A Movie A Day #187: The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 (1997, directed by Sam Green)


Who was Rollen Stewart?

Briefly, he was a celebrity.  In the 1970s, he was inspired to start appearing at every sporting event that he could, wearing a leisure suit and a rainbow afro wig.  As the Rainbow Man, Rollen became a familiar face on television, even getting to appear in a beer commercial.  What no one knew was that, before he became the Rainbow Man, Rollen was the child of an abusive alcoholic and that he never emotionally recovered from the murder of his sister.

Rollen Stewart was also an aficionado of marijuana, which perhaps led to the next stage in his odd career.  While possibly high, Stewart became a born again Christian and he traded in his disco lifestyle for a hand-made signs and t-shirts reading John 3:16.  When his new religious persona proved to be far less popular than his Rainbow Man persona, Rollen decided that it was a sign that the end of not just his celebrity but also world itself was near.  He started to leave stink bombs in various churches and Christian bookstores.  (Because, according to him, “God thinks this stinks!”)  In 1992, Rollen entered a motel room, lit a joint, covered the windows with religious placards, and then took a hotel maid hostage.  He is currently serving a life sentence.

The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 is a documentary about the strange life and times of Rollen Stewart.  Along with plenty of footage at Rollen at the height of his fame, the documentary also includes footage of a visibly unstable Rollen in prison.  The documentary is 20 years old so I don’t know if Rollen still believes the world is about to end.  He comes up for parole later this year.

The documentary is only 48 minutes long.  I wish it had been longer because Rollen’s life was an interesting one.  His greatest tragedy is that this attention-seeker became famous before the advent of reality TV.  Today, he could have revived his career by appearing on Dancing With The Stars or I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.  Instead, he is just another inmate at California’s Mule Creek Prison.

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