Growing up Catholic in the fifties & sixties, I was dealing with the usual rules that go with any religion. We had the fish-on-Friday thing, which was fine with me since I loved seafood. But then there was some stuff that didn’t exactly make sense.

You weren’t supposed to eat three hours before taking Communion. This was fine if you rolled out of bed and went to an early Mass, but if you went to the last Mass at noon, all you heard were a bunch of growling stomachs.

Of course, that was nothing compared to Catholic guilt, best doled out by Italian mothers who had a Ph.D. in the tactic. It sorta went like this:

Mom: “That snow isn’t gonna shovel itself.”

Me: “I’ll get it as soon as the game is over. It’s in the fourth quarter.”

Mom: (Putting on coat) “Go ahead, watch the game. I’ve got some pills if I hurt my back.”

So, of course, I immediately stopped watching the game and headed out because that ingrained Catholic guilt told me two things: You can’t let your poor mother shovel the snow, and you can’t let the neighbors see your poor mother shovel the snow. “Look at Mary out there in the cold shoveling the driveway! Where’s her son?”

I had a long-running debate with a Jewish friend, who insisted that Jewish guilt was worse than Catholic guilt. Regardless, guilt is the reason most Italian Catholic men have mother issues. (See: Soprano, Tony)

But one of the other “rules” back then concerned the movies. The church would post a regular list of films headed for the theaters, divided into two categories: approved and condemned! Nothing scared a kid more than something that was condemned! Which led to the great Rosemary’s Baby rumor of 1968.

But sometimes those condemned movies were too enticing to pass up. Naturally, a movie with the devil, a man who sold his soul and a demon child was a trifecta of hell that landed the film on the condemned list. Plus, Rosemary’s Baby starred Mia Farrow, who was married to Frank Sinatra, an icon in every Italian household. These two things meant everyone wanted to see it. (Every kitchen in the neighborhood had the trilogy of Catholic pictures on the wall… Sinatra, JFK and the Pope.)

So the movie is just hitting the theaters and getting great reviews. This was before spoiler alerts, so no one really knows much about it. I’m sitting there a few minutes before Mass begins when I hear a bunch of women whispering in the pew behind me.

“The baby has a tail!”

“Really? Rosemary’s Baby has a tail?”

“It’s Satan’s child! It has a tail!”

This rumor spread like wildfire through the neighborhood. You’d hear people in hushed tones, like it was some deep, dark secret. “The baby has a tail!” Did the baby also have red eyes, cloven hooves and horns? I really wanted to see it but there was no way Mom was going to take a fourteen-year-old to a condemned movie.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to see it.

So she went with a bunch of her friends one Friday night. The theory being that they could go to confession on Saturday and confess the sin of seeing a condemned movie. I couldn’t wait for her to get home and tell me about the baby with a tail.

Mom walked in shaking her head.

I’m dying to hear about the movie. “Well … how was it? What did the baby look like?”

She waves her hand like she’s shooing a fly. “Pffft. The baby didn’t have a tail.” I could tell she was disappointed, and so was I, since I knew I’d eventually get to see it in the future. “It was a good movie, though. But that Mia Farrow … I don’t know what Frank saw in her. And her hair! She ain’t Ava Gardner.”

(Sinatra apparently didn’t see much in her either as he served her with divorce papers while the movie was in production. Apparently, the last straw was when Farrow hacked off her hair and ended up looking like Peter Pan.)

So the rumor quickly died as apparently everyone in the neighborhood had gone to the movie. As for the movie list, it quickly became apparent that no one was paying attention to it, so it disappeared from the church lobby shortly thereafter.

Of course, I’m still, to this day, dealing with Catholic guilt. While calling movies “condemned” is no longer the case, some things never change.

Randy Tatano lives in Brewton and is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to