Over at WorldNetDaily, our old friend Janet Porter (neé Folger) is doing a little damage control after swallowing a Snopes-worthy urban legend hook, line and sinker, as well as rod, reel, class ring and the fisherman’s Swatch. Last week, she reported that David Wilkerson, the minister portrayed by Pat Boone in the movie The Cross and the Switchblade, has forecast an “imminent, earth-shattering calamity” that will result in “fires raging” through the Tri-State Area. And to establish Wilkerson’s bona fides as a prophet, Janet recounted the story of The Lunch That Predicted 9/11, otherwise known as The Miracle of the Miracle Whip.
It seems that in 2001, God came to Wilkerson and revealed to him an impending attack on the World Trade Center, so that the minister might get a head start on making sandwiches. (Janet appears to have deleted the original column from WND, but we found a cached version):
Wilkerson felt God telling him something that seemed rather bizarre. He felt God telling him to make sandwiches – lots of sandwiches. What were they for? Who would eat them? That part wasn’t clear, but his church did what they believed God was telling them anyway.
And on the 10th of September they stayed up all night making hundreds and hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. By morning they had about 2,000 sandwiches. At 8:46 a.m. the first plane hit the World Trade Center and Times Square Church was ready to feed and minister to rescue workers and victims of our nation’s worst attack.
I don’t mean to quibble, but if God was going to drop a dime on Al Qaeda, perhaps he should have called the FBI, or the FAA, or any organization prepared to take stronger anti-terrorism measures than simply cutting the crust off the bread. But as it turns out, the Lord didn’t actually appear to Wilkerson on the eve of 9/11 and order a party platter:
Despite the fact that multiple people told me they read about Times Square Church members making sandwiches prior to Sept. 11, 2001, in the Times Square Newsletter – and the fact that when a staff member of mine called the church he got someone who answered the phone who confirmed it, saying they knew “exactly” what we were talking about, that information was wrong.
There were sandwiches. There were lots of them. But they were not made prior to Sept. 11, according to the officials at Times Square Church I talked with Thursday (who were unavailable at my deadline last week). WND has already added an editor’s correction to my column, but, while the sequence of the sandwiches was incorrect, the rest of the story was confirmed to be true.
That is, because of Wilkerson’s prophecy, his congregation was mentally prepared for disaster, so that in the immediate aftermath of the attack they were still able to make PBJs, unlike their fellow New Yorkers, who had apparently slipped into some sort of fugue state which made sandwich assembly impossible. But the minister has been visited by an even more apocalyptic vision, a disaster that cannot be so easily salved by edible unguents such as Skippy and Smuckers.
For 10 years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires – such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago.
There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting – including Times Square, New York City.
God has foretold the fall of the ESPN Zone.
WHAT SHALL THE RIGHTEOUS DO? WHAT ABOUT GOD’S PEOPLE?
First, I give you a practical word I received for my own direction. If possible lay in store a 30-day supply of non-perishable food, toiletries and other essentials. In major cities, grocery stores are emptied in an hour at the sign of an impending disaster.
… I will behold our Lord on his throne, with his eye of tender, loving kindness watching over every step I take – trusting that he will deliver his people even through floods, fires, calamities, tests, trials of all kinds.
Note: I do not know when these things will come to pass, but I know it is not far off. I have unburdened my soul to you. Do with the message as you choose.
Well, usually in the event of a floods, fires, and calamities, choosey prophets choose Jif. But as we said, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches won’t be enough to survive the smoldering hellscape of Pastor Wilkerson’s vision. You’ll probably need a juice box too.
Anyway, since I’m still feeling feverish and phlegmmy and doped up, I’ve decided to take Janet’s Punking by the Prophet as a sign to recycle some material. So here’s a revised version of an old piece s.z. and I did on The Cross and the Switchblade. It’s about Pastor David Wilkerson’s journey of faith; it’s about love; it’s about redemption. But mostly, it’s about Erik Estrada’s junk.
THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE (1970)
Director: Don Murray
Written by: Don Murray and James Bonnet
Our movie begins with a twilight shot of the Williamsburg bridge and a voiceover from the producer, who tells us that if the story we’re about to see were the mere product of a writer’s imagination, we would be entitled to call bullshit. But we must believe him when he says these events really happened, because if we’re watching this movie then chances are we’ve already agreed to spend the evening at a Baptist Youth Center, so we can probably be talked into just about anything.
