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My Adventure Smuggling Bibles, etc. for America's Fundamentalist Family

Excerpted from "A Glimpse of my Life"
by Rey Barry

In October, 2010, journalist Jeff Sharlet spoke at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the Univ. of Virginia. His topic was his specialty, the fundamentalist Christian neo-fascist group called, among other names, "The Fellowship" or "The Family."

Sharlet researched the group for years and is a leading authority. He's written numerous articles about them and two books that came out in 2008 and 2010.

He calls the group "the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power." They are a Christian version of the Taliban, preaching a dictatorship of Christ (or God, depending on need.)

When I read his first book I learned that the group is responsible for some amazing adventures in my own life, the adventures described below.

Part One where the Family's William C. Jones and I shoot a movie for the US of the entire Revolution Day military parade in Moscow on November 7, 1961, with the blessing of the Russians.

At the Feb. 18, 1960 Presidential Prayer Breakfast. From left, Abraham Vereide, organizer of the Prayer Breakfast movement, President Eisenhower, and William C. Jones, California publisher and host of the breakfast.

Part Three where after the Berlin wall goes up splitting east from west, Jones and I take the first photos and movies of the soon to be famous crossing point Checkpoint Charlie, from the forbidden zone in the east.

Part Four where Jones and I have lunch with a German Lutheran pastor who is assisting the Family with Bible smuggling. Although we are under surveillance by the authorities and followed wherever we go, they leave us alone.

Part One -

In November, 1961, I visited Moscow and Leningrad for a week with a tour group from Sweden. On the 6th, the eve of the annual Revolution Day parade, the five Americans on the tour are returning to the hotel from dinner, staggering across Red Square singing "Home on the Range" as we pass the Kremlin.

We are Heber Clewett (RIP), an expatriate Armenian from California who has been working his way through European capitals as a commercial artist for 20 years; two young Catholic virgin girls from Missoula, Montana, out to see the world, and the son of a Los Angeles insurance broker having his post-college fling around the world before settling down to a life selling insurance.

And me, at 24 a footloose adventurer.

And it's me, no one else, that a well-dressed American walks up to and asks if I will help him tomorrow to film the annual day-long Revolution Day military parade. "I need help keeping 4 Bolex cameras loaded with film. It's ok, the Russians gave permission."

He gives me a pass he says will get me through the numerous police lines, and goes off.

Later I learn I have just met William C. Jones, California book publisher, member of the Billy Graham Foundation board of directors, host of the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, and high ranking member of the fundamentalist Family trying to rule the world that Jeff Sharlet will publish a book about 47 years later.

Jones with vice president Richard Nixon, later a President who did things "the Family way."

Vodka goes right through me and I spent the entire night in the bathroom. Yes, we can sleep sitting down. A 6 AM knock started the day, and by 7:30 I'm testing the police lines with the pass. It works. I pass through umpteen lines and reach Jones's hotel at the end of a huge square separated from Red Square by a building. The parade is to go through the two squares, passing on both sides of the building, and merging while approaching the 4 balconies on which Jones has set up his Bolex electric movie cameras.

There's nothing clandestine going on. It's obvious Jones is making a film approved by the USSR.

After a crash course in film changing on a Bolex, we spend the day filming intercontinental ballistic missiles, armament of every description, and well over a million marchers from throughout Asia in exotic costumes. Jones provides sandwiches.

Being badly hung-over and not fit for conversation, I ask only one question during the day. "Who is this for?" Jones says he's making the movie with Soviet permission for an international fellowship group. He mentions either Kiwanis or Rotary, I forget which.

At the close of the parade I leave with Jones's business card in my pocket. Since lost, as was the pass. From memory it said W. C. Jones Publishing xxxx S. La Brea Blvd, Los Angeles, Calif.

We are to meet again a few months later in Berlin.


Part Three/Four

Till Fichter from Stuttgart, a student at the Free University, gives me a place to sleep and an introduction to Berlin's wicked night life. W.C. Jones ought to see this. Maybe Billy Graham will march here with a crusade. I was unaware he held a Berlin crusade the year before and the Family had established contacts.

I write Jones with an offer to show him around and he responds immediately, asking to be picked up at the airport. My last money goes into the gas tank and a hotel room to get cleaned up.

Jones buys me breakfast and asks to be taken to East Berlin. He puts two suitcases in the trunk and we drive over. A hundred yards inside Checkpoint Charlie in the east zone, Jones directs me to a parking lot of a modest building, six or eight stories. He removes the cases from the trunk and we enter by a rear door and take an elevator to the top floor.

There's a room with a red light outside, the indication of a darkroom. Jones barges in. No one is there. He hands me a camera and asks for pictures of Checkpoint Charlie from the east side. While I shoot stills, he shoots movies.

We pack and leave, but there are two men in lab coats in the elevator. Jones tells them in English that he's looking for the manager. They do not understand and take us to an office on the ground floor and a woman behind a desk. She's the editor of a national magazine with offices there. Evidently Jones knew that. He's cool. Jones gives her one of his pens and says he's a magazine publisher who wants to tour the building. She makes an appointment for the next morning and we leave.

