There are times you literally do not believe your eyes, and for me this was one of them:
The stunning sight of more than 2,000 young couples on the floor of Madison Square Garden -- brides in identical white gowns, grooms in identical blue suits.
They were waiting to be joined in holy matrimony by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who died a few days ago at age 92.
But here's the kicker -- many of those pledging their everlasting devotion to each other were strangers who didn't even speak the same language. Moon matched them, and that was fine by them.
It was a New York Post story all the way, and we were giving it gangbuster coverage on that spring day in 1982.
Moon wore a crown of some kind as he shouted out his wedding sermon to the masses. At some point, they were all pronounced man and wife in the eyes of the Unification Church.
I sat up there taking notes from the cheap seats, waiting for somebody to say it was all an elaborate prank. But it wasn't. All those people were actually getting married.
The brides and grooms passed between two tall ladders, and on top of the ladders stood guys with buckets of holy water, splashing the newlyweds as they passed. It was like a marital car wash.
Every time I thought it couldn't get more bizarre, it did. Enzo Stuarti, best known then for his Ragu spaghetti sauce TV commercials, sang "Be My Love" to the newlyweds.
After the ceremony the newlyweds flooded the plaza outside the Garden, and that's when we members of the Working Press got our interviews.
I stopped a groom who told me he was a stockbroker. He was probably making ten times the money I was making, and he happily explained how he'd been introduced to his brand-new wife just a few days earlier.
"You think this will work out for you?" I dared to ask.
"Of course," he said with an eerie smile.
His wife didn't speak English, or I would have asked her the same thing.
It was actually a little scary. Moon was a self-proclaimed messiah who claimed he'd been asked by Jesus to complete his unfinished mission on earth. The people I interviewed that day weren't knuckleheads. What the hell was happening?
I kept waiting for Kevin McCarthy to come running through the crowd, waving his arms and hysterically screaming, "They're here already! You're next!" (If you don't get that reference, rent or buy Invasion of the Body Snatchers.)
But there was another factor at work here -- the clash between those honey-Moon-ers and the hardbitten, boiled-in-bile members of the media.
Most of my ink-stained friends had troubled relationships. The women wanted to move to the next level, usually with guys who weren't on the level at all.
Breakups, separations, divorces. Guys on the sidewalk at midnight, catching their underwear as it was thrown from the windows of betrayed girlfriends.
"Deny everything, even if they have pictures," one especially randy reporter used to say.
In the midst of it all was a veteran Post reporter who'd been happily married for 40 years. He smoked a cigarette in a holder, tapped out his stories on a manual typewriter and never let anything get to him.
"How do you do it?" I asked him one day.
He took the cigarette holder from his mouth and smiled. "The key to a long and happy marriage?" he asked rhetorically. He leaned closer, cocked an eyebrow.
"Do NOT get emotionally involved."
He was kidding, I think, but I also think he stumbled upon Moon's formula for marital success, at least on that crazy day in 1982.
Anyway, I got all the newlywed quotes I needed, hooked up with a female colleague who was also covering the wedding and together we hopped a cab back to the office on South Street.
Oddly enough, that cab ride was the scariest part of the day.
My colleague and I started arguing about the mass wedding. I thought the whole thing was crazy. She disagreed. We were getting loud.
Suddenly the cab driver stopped the car and wheeled around, a glazed grin on his face. He offered us a pamphlet through the partition.
"Would you care to take some literature about my religion?" he asked in a spooky voice.
I couldn't get out of that cab fast enough, but to this day I'm sorry I didn't force the driver to open his trunk. I have a pretty good idea of what he was hiding back there.
Giant seed pods. The kind you wouldn't want to fall asleep beside.
Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His novels "God Plays Favorites," "Found Money," "My Ride With Gus" and "Shepherd Avenue" are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.
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