Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Sidebar: Not in Kansas Anymore

By Stuart Wade

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  "I began to see how shallow the `Hollywood high' was, by talking to different stars on talk shows and seeing the fickle way the public would build you up and tear you down... I became somewhat disillusioned."

Words of a Hollywood recluse? Hardly.

These comments (from a zine called Verbivore) were made by Rollen Stewart, better known during the last two decades as the Rainbow Man, Rainbow Head, or the "John 3:16" Guy. He'd show up at televised sports events wearing a rainbow-colored Afro wig or holding up a sign reading, "John 3:16."

Stewart's ghastly tale is reprinted in The Factsheet Five Zine Reader by Seth Freidman (Crown). Rainbow Man's unpredictability, his fringe persona, and the mainstream media's disinterest in his bizarre fate perfectly capture the essence of zine culture. After achieving spectator sport ubiquity in the late Seventies and spending every cent he had on Rainbow Man, Rollen Stewart found God, transforming into John 3:16 Guy. Unfortunately, Stewart never shook his addiction to self-delusional fame.

Where Rainbow Man had been married, held jobs, and taken time off to attend live TV events, John 3:16 Guy went over the rainbow and kept right on going. He left everything behind, living out of his car, sleeping in rest stops, adding game shows and beauty pageants to his impromptu appearance schedule. It all ended when an armed Stewart barricaded himself in a hotel room in 1992, taking a hotel maid hostage for several hours before surrendering. He is now in a California prison. -- Stuart Wade


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