We join a PF Flyers commercial already in progress. A young hoodlum runs his fastest and jumps his highest through Central Park, with The New Christy Minstrels in hot pursuit. But even with the patented Posture Fitness insole, the clean-cut, fresh-faced thug can’t evade his tormentors, and the Glee Club throws him down and surrounds him. Armed with switchblades, bike chains, and baseball bats, they proceed to administer the most listless beating in movie history; it looks less like a wilding and more like a pajama party pillow fight sponsored by Quaaludes. On the bright side, they’re the most racially diverse group of juvenile delinquents since Kid Power, including Al Pacino’s stand-in from Panic in Needle Park, that guy from the Dry Look ads, and Ben Shapiro, and co-starring a Cowsill, Fareed Zakaria, and Jeb Bush. But since they can’t be bothered to actually hit the kid they’re supposedly beating to death, Officer Krupke steps in and arrests the entire cast for loitering.
In court, Prosecutor Sam Waterston Lite (only one-third the talent of the national brand) is murmuring to the short, fat, angry defense attorney and repeatedly groping him, so either the State’s case isn’t going well and he wants to cut a deal, or the two actors got bored and started pretending they’re in Adam’s Rib. The judge, who gave up a guaranteed 5-and-under on a soap opera to do this stupid movie, grumpily admonishes counsel to hurry up and present his case against the New Christy Gangstas, because those slices of honeydew melon on the craft service table aren’t getting any fresher.
Suddenly, Pat Boone bursts into the room and says, “May I have a word with–-” But before he can even finish the sentence, the judge leaps to his feet and screams, “Get him out of here!” Two cops instantly seize Pat by the scruff of the neck and violently eject him from the court room. Okay, we’ve changed our minds; this is the Best. Movie. Ever!
Out in the hall, the cops frisk Pat, demanding to know where “the weapon” is. But since they’re patting him down in the upper pants area, they probably just mistook him for Harry Reems (who plays “Uncredited Gang Member”), since Pat doesn’t strike us as the kind of guy who’s…heavily armed. In fact, Pat holds up a Bible and insists, “This is my only weapon!” It turns out that he’s a hep young street preacher from Nowheresville, Pennsylvania, who’s come to help the gang and to get some hair care tips from the Dry Look guy, because his own tortured combover lacks body.
The cops tell Pat to get lost. He literally hangs his head to indicate sadness, then trudges off toward the elevator while the Mike Curb Congregation croons:
You’ve got to face the fact,
You’re just one guy.
But on the other hand the fact is,
You’ve got to try.
We admittedly don’t have a lot of experience with schizophrenia, but nonetheless feel that if you’re going to have easy listening voices in your head, they should be a bit less wishy-washy.
Cut to the next morning. Pat has covered the windows of his car with depressing headlines from the newspaper, and is sleeping inside. Some 12-year old black kids noisily begin stealing his hubcaps and stripping the car for parts. Two of the kids pause for the following colloquy:
Thug: There’s a dude asleep in the back seat.
Girl Thug: I dig.
Thug: What if he wakes up?
Girl Thug: He look bad?
Thug: He don’t look too bad. But he don’t look too good either.
As urban contemporary patois goes, this doesn’t seem to drip with authenticity, but it’s the best description of Pat Boone we’ve ever heard. Anyway, Pat eventually notices that a racially integrated group of children are dismantling his car and steps outside so they can stab him. But Girl Thug, who is wearing hand-me-downs from Huggy Bear and Mushmouth, recognizes him from the opening scene and commands him to “lay it on me.”
He attempts to shake hands, but the thugette demurs, and offers Pat his first lesson in Applied Badness. “Don’t wrestle with me, baby. Just lay it in the sky.” They slap palms, and the girl introduces herself as “Bo,” short for Little Bo Peep. Pat immediately pries into her religious affiliations, but Bo Peep rolls alone, and doesn’t worry about God, “just about the pigs, and hustling bread.” She does offer to hook him up with the Mau Mau gang, which involves introducing Pat to what we can only assume is the World’s Least Successful Hooker, since she’s dressed like a Mennonite hausfrau.
Inside the gang’s clubhouse, it’s one freaky scene, man. The Mau Maus (who are ostensibly a Puerto Rican group) are waiting for a pow-wow with the Bishops, an association of African-American youths. Pat is attempting to avoid toking on the plentiful Maryjane (“Smoke my peace pipe” commands a hippie who apparently walked straight into the movie from a Dragnet episode) when suddenly the door bursts open, and Linc from Mod Squad announces, “The Bishops are here!” Oddly, he announces it in the voice of Dudley Do-right. And no, that’s not a joke; it’s deeply saddened reportage.
