Hollywood is often referred to as Satan’s Playground.
Satan is not the medieval caricature with horns, hooves and a tail. According to Scripture, he is the “prince of earth” and quite brilliant. He is utterly unscrupulous, looking to turn man and woman away from the eyes of God with his dark brilliance. The “wiles of the devil” take many forms, but he is wiliest when he succeeds in persuading humankind that he does not exist and is simply an arcane medieval cartoon. Right now, many of my friends are no doubt shaking their heads while others look to defriend me.
It is terribly unfashionable in culture and even in the church today to believe either in a personal devil or in a personal demonic intelligence under his command. I am not sure why that is. That said, church fashion should not be the director of theology. The litmus test should always be: what did Jesus say about such things? Jesus warned his disciples of the devil’s power but also said, to take heart that He (Jesus) has overcome the world.
One person who did believe in Satan was Eddie Murphy.
He tangled with the dark brilliance often and knew what power Satan had.
It was the 1986 and Eddie Murphy was an enormous movie star with three big hits behind him (48 Hours, Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop).
Despite his enormous success, Eddie was still an outsider in Hollywood.
He lived in Englewood, New Jersey, and when he came to shoot in Los Angeles for Paramount Pictures (where he had an exclusive deal), he rented a house. I was the executive in charge of the Eddie Murphy relationship at Paramount. Eddie and I had a solid friendship and we were probably, at the time, two of a handful of practicing Catholics in Hollywood so our bond was made even stronger through our faith.
Eddie Murphy was renting music superstar’s Prince’s House.
He was coming to Los Angeles to shoot the sequel to Beverly Hills Cop which had been the biggest hit of 1984, costing only 11 million and generating a lifetime profit of $420 million.
There was only one catch.
“That Prince is into crazy s—, man.” Eddie said on the phone. “He worships the devil and if you don’t believe me, look at the crazy s— in his videos. If you watch them real slow, you can see the animal sacrifices. Can you perform an exorcism on Prince’s house before I move in? I’m scared.”
I explained that exorcisms were performed on people, not houses. I said, however, that we could have a veeeery serious blessing performed on it. I would do this as a friend and not as an executive in an official capacity at Paramount.
“Great!” he said.
I found a group of Missionaries –seven nuns and a priest –who were on a sabbatical from Kenya to perform the blessing.
On that Sunday morning, I marched the cavalcade of God’s children through every niche of Prince’s Bel Air ranch, pausing for an extra long time in the game room (next to the bar) for a special cleansing. I think the poor priest went through a whole vial of holy water in that room. “This room can not get enough prayer, Father!” chimed in one of the sweet nuns.
When we were finished, Eddie Murphy’s ever-caring manager, Bob Wachs, was waiting in the sunny courtyard. The courtyard was blooming with lavender.
“What should I pay them?” Bob whispered to me.
“They do this for God’s glory….so nothing is expected or required.” I replied.
“I have to do something!” Bob said.
“Then help them with their next mission trip.”
Bob quietly walked over to the priest and gave him more money than the man had ever seen in his life.
The mission was very grateful.
“Thanks,” Eddie said later that week. “I knew that you’ve been there because there was a holy card in corner of the place. The place feels great – fresh like a baby’s face.”
“They’re not there for proof. “ I said. “They are there to remind you of what Jesus said.”
“What did he say?” Eddie asked, suddenly worried.
“He says in Luke 11 that once the house is swept clean, be vigilant. If you are not, more powerful, more wicked spirits will come and live there. Jesus was talking about a person, but I think it applies to homes as well.”
“In other words, don’t take this for granted and don’t f— up. ”
The world’s opposition to Satan is subtle. And behind that opposition stands the prince of earth. Satan hates the gospel, there is no question. I am even a little sick when I write this. The Screwtape Letters, a witty expose on Satan, took C. S. Lewis an inordinate 3 years to complete. When asked if he would write a follow-up, Lewis said “never again” because it was so emotionally and physically painful. Satan uses all his strength and cunning to obstruct the gospel’s progress, now by perverting it in the mouths of those who might preach it, now by frightening them into silence through persecution or ridicule, now by persuading them to advance beyond it into some fancy novelty, now by making them so busy with defending the gospel they they have no time to proclaim it.
Eddie said he never slept better in a house during the filming.
In those days, that’s just the way we rolled against the “prince of earth”.
Blessing a house, seeking God’s will and His favor, honoring Him…is not a bad idea for any of us.
Eddie behaved himself on the Beverly Hills Cop sequel.
There were no incidents at the house.
The picture, directed by our friend Tony Scott, who recently died by his own hand, continued Eddie’s trajectory to global superstar. Eddie Murphy was the first black motion picture star to break the “colored line” in every part of the world.
This episode appears in its entirety and is not part of David Kirkpatrick’s upcoming spiritual memoir on Hollywood, I Heard The Wind Call My Name.