song at the 10:00 a.m. Mass. (All with no publicity.) He has done so for over 55 years.

  • Incidentally, Bob Hope and his wife, Dolores, built a chapel in Washington D.C. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is called, fittingly, "The Chapel of Our Lady of Hope." Bob built it in honor of his mother, Avis Townes Hope. The chapel opened in 1994.

Getting there: The church is located in North Hollywood (in the Valley) on the southwest corner of Moorpark Street & Lankershim Blvd. From Universal Studios, just take Lankershim north about half a mile to Moorpark, and the church will be on your left (west) side.




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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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