Monday, March 10, 2008

New heights for Mike Jones

Rocky theater critic Lisa Bornstein on a new play starring the man with the holy, er, holey massage table:
Mike Jones found the spotlight unexpected and a bit too bright in 2006 when he brought down evangelical leader Ted Haggard.

Now he seems to have become accustomed to that spotlight. He'll stand alone under it next week when he premieres his one-man show, Naked Before God: Exposing the Hypocrisy of Ted Haggard.

"What's interesting about this play and this story and my life - it's not over yet," says Jones. "The Haggard story isn't complete. With Matthew Murray (the gunman at New Life Church in Colorado Springs), they found my book in his car. Recently Ted Haggard has cut off all ties to the church, and he's going to start talking again."

How does Jones know Haggard will talk?

"I just know. I've learned so much in a year and a half. I've been going with my gut feeling on everything, and I've been right on everything."
Right on everything. That's rare.
Last summer, Jones retold the story, which made national news, in his book, I Had To Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall, currently No. 196,652 in Amazon sales.
Sneer if you want. What's your Amazon ranking, big shot? Bornstein also asks a relevant question:
So how much stage experience does Jones have?

"Basically about zero. I did a piece this last summer at the Boulder Fringe Festival, Porridge. The guy came to my book-signing, and he was so overwhelmed with my story that he actually wrote some monologues into this play and asked me if I could do it."

"It gives me a chance for people who don't want to spend a lot of time reading the book" [there are billions of us, and more every day] Jones says. "It's much bigger than just the headline people saw in the papers." [Must resist "how much bigger is it?" joke.]
So what makes it theater and not just a speech? Because there's acting involved, Jones says.
Oh, acting.
"I'm up there actually doing a performance. I actually go through and act out some of the sequences of what I was going through. I just don't stand there and just talk."
Does the massage table get any lines?

These days, [Jones is] out of a job.

"That's why I'm doing this play. I made a little bit on the book, not a whole lot. I'm barely making ends meet, to be honest with you."

When Jones stepped forward, he won a lot of good will for his bravery. Is he worried that he may be squandering that with people who will think he's just milking minor celebrity?

There is something deranged about that paragraph.
"There are some people who will never talk to me again as a result of this," he says. "They hated the fact that, yes, there was the sex-worker part, they hated the fact that, yes, there were some drugs involved. Some of them just strictly don't like anybody outing anybody.

"And another part that happened was, there was a bit of jealousy that Mike Jones was getting this attention. What I wish I could tell everybody is, maybe I have been on all the news programs, but it isn't a glamorous lifestyle by any means. I don't make money by doing those news appearances."
No money? No glamorous lifestyle? Pull the other one, Mikey. (Did I just say that?)

Update: The genesis of Naked Before God:

Chris Johnson heard Mike Jones read from his book and thought there was something there.

The owner of Pepper Tree Bookstore in Palm Springs, Calif., Johnson had brought Jones in for a book-signing.

"After listening to him go on about his book, we sat on it for a couple of months and we thought, 'This might really be an important message to turn into theater,' " Johnson says now. "That's what got us thinking, 'How can we turn this into a stage performance?' "

Johnson, who sold his bookstore in January, is a co-founder of PoliMedia Entertainment, which sponsors book festivals and also has put together a one-woman show starring Cloris Leachman.

Maybe Jones and Leachman could combine their shows: "He. . .vas. . . my. . . boyfriend!" Bring down the house. Anyway, read the rest or don't. I couldn't care less.

Update II: Missed this interview Jones did last summer with the Friendly Atheist (is there any other kind?). Read it, and learn the fate of the massage table.

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