Instead of scurrying back to the west, Jones gives me an address in East Berlin to drive to. It's a Lutheran preacher whose wife has lunch for us. Afterwards we drive to his church, a beautiful old stone structure with lovely gardens. We are followed there by a black sedan. Jones and the preacher discuss the Bibles he is illegally supplying, but its not clear which country they're going to.

We're followed back to the checkpoint but have no problem departing the east zone or entering the west.

Jones and I have dinner. He's an incredibly unflappable man with cool nerves, as befits someone trusted with organizing a Presidential Prayer Breakfast. Alas, with a little alcohol in him he's a horses ass on social issues. Like the rest of his fundamentalist fraternity, he gets his orders from god and allows for no other side to his half-baked, dogmatic, fixed convictions.

By the time coffee comes I can't stand him, and send him off on a tour of Berlin's nightclubs with friends who can hold their liquor.

The next day I drive him to the airport and let him know I'm broke. He gives me $50 which pays for my hotel and a tank of gas.

A few years later when being debriefed by the FBI, the agents are interested only in Golitsyn, a high-ranking soviet spy I knew in Helsinki just before he switched sides. They had no interest in Jones.

But a mysterious one paragraph story appears on the back page of my small town Virginia daily in 1964 saying California publisher W.C. Jones has been arrested in the USSR and charged with smuggling bibles. Sorry, not my line of work anymore. I've got smaller fish to fry.

Nether is it my concern when Billy Graham holds a massive revival in Berlin in 1966.

Since you've read this far, here's my favorite newspaper column reminiscing my Euro sojourn.



The train screeched to a stop at the Bulgarian border at seven minutes to midnight. Two Bulgarian guards examined passports in the second-class compartment. They had rubber stamps in their hands and guns on their hips. When they left the train, I was with them.

Under guard, I slept in an army barracks alongside the tracks. Shortly after 5 a.m. a guard woke me and said I was free and could leave on the next train.

The midnight Simplon-Orient Express I was taken off was bound for Munich, Germany. The train I later boarded at 6 a.m. went to Vienna, Austria. So did I. If I didn't know anyone in Vienna in 1962 it mattered little. I didn't know anyone in Munich either.

The way some men like money and others crave political power, the way some want large homes and others a close family, I lust for travel.

It has consumed my imagination since I grew an imagination. When I was able to travel I bit off the sights, the sounds, the memories and the mileage in huge chunks and when I can go again I'll bite as much.

Being yanked off the train from Istanbul, Turkey, to West Europe because I had no visa to pass through Bulgaria was, while not the high point of the rail trip, certainly the high point of the night.

The feather bed the Bulgarians provided was one of the softest I've known anywhere. I regretted being granted a visa and freed before I'd had my fill of the thing.

Istanbul is the city at the far end of the West, the city straddling the far edge of Europe and the near edge of Asia. The Simplon-Orient Express terminates there after the cross-Europe run from Paris.

To travel to Asia by rail, car, cycle, or thumb it's necessary to ferry across the Bosporus, a narrow strait separating European Istanbul from Asiatic Istanbul.

This short passage can be the most emotion-charged water crossing on earth for a westerner going east or an easterner going west.

If you're fortunate enough to have the wanderlust, your first walk on the unpaved sands of Asia will have you as fascinated with your footprints there as Neil Armstrong was with his on the moon.

The hotel across from the European railway station in Istanbul has fleas in the toilets and roaches in the rooms. Once away from the station one finds Hiltons and other such delights but few Turks stay at the Hilton.

One Turk I came to know hung around outside the Hilton and near the American Express bank. This friendly fellow, who once worked at a Norfolk shipyard and spoke excellent English, was in the trade of money changing.

His black market activities made him subject to long-term and drastic legal penalties if discovered, so he and his brother, a deaf mute King Kong, were wary as could be, under their circumstances.

No reporter can resist learning about the nether side of the business world and I arranged to know the brothers pretty well by passing a hot $100 traveler's check to them to cash. As the Beggar's Opera taught us, "for once do something bad and you'll survive."

This did not make us pals. My outstanding memory is sitting in the rear seat of a 1950 Buick Roadmaster parked in an alley while the mute Kong points his pistol at my head.

The brother from Norfolk is around the corner asking at a Turkish newspaper if they ever heard of Rey Barry. If they have, I will be killed because the brothers suspect me of researching a story on the black market in Istanbul for the Associated Press.

Fortunately I was a stranger in Turkey, knew no one in the press there, and the AP had turned me down when I tried to upgrade my Virginia State Police press card for one of theirs.

I didn't spend much time in Istanbul after that but I like to think it was wanderlust that made me catch a westbound train two days later.

It was a fortunate train, it turned out. The midday sun blazed as we crossed from Turkey to Greece, blazing down also on a shimmering shepherdess with long, blond hair tumbling over her shoulders.

Behind the broadest smile I've ever seen she had teeth like brightly lighted snow, and with passion, with joy and with open frenzy she waved to that passing train as if her heart might burst.

Waving there she was the embodiment of every breathtaking vista I'd ever seen and I felt like screaming "Stop the train. Stop life. We found it."

But the train didn't stop, not until we reached Bulgaria and I couldn't continue because I had no visa.


"Stop Life" Copyright 1969 by Rey Barry

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