On a magazine assignment, the actor has a run-in with authorities at a sacred site

By Tim Nudd
Updated February 08, 2010 08:45 AM
Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty

Weekend at Bernie’s, this wasn’t.

Andrew McCarthy had a harrowing experience while on assignment for the travel magazine Afar recently, as he was escorted at gunpoint out of an historic underground church for intruding without documentation.

On the second day of his visit, having already witnessed an exorcism at the famed Lalibela church, McCarthy, 47, was accosted by a guard. The star of NBC’s Lipstick Jungle had bought a ticket to visit Lalibela, but had left it in his hotel.

“His gun [was] pointed at my back,” McCarthy writes. “I thought his reaction to my offense was extreme; I tried to say as much. He grunted something in Amharic and prodded me with the tip of his rifle.”

Outside the church, with help from some locals, he was soon freed, but the incident left him shaken. “I tried to breathe,” he writes.

The assignment for Afar, whose new issue goes on sale Tuesday, was one of a series in which the editors literally spin a globe and pick a destination at random for the reporter. The incident at Lalibela “was just the kind of thing that happens when you show up alone in a distant country without a plan,” McCarthy writes.