Christ Complex

The Son's a control freak, too

I suppose it could happen to anyone: You spend a good chunk of your professional life getting paid to pretend you're Christ, and after awhile you start believing you can part the Red Sea. At least that's what I'm hoping is behind the Christ complex implied in Ted Neeley's "Interview Guidelines" in the media kit for the touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The show is playing here this week as part of Theatre League's spring season, but the media kit comes from Troika Entertainment, where an overzealous publicist (perhaps one of the "Ted Heads," as Neeley's fans refer to themselves) has provided a full page of questions sanctioned by some higher power. "Please be prepared to discuss the following topics during your interview with Mr. Neeley," the note begins. It goes on to list some amazingly high-and-mighty themes, like "The experience Ted shares with the audience every night" and "The fans that wait for him at the stage door in every market, some of whom have traveled from as far as Europe and South America."

You'll have to take my word for it when I tell you that publicists never tell reporters what to talk to their clients about, especially clients whose slender fame hangs on a single role. After understudying the part in its original 1971 Broadway run, Neeley played Christ in the 1973 film version of Superstar, and although he's now twice the age that Jesus was at the time of his death, he has since reprised it in two bus-and-truck revivals of the stage musical. Despite an impressive singing voice — and perhaps because of his striking resemblance to Rembrandt's 17th-century Christ — Neeley has never achieved much notice playing anyone other than the Son of God, a fact that must rankle him and perhaps explains why his media kit demands that "during interviews, please spend the brief time available focusing on the topics specified."

His Holiness: Ted Neeley performs his nightly miracle.
His Holiness: Ted Neeley performs his nightly miracle.
"Father, forgive me for 'Cult of Personality' ": Ted Neeley and Corey Glover on stage.
"Father, forgive me for 'Cult of Personality' ": Ted Neeley and Corey Glover on stage.

Those topics include: "The process of finding a Judas who could live up to and honor Carl Anderson's memory and talent" (because apparently Anderson's onstage betrayal was matchless) and "The bond that has developed between (Living Colour's) Corey Glover and Ted," because apparently the best place to find a Judas replacement is in a one-hit heavy metal band. Perhaps it was Glover who suggested the inclusion of "The experience of traveling and living on a bus," because only a has-been hair band singer would consider this an interesting story angle.

"Ask him what it's like to wear a dress on stage every night," my friend Mike begged when I told him about Neeley's list of interview rules. "Ask him what the H in Jesus H Christ stands for." And I might have, if I hadn't read the vainglorious and more-than-slightly irreverent wind-up to Neeley's preposterous Interview Guidelines.

"While the producers thought this likely to be the farewell tour, given the vitality of this production and Mr. Neeley," it reads, "they now think the show, like Mr. Neeley's title role, may have everlasting life."

Holy God!

I knew, after reading this, that I could never interview Ted Neeley. If I did, I'd only be able to ask him childish, snarky questions, like, "When you bump your shin, do you yell 'Ted Neeley!'?" I wouldn't be able to help myself. I'd wind up asking him, "How many people can you feed with a couple loaves of rye and a mackerel?" or "If you became addicted to sleeping pills, would your friends start calling you Ted Neeley O'Hara?" And then, of course, it would be clear that I'm truly a fourth-grader at heart, the kind of journalist who would call a sort-of famous musical theater star on the phone and say to him, "Is it a drag to have to wear your hair long and parted down the middle all the time? Do you ever wish that there was something in the Bible about Christ sometimes wearing barrettes — or feathered bangs?"

In other words, precisely the kind of journalist for whom Interview Guidelines were created.

 
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13 comments
Penelope
Penelope

Your article was very mean-spirited.

Trudy
Trudy

If you had "bothered" to meet the man, you would have found that he most likely would've answered ANY question you asked of him. He's not one to dodge the humorous aspects of his this role. He's undoubtedly made more (and definitely funnier) quips about who he is and what he does. But, on the other hand, hE ALSO takes his job very seriously, giving 110% of himself during each and every performance. Can you say that of the job YOU DO? After reading this snarky article, I think we will all agree that you cannot!And next time... please, try to act like more of a journalist and do your research! Next time out, give the readers more facts and less boorish, disrespectful one-liners!

Gretchen
Gretchen

This review is totally offensive. Clearly the author never bothered to meet Ted Neeley and talk to him. Regardless of what the author claims the publicists told him, Ted Neeley does not follow anyone's guidelines on what to talk about. Before you start criticizing someone and making juvenile sarcastic jabs, take the time to meet the person first.

D
D

Wow. I haven't seen so much bitter sarcasm in print in a long time - particularly from a 'professional' journalist. Sounds like your feelings have been hurt; so now we all have the honor of reading about YOU instead of the topic you were supposed to have covered, Ted Neeley and his role in Jesus Christ Superstar. Nice way to get out of an article - it was somewhat entertaining albeit childish and self-centered.

aimee
aimee

Hey Mr. Journalism Guy,

You have no idea what you are talking about! Ted is a wonderful, kind, caring soul You judge people too harshly, and this is not and I repeat not his only role he has ever been in. Let's see you do what he does, I don't think you could now could you?Age is just a number it doesn't signify who you are or what you can do! Mr. Neeley deserves all the praise that he is given! Maybe when you grow up you will be a great journalist someday!