Linc and his warlord, dashiki spokesmodel Abdullah, have come to parlay with the Mau Mau’s leader, Israel, and his warlord, Erik Estrada (playing gangbanger-cum-evangelist Nicky Cruz). Erik is quite the bad dude, even if, like all the other Mau Maus, he gads about in a Tyrolean hat and a bright red pleather windbreaker. The two factions are cordially negotiating the terms of their upcoming rumble, when suddenly Pat jumps between them and shouts, “You guys talk about getting high. God’ll get you high. But he won’t let you down!” Inexplicably, no one shoves a handmade shiv into his liver. But it’s implied that Pat’s rap was received cooly, because we cut to an exterior shot, as he sulks around Spanish Harlem while Up With People sings about what a loser he is.
Eventually, Pat is adopted by Hector Gomez, pastor of the Mean Streets Storefront Congregation. This allows Pat to stop living in his car and taking whore’s baths at the bus station; it also means Pat has access to a telephone, which is convenient since his wife back in Pennsylvania is about to give birth. (“All right, honey, I’m gonna drive up to New York now and go irritate some hoodlums. Give me a ring when you’re crowning.”)
Finally the Mau Maus and the Bishops meet in the park to savagely battle over which group is dressed more like the Partridge Family. But it’s sort of a Guitar Hero version of a street fight, since they’re just bouncing around and brandishing Wiffle bats, while the Ray Conniff Singers harmonize:
Na na na na na,
We got a rumble,
Gettin’ it onnnnnn.
Pat is devastated. Not only did his inspirational message about the hallucinogenic effects of God fall flat, but when heroin-addicted hooker Rosa comes to the storefront church and seeks his help, he has to admit that he can’t actually do anything about her problems, like getting off the street, or kicking the junk. “Then why did you come here,” she asks, clearly puzzled. Why, it’s simple, young horse-addled doxy. He came to get away from his pregnant wife, and to translate the Gospels into jive.
Pat and the Apostle Bo-Peep stand on a street corner, where the thugette plays the trumpet to gather a crowd (granted, it doesn’t attract a friendly crowd, but it’s at least as efficient as throwing the burgemeister’s young daughter into the lake, then holing up in a burning windmill). Pat starts preaching, but a cop immediately tells him to shut up, and the crowd to move along.
“Officer,” Pat whines, “don’t I have a constitutional right to speak on any street corner in America?” The cop retorts, “Only if you’re standing under an American flag!”
Really? This is the first we’ve heard of this clause, and it makes us think we probably should have read the entire First Amendment, and not just skipped right to the parts with sex. But Linc, the Dudley Do-Right-voiced leader of the Negro gang, snaps off a car aerial with a tiny American flag ornament and gives it to Pat. Then he uses the rest of the antenna to make a zip-gun so he can give Pat one of his bullets, too.
Warlord Erik Estrada and Mau Mau CEO Israel stumble upon Pat’s soapbox sermon. The preacher offers his hand to Erik, who spits into it. Pat turns the other cheek and oozes, “God loves you, Nicky.” Erik responds to this behavior in the only logical way by screaming, “If you come near me, I’ll kill you!”
“Yeah, you can do that,” Pat replies. “You can cut me up in a thousand pieces and lay them in the street. And every piece will still love you.”
Erik stares at Pat with what we imagine is the same look you’d give a man standing next to you in an elevator if he suddenly set his own pants on fire and began to juggle fetal pigs.
It’s three o’clock in the morning and Erik is asleep in his cramped, shabby room at the YMCA, when there’s a loud pounding at the door. He gets up, wearing nothing but his tighty whiteys, and leans back against the wall with his groin jutting into the camera as though someone had mistakenly told him the film was in 3-D. He opens the door, revealing singer, actor, and stalker Pat Boone. Erik recoils and shrieks, “Didn’t I tell you to leave me alone?!
Pat says, “You didn’t really mean that.” Then, as the swarthy, sweat-glazed youth stands there in his underpants, breathing heavily, Pat murmurs, “Aren’t you lonely, Nicky?”
It’s the next day, and The Association is singing:
Love is only a word to me,
A word you use when you’re not sure what to say
Rosa, the remarkably wholesome junkie streetwalker, finds Erik moodily enjoying a phosphate in Ned Glass’s candy store from West Side Story. She tells Erik that although she was gang property and had to share her favors equally with all of the Mau Maus, it was Erik whom she always loved, for he was the Mau-Mauiest in bed. Then she tries to cadge 10 bucks for a fix. But Pat’s late night visit has gotten under Erik’s skin and into his tighty whiteys, and Erik is suddenly having trouble relating to the other hoodlums his age. Instead of having quick, grunting coitus in a trash-choked alley in exchange for a dime bag, Erik hands her a switchblade and subcontracts her to kill Pat.
Meanwhile, at the storefront church, Pat’s mission to the Mau Maus has apparently been having some amazing, if off screen success, because suddenly everyone is abuzz over the way all the gangsters were flocking around him today. But the joy of saved souls is tempered by the sting of an unsuccessful booty call, as Pat pouts, “I didn’t see Nicky.”
