How Mickey Rooney and Johnny Carson Inspired a Pastor to Reach Hollywood
Dan Wooding

Dan Wooding

Bob Rieth is a quietly-spoken man, beloved by many in the Hollywood community, but he seems the most unlikely person to become a confidant to so many in the entertainment capital of the world.

And now, this gentle man (in all senses of the word) has just put on his 20th Annual Media Fellowship International (MFI) Annual Praise Brunch at the historic Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, which was attended on Saturday, October 7, 2017, by hundreds who make up a Who’s Who of Hollywood’s Community.

Bob Rieth was joined at the front table by avid Laker’s fan, Dyan Cannon, a film and television actress, director, screenwriter, editor, and producer. A devout believer, Cannon has been nominated for three Academy Awards, and was once married to actor Cary Grant.

Also in the audience, and who participated in the Praise Brunch program, were veteran Hollywood icon, Pat Boone; Susan Stafford, the first “Wheel of Fortune” host; Billy Davis Jr., and his wife, Marilyn McCoo, from the The 5th Dimension, who performed with their with their gospel group, Soldiers for the Second Coming.

Bob Rieth speaking at 20th MFI event

Bob Yerkes, a legendary American stuntman and early member of MFI, was also there. Yerkes began a life of acrobatics in the circus as a teenager and went on to work as a stuntman in such films as “Back to the Future,” “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” and “Hook.”

One of the most recognizable attendees today was the giant figure of Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier – he’s 6’ 5” in tall — who is an American Grid Iron Football legend, actor, singer, writer, minister, political activist, and his wife, Cydnee. Grier served as a bodyguard for his friend, United States senator and presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy. He was guarding Ethel Kennedy, the Senator’s wife, who was then expecting a child, the night that Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968. Grier and Olympic decathlon gold medalist, Rafer Johnson, heard shots fired ahead of them. As Grier caught up he saw men wrestling with gunman Sirhan Sirhan. Grier jumped into the fray and was able to take the gun from Sirhan Sirhan, but it was too late to save Kennedy’s life.

The speaker for today’s event was Brad Cummings, Producer of The Shack, and Publisher/CEO of Windblown Media and Founder of Shiloh Road Publishers, and before he spoke, Will Champlin, a singer-songwriter, performed three songs. Champlin is best known for his appearance on Season 5 of the NBC singing competition The Voice as part of Adam Levine’s team. He finished in third place behind Jacquie Lee, the runner-up, and Tessanne Chin, the winner of the season.

Marilyn McCoo with Soldiers for the Second Coming

Before Cummings spoke, Pastor Bob Rieth shared movingly with the audience about his wife, Marion, who was not able to attend because of her battle with cancer, and asked for prayer for her at this difficult time.

Following a previous event, I sat down with Bob Rieth to learn more about how MFI began.

He explained, “I was in seminary in the fall of 1976 and my wife, Marion, and I was serving at a small church country church in the Pacific North West. In the morning I’d go to school, then in the afternoon I would make my calls and, in the evening, I’d do my studying.

Pat Boone speaking at 20th MFI

“But we would always quit at ten o’clock and at that time that’s when the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson came on TV, so we would usually sit together and watch him and his guests.

“One night, Mickey Rooney came on he was talking about the number of wives that he’d been through and Johnny also talked about the numbers of mother’s in-law he had had and they both spoke about the number of checks they sent out to these people.

“Everyone was laughing, but in my heart I really felt the sadness of Mickey and Johnny and God began to work on me until I became so uncomfortable that I could hardly sit still. I got up and I paced the floor and, by the end of his interview, Mickey left. It was then that the question that came to my heart and my mind and I prayed, ‘Lord, why isn’t there someone there for him?’ And that really is where it all began.”

It wasn’t long after that that Rieth started Media Fellowship International which has now grown into a worldwide ministry. His “personal concern” and “unconditional love” for people “in all circumstances” has formed the basis for the attitude and direction of MFI and he says “above all else what is really important is each person’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Rieth’s website (http://mediafellowship.org/ ) explains what his organization is all about, saying, “Media Fellowship International (MFI) is a Christian ministry that works primarily with leaders in the professional entertainment and media industries. MFI provides a peer group atmosphere in which members can confidentially share their concerns and experiences, talk about Christ, pray with each other and study the Bible together.

Rosie Grier with wife and Susan Stafford at MFI smaller

“Believers are encouraged to share Christ, uplift the family, advocate moral living and promote love for God and country in both their professional and personal lives. Christian leaders in media can have a positive influence on the media product. MFI represents thousands of media and entertainment professionals with chapters in many cities in the U.S., Canada and Europe.”

MFI, incorporated by the state of California in 1987, is recognized as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. As such contributions are fully tax deductible. MFI is funded by private contributions from individuals who believe in this vital ministry of reaching “to the media, through the media.”

Once again, this was an event that both inspired, challenged and encouraged those working in the “mission field” of Hollywood, and long may it continue.

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