Brian
Brian

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat" -T. Roosevelt

Your unresearched slams on Mr. Neeley and attempts at humorous quips about questions to ask him are quite possibly the cause of the agent's list of interview topics. It is a pity that you didn't take the time to actually get to know the man.

Al
Al

I am a long time fan of Mr. Neeley--the movie version of JCSS with Mr. Neeley I should say-- There's something to be said for knowing when to quit. Maybe getting out when you're still on top. I found the article childish and unnecessary... I would like to see Mr. Pela write about the actual play rather then all that nonsense for shock effect. There's much to be said about it. I found the cast good but not exceptional. Having such a young cast surrounding him has the unfortunate effect of accentuating Mr. Neeley age. He has the movement, facial expressions, and most importantly, the voice of an old man. (Being in that "senior" category myself, I don't find 63 to be old.. but for this particular part he is OLD.) I found myself wondering, when, not if, Mr. Neeley would find himself unable to play this part... and if that will happen before some horrible embarrassment, or he becomes a laughing stock. He's already a caricature of his movie role, trotted out I presume to bring in the nastalgia crowd.

beachie
beachie

Robert,

After reading your article, before seeing the show, I can only surmise that you are jealous of someone who can perform a show from 30 years ago, to sold out crowds, coast to coast, at the age of 66. Mr. Neeley has other projects going, but the public has asked for him to do Jesus Christ Superstar. The tour was to end this June, but because of the public, the citizens of this country, (and other countrys like Spain, Italy), it is now going to start a second round starting in November 07. The last tour Mr Neeley did was to be for 3 months, but ended up being 3 years. He says as long as people love it and want to see it, he will continue to do it.

It's a shame that you give such a harsh review of something you hadn't even seen yet. I suppose that would mean we could write a review on you, and what you call journalism. Well, consider that I do not refer to myself as a journalist, I will not write about you. And I think you should consider the same, and think about changing carrers.

Tracey
Tracey

Robert - I saw tonight's Phoenix performance. I thought Ted was old and creepy. He really seemed to be buying into his role and to think that his "celebrity" meant that he could actually act...and sing...I overheard another attendee saying that it was "the worst thing [he] had ever seen" and "was a complete waste of time and money". I couldn't agree more. Well, actually no. It did make me laugh.

Denise A
Denise A

Christ Complex - I'm curious what Robert thought of the performance. He is always dead-on. Considering the applause at the end of the show, I think I may have been the only one who thought the musical was awful. I'm hoping Robert hated it, too, so I'm not alone. I never saw the movie, or any other performance, and didn't read any reviews before going. Honestly, I found myself distracted by Ted Neeley's performance. He really is too old - when he sang that the three years he has been preaching felt like thirty years, I thought to myself that he looked like he had been preaching for thirty years, too. He just lacked the energy of the other actors. I also found his pious gazes, and unspoken "conversations" with his father, a bit much. After just now reading Robert's comments, I understand where that might have been coming from. I couldn't even tell you what I thought of the musical as a whole - Neeley was so painful to watch I couldn't focus much on anything else.

Peter K
Peter K

This is a rather odd article, but what caught my attention was your assertion that Glover's band, multi-platium selling Living Colour was a "one-hit heavy metal band." This is patently false.

Living Colour won a Grammy for the song "Cult of Personality" and then follow up with a Grammy win for the entire album of Time's Up. The single on that record, "Type" charted higher than "Cult" and other singles, including "Galmour Boys", "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" and "Leave It Alone," also did very well on the charts -- and these are singles from over a five year period.

Oh, and rarely are they considered a "heavy metal band." But they are often considered one of the most influential, pioneering bands of the 1990s. Additionally, Glover's voice has a reputation as extremely powerful and ranging, and has been acting on-and-off since 1986, when he appeared in Platoon.

In sum, your glossed-over characterizations are a disservice to your readers.

Gabe Carey
Gabe Carey

this journalist is a ****. i hadn't even known about this tour, i certainly dont know anything about Living Colour, and so forth, but the smug, snarky additude of a nobody-"journalist" out of Arizona (!) is remarkable annoying when constantly putting down people who most likely work hard at what they do. If an editor is reading, you might want to refrain from giving this smart ass writer any more gigs. I don't think anyone cares to read a cocky elitist's ramblings. especially as this writer hasn't really accomplished anything, therefore they have no credibility to start writing stuff they think is very witty. a big 'ugh' to this article.

Valerie
Valerie

Robert,

I hope you'll want to write a follow-up article, once you've seen the show! I do not live in the U.S., I am travelling to Baltimore to see the show, along with a group of Tedheads from Italy and Spain.

It seems shallow to write negatively of Ted Neeley and Corey Glover because you are peeved at the Troika publicist. You expose yourself, really, and do not do justice to journalism.

Valerie

 
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