UNITED STATES—Because of Kevin’s growing notoriety donning his robes around town, his fame as Jesus of Hollywood spread. Some filmmaking friends of mine who knew him publicly and had no idea he was my friend spoke about him. My curiosity was roused by their misconception of him being a lunatic. Finally, one day in the laundromat I asked, “How did you start going around in the robe?”
The answer was a bit of a surpise. One West Hollywood Halloween around 2007, he grabbed a robe, something that may even have been laying around, and it got a reaction from people. History does not record who was the first to call out, ‘Hey, Jesus,’ but that was the start. It hadn’t been planned out. Then New Years, he decided to put on the robe again and got a rise out of people. From there, the forays on the street, getting invited to parties, creating sparks of mojo.
He had found this marvelous thing, and it opened the doors to limousines, penthouses and poorhouses. He might sup in the Little Door now or his old standby Jack in the Box, in Hollywood. He might have a star encounter to relate; things were definitely happening. To meet him on the street had always been a treat and now, in addition to the free-flowing conversation, people would wave and honk if he were in his robes.
Of course I miss that, but more, I miss very concrete and unique things. I’d be sitting at the counter of Café Om and those big hands would surprise me, unexpectedly revealing my stressed-out state and the tension in my bones. Kevin gave fantastic back and shoulder massages, touching the knob of the neck and releasing the tension centered there. (There were times, too, when he’d grasp between thumb and forefinger the muscle by the collarbone, and for a few moments there I’d want to scream in pain) But withal he had a knack for knowing when the tension, which silently builds up in our urb, needed releasing.
My face was so positively relieved, afterward, according to a friend who once witness with some astonishment how a grown man would just come up and do that. He carried great peace, and left peace, the way also he would come and say would you like a muffin, or let’s try one of the wraps and share it. I’d get up sometimes to go after he had left, and the coffee would be magically paid for. After the last of one of our really good, free-roving conversations, he reached out to shake my hands and there was a twenty-dollar bill in it. Believe me it was welcome. I have that same enduring gratitude shared by many comedians at the Comedy Store. No everybody feels that way, though.
His death, December 13, due to a brief lung disease, has revealed a Citizen Kane myriad of viewpoints on Kevin, which he might find amusing. (It was he who set me straight that Orson Welles did not constantly carry around a Bible at RKO for illumination: he planned to make a movie about Jesus and was going to cast himself in the starring role). Was he somebody who tried too-hard to convince you of his unique ideas or did he simply offer what he believed, take it or leave it? That was closer to my experience. Of course we tended to see eye to eye, and I didn’t mind him cajoling me to watch a documentary about the “911 Conspiracy”–it was one of his foibles.
When I was starting out the story “Resurrection” about a Presbyterian minister who goes off-scripture and develops some very Christlike qualities, we spoke a lot about gospel, but more the gospel of Kevin (i.e. what he thought about giving and living and laughter.). At the time I was reading and discovering the Bible with genuine interest both for research and with a sense it is one of the greatest self-help books ever written. Kevin and I both agreed heartily that anybody who ever gets religion shoved down their throats as a kid will never be receptive to what treasures are there to be plucked out.
Kevin’s encapsulated his thought on religion per se in an exchange with a British photographer who, while following Kevin around on one his forays on the Sunset Strip. At one point the photographer said, “I must confess don’t believe in religion.” Kevin looked at him levelly and said, “Neither do I.”
Grady Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood,” available on Amazon.