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How a beloved NYC priest saved Mickey Rourke’s life.

Armed with a .38 caliber, pearl-handled revolver and a six-page letter to his estranged wife, Mickey Rourke knocked on the door of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Hell’s Kitchen in 1994. Wearing a cowboy hat and toting one of his precious dogs, the troubled actor and boxer who had grown up Catholic in upstate...
Time: 18:49     Date: 17.02.2018
US Living News: How a beloved NYC priest saved Mickey Rourke’s life. NY Post 24 - US News

Wearing a cowboy hat and toting one of his precious dogs, the troubled actor and boxer who had grown up Catholic in upstate New York and Miami had already tried to kill himself — twice.

The “big dude” was Rev. Peter Colapietro, a larger than life priest — he stood 6 feet tall and weighed 325 pounds — beloved among his flock of actors, stagehands, bus drivers and junkies who lived and worked in the gritty neighborhood near his Times Square church for more than two decades. He died earlier this month.

Father Pete, dubbed “the whiskey priest” by legendary Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, was also a regular at Elaine’s and well-known among the city’s elite. His Feb. 10 Manhattan funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners, and police temporarily shut down the TriBoro Bridge and the FDR Drive in his honor. Rourke did not attend the funeral, but sent a giant floral arrangement.

The message “Love you Pete — Mickey” was crafted out of red and white carnations and roses, and prominently displayed at St. Monica’s in the Upper East Side, which was one of the last churches he presided at.

For Rourke, who had won acclaim for his roles in “Diner” and “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and had boxed professionally before becoming an actor, it was a small tribute to the man he credits with saving his life.

“Pete saved my ass from myself,” he said. “We had a friendship for over 24 years. He always seemed to have the right thing to say.”

At their first meeting, Father Pete led Rourke to the basement of the church on West 42nd St. They chain-smoked cigarettes and drank red wine. Father Pete eventually talked Rourke out of suicide, and took the letter he had written to his estranged wife, the actress and model Carre Otis. He placed it under the statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, and told him to say 14 Hail Marys as part of his penance, Rourke told The Post.

Holy Cross Church at 329 West 42nd St. in Manhattan.Helayne Seidman

Rourke, then 42, was in a particularly bad state. His once promising movie career had hit the skids because directors found his explosive temper too difficult to handle. He was out of money and Otis was poised to leave him after he had been charged with spousal abuse, which he vigorously denied. “She got beat up pretty bad and then everyone tried to frame me,” he told The Post.

“My lawyer wanted me to plead guilty, but I told him ‘F–k, you! I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do.’” The charges were later dropped.

Rourke soon returned for more confessions in the church basement where he would talk to Father Pete about everything from his girlfriends to his dogs. “Pete knew the names of all of my dogs,” said Rourke.

On one occasion in the mid 1990s, Rourke was bent on killing a model scout in Italy who had allegedly beat up his wife and tried to frame him for the attack. Rourke said that at the time Otis was hooked on heroin and suffered from an eating disorder.

“I explained to Pete what I wanted to do because I wanted to know the religious repercussions,” said Rourke, who is long divorced from Otis, his second wife. “Pete sat me down, and explained to me about purgatory. It scared the piss out of me.”

Mickey RourkeSygma via Getty Images

According to Rourke, “in purgatory you had to live with the same pain until it was your natural time to die.”

Father Pete also grabbed a bible, and told the actor, “Show me in the bible where it says vengeance is mine, Mickey Rourke, and I will help you load bullets in your gun.”

In 2011, Otis wrote “Beauty Disrupted,” a memoir in which she detailed her rocky marriage to Rourke, and accused another man — not the Italian scout — of beating her up.

“I would have killed the wrong f–king guy,” said Rourke.

Buoyed by his meetings with Father Pete as well as regular sessions with a psychiatrist, Rourke restarted his acting career, winning a 2009 Golden Globe, among other distinctions, for best actor for his portrayal of an aging fighter in “The Wrestler.” He also returned to the boxing ring, where he had spent a great deal of his youth before he turned to acting. He told The Post he currently trains an incredible three times a day and is preparing for two more matches as well as working on four new films.

As his life changed for the better, the anguished letter Rourke had written to his wife and left behind under St. Jude at Holy Cross church mysteriously disappeared, he said. “Once in a while, I would peek at it, and then one day it was just gone,” Rourke told The Post.

When Rourke asked Father Pete for an explanation for the letter’s disappearance, the priest just shrugged, Rourke said.

“Pete loved Mickey,” said Mike Kane, a longtime friend of the priest. “His eyes would light up and his smile would glow as he focused … on Mickey’s renewed success.”

Father Pete personally understood how challenging life can be. Born on April 20, 1948, in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, where his father was a bar keeper, he enrolled at the St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, but struggled with becoming a priest. He left before they could kick him out for constantly violating the curfew.

In his twenties, he earned his living as a construction worker, a fisherman and a stevedore in North Carolina. He also worked as a bouncer at a bar in the Hamptons before deciding to return to the seminary, which allowed him back in. He was finally ordained in 1976, and his first position as pastor was at St. Vito’s in Mamaroneck. In 1992, he was moved to Holy Cross where he met Rourke.

‘I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Pete’

When he left the church in 2013 to head up St. Monica’s, he received an emotional standing ovation from the packed pews and was serenaded by pipes and drums from the Department of Sanitation, for which he was the pastor. Although he was briefly at the helm of St. Monica’s, he ended his career at St. Malachy’s, the actors’ chapel on West 49th Street because the church had an elevator, and Father Pete could no longer climb stairs in his final years. He was 69 when he died.

The last time Rourke saw Father Pete was over a boozy meal at a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in the fall of 2016. According to Rourke, Father Pete downed four martinis, which was not unusual for the portly pastor.

For his part, Father Pete also seems to have leaned on the actor.

“I remember him telling me about a very hard week he had after 9/11,” Rourke told The Post. “He said for the last 10 days, he was burying 10 or 12 people that he’d married. He was also crushed when his best friend Elaine from the famous restaurant died. He was as human as could be.”

Father Pete and Elaine Kaufman were friends for decades before her death in 2010. Whether by design or happenstance, his funeral took place on what would have been Kaufman’s 89th birthday.

“He told me that I had come a long way,” Rourke recalled. “He said that I was finally able to forgive others, but I still had one thing to do: ‘Now, you have to learn to forgive yourself.’ That’s what he told me.”

Last year, when Father Pete was admitted to the hospital, suffering from complications related to emphysema and diabetes, Rourke called up Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to have them deliver Italian delicacies to the priest every week. The deliveries lasted seven months, even after the priest said he was too weak to eat the food. “I told them to deliver it anyway,” Rourke said. A friend of the priest’s said he distributed the leftover food to the hospital workers.

For Rourke, making sure Father Pete had the food he grew up with in the Bronx, was another small token of his gratitude.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Pete,” Rourke wrote in a text message. “He had a gift for talking to you that didn’t sound like preaching. He had a street vocabulary that was very colorful. You could relate to him. I will pray for him for the rest of my life. Everyday.”

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