But Erik can’t get Pat out of his mind, either, and at that very momment he’s slumped down in a chair at the Mau Mau clubhouse, glowering into space.
“Are you still thinking about him,” Israel asks. When he doesn’t respond, Israel inserts a cigarette in Erik’s mouth. (You may recall Pat’s public hissyfit over the frank homo-eroticism in Brokeback Mountain; having seen The Cross and the Switchblade, we suspect he felt the same way about the man-on-man love scenes in that film as Fats Domino felt about Pat’s cover of “Ain’t That A Shame.”)
Anyway, Rosa finally shows up at the storefront church. She doesn’t want to kill Pat for some reason, but she really needs that ten-spot Erik promised her, so she tries to bargain with Pat — 10 dollars for a fix in exchange for some overacting. But Pat gets up on his high horse to the junkie and says, “I’m no easy touch. I’m a man of God.” Yeah, what was she thinking? If she wanted Christian charity, she should’ve gone to a libertarian. Reminded of her bootstraps, and that business is business, Rosa belatedly tries to fulfill her contract by shanking the Randian prick.
Pat defends himself by fighting like a girl, but he’s not woman enough to take Rosa, and we’re seconds from seeing strapping young Preacher filleted by the frail, strung-out junkie, until a bystander tells Rosa that God wants Pat to help her get off Horse. Oh, really? Okay. We instantly dissolve to a montage of Rosa writhing and moaning as she goes through the agony of a cold turkey withdrawal from heroin. Or maybe she’s just reacting to the sappy soundtrack, “Jackie Gleason’s Music To Have The DTs By.”
Meanwhile, the Mau Maus throw a lovely funeral for Mingo, a gang member Erik accidentally murdered for chickening out of the last rumble. But the solemn proceedings are crashed by the Bishops, who want to pick up the fight where they left off. Floral arrangements get crushed. Somebody gets pushed into the open grave. Erik gets stabbed. It’s just how Mingo would have wanted it.
A bleeding Erik manages to stagger home. But Pat, to whom restraining orders mean nothing, barges in and continues to pester him. “Can’t you give a poor Spick a break,” pleads Erick. Good question, but I think we all know the answer to it . . .
Pat replies, “Some day you’re gonna stop running. And when you do, I’ll be there.” The great thing about this motto is, it works for both youth ministers and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
Having completing her 3 Step Program (Step 1: Admit that you are powerless over drugs and your life has become unmanageable. Step 2: Attempt to knife Pat Boone. Step 3: Have a montage), love-sick Rosa shows up at Erik’s apartment and coos that she’s clean now. But when Erik learns that she’s drug-free because of Pat, he shouts, “The Preacher! The Preacher! All I ever hear is the Preacher! I’m sick of the Preacher!” Hey, man, we feel your pain.
Erik rejects Rosa because of her Preacher-taint, so she immediately scores some H from a handy central casting pusher. However, thanks to Pat’s rehab program, the drug no longer has the power to get her high. It’s a miracle! (Or it was mixed with too much baby laxative.)
In any case, it’s finally time for Pat’s big anti-gang preach-a-thon at a local movie theater. The police, who don’t want to cramp Pat’s style (and who are still angry about that toy flag stunt), are boycotting the event, thus making it the perfect locale for the Rumble-to-End-All-Rumbles planned by the M&Ms and the Bishops. But the power of Pat compels them, and when dashiki supermodel Abdullah asks the gangbangers if they’re ready to rummmmmble, Erik, who was deeply touched by Pat’s words (whatever they were — we kinda nodded off at this point) interrupts.
Erick advises everyone to “cool it” and listen to the Preacher. He adds that, “He’s here, in this room, and He wants to touch you.” Erik was either talking about God, or Pat’s nocturnal visits to the YMCA, but in either case you can understand why Abdullah tries to stab him. However, Erik manages to grab the knife from Abdullah — and to show that he has completely fallen under Pat’s spell, he spares the Bishop’s life and tells him that that God loves him. Erik then announces that he’s “gonna give my life to God, baby.” He chirps to Rosa, “I’m two-minutes old.” She takes this as a cue to go find a moist towel and wipe the afterbirth off him.
Meanwhile, the gang members all eagerly take the free Bibles that Pat is passing out. Israel opens his and declares, “Hey, my name is all over this book!” In addition to being the inerrant word of God, the Bible is also a rap sheet!
Pat intones something about how this was just the start of his ministry, and that there would be “more Nickys, more Israels, more Rosas,” for . . . (get ready for it!) “The Cross is mightier than The Switchblade.” And judging by this screenplay, both of them can beat the shit out of The Pen.