Neighborhood Arts Theater, San Francisco, April 27, 1974



From "The Memoirs, Chapter Seven":




            I had come across a book called “Storming Heaven” by Lately Thomas, a biography with a lot of pictures all about Aimee Semple McPhearson, the famous woman evangelist of the 20s and 30s in Echo Park, Los Angeles.





            She was a flamboyant character who rode in parades and staged big spectacles starring herself.  Gee!  She sounded just like us!  I got the idea of writing a play about Aimee with a cast of hundreds and lots of big musical numbers. 




            Joy Phipps was my leading lady in those days and I immediately saw her as a perfect fit for Aimee!




            So, I went to work on the script which took several months, and generally started talking it up among our group of friends and looking for more actors.




            We decided to stage a grand "promotional tableau" to be photographed and used as publicity for the big show.  It would be called the Pageant of Salvation and take place in the grand hall of the Neighborhood Arts Theater, where we had arranged to have the full production in June.  I printed up some fliers to attract extras for our big tableau.  We would need lots.  We passed them out to friends and passers-by.





            We collected lots of cardboard and went about building the clowds of Heaven and the flames of Hell on the sidewalk in front of our house.








            I had to try on the flames of Hell, of course, for size.






            The day came and we took everything over to the big auditorium.




David was set up with all his equiptment and the plans for the tableau.






I gave last-minute instructions to the crowd.




Everybody wanted to try on the flames of Hell, of course.




I positioned our Aimee in her pulpit in the Heavens.




All the others actors and extras were put into place.




I always like to put a naked, writhing, young hunk right in front, of course.




I checked that all was ready through the camera lens.





Aimee was pointing to her scripture for the day.




The Heavenly Hosts began to sing.




The good of the Earth climbed the Mountain of Righteousness.




Poor sinners feared for their souls.




And in the fires of Hell, things really got going!



Even, Aimee's mother, Minnie Kennedy must burn in Hell.




And the naked, young, writhing hunk down in front was just perfect.





It was a glorious photo and would be reproduced a lot.




*  *  *


            But now it was time to begin in ernest to fill our big One-Night-Only spectacular musical pagaent.  We printed up another flier.




We started to get some good publicity in the local papers.




We printed up a colorful poster for the show.  The second biggest word was FREE!




We printed a nice program with a picture of Aimee and her mother on the cover.




            On the back cover we used a photo of her mother, Minnie Kennedy sending off the deep-water divers to look for Aimee's body, the exact image of a scene in the play.




            For the extras, we ran off some "scene guides" so they could fill in what roles they were supposed to be playing at each point in the play.  Later some extras would tell me they didn't know what they were supposed to be until they could see the costumes they were being put into; cop, showgirl, reporter, Chinese, bum, etc.  Ah, the theater!




Our Aimee arrived in character looking wonderful in the back of a pick-up.




            That night the house was packed and our the actors and extras gave it their all!  It was a riotous evening and although the Pagaent of Salvation wasn't exactly like the promotional photo, you'll notice the young, naked, writhing hunk was perfect right in front.




            The evening was over two hours long and at the end the cast even brought out the director for his own curatin call.  Golly.




            Well, there were a dozen curtain calls, of course, and standing ovations and the hundreds of flowers carried on by the cast for the Vindication Tour are soon flying through the air into the audience and then, soon, back onto the stage and  many in the audience retired that night feeling they had been present a one of the seminal, underground theater events of, certainly, the year, and for some that night, of many years to come.


            Our reputation was growing and our now-huge group of actors, performers and hangers-on would go on to many shows and events.  But the night of Aimee and her Pageant of Salvation  would never be eclipsed.



*  *  *



(NOTE:  See lots more of the One-Night-Only performance of AIMEE AND THE PAGEANT OF SALVATION on June 25, 1974, in "The Memoirs, Chapter Seven.")