I Met Jesus, and He Told Me He Loved Judas
(Here’s a copy of what I wrote NatashaVC after her first viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar last year.)
The year is 1980-something. It’s Easter Sunday & my Mom is hiding in my brother’s room after supper, where there’s a TV that’s not blasting whatever noise my Dad insists on watching when he’s sleeping in the living room with the remote clutched in his possessive fist. She’s watching Jesus Christ Superstar & I join her to watch the spectacle. She peppers in little facts as we watch,
"Your Grandma (Dad’s mom, who mom hated & once told to take her Bible & shove it up her ass) thinks this movie is satanic. She thinks a man playing Jesus is a sin. *eye roll*’
"Oh, I cannot watch the whipping scene *covers eyes*. Tell me when it’s over!"
"I used to not like that the Resurrection wasn’t shown, but then one time I noticed that you can see Jesus with his flock walking along at the end. It’s very beautiful."
This shit is gold! And I’m enthralled by the disco beat. It’s such a dusty filthy weird movie. So infectious! And creepy! One time I took a nap & fell asleep during the soothing Apostles Song & woke up to Jesus begging for his mother while everyone manically laughed & wept. Terrifying!
Fun facts! The guy who played the majestically curly headed Peter was in an INSANE AMOUNT OF PORN. There was a rumour that Ron Jeremy was in the movie & I spent most of the 90s looking for the portly little pervert every time I watched the movie, but never found him & then discovered it wasn’t true. The van used in the movie belonged to Ted Neeley (Jesus’) band. Ted met his wife on the set, she played one of the super Pilates hot dancers during Simon’s song. *beats chest wildly* Now she has a cookie company! That’s darling!
The inception & history of the Broadway version of JCS is super fun to read about. I feel like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals always have the best stories. Ted & Carl Anderson (Judas) both understudied their roles on Broadway. I have a version of the OBC album where Ted is in the chorus. Yvonne Elliman was the original Mary, the movie Mary, and the only good Mary we’ve ever seen. She IS Mary Magdalene! Ted released an album in 1974 called “1974 A.D.” GET IT? I paid 20 bucks for the album from this super scholarly record store clerk that I called “Gentle Michael Shannon” because he looked & sounded exactly like Michael Shannon if Shan was super xanaxed & focused on lp trivia. Ted & Carl & Yvonne toured with the show together & separately off & on throughout the 80s & 90s. God that would have been so amazing to see!
Obviously the original slash is Jesus & Judas & the movie really explores this relationship. It’s such thinly veiled subtext that it’s not even difficult to shout KISS HIM! during every single Jesus & Judas scene. My favourite is when Jesus is all, “You’ll be lost & you’ll be sorry when I’m GONNNNNEEE!” & he & Judas just lock loving tortured gazes while gripping each other’s sinewy forearms before clasping hands & then parting. SOB! Then during the jaded faded faded jaded jaded mandarin scene I just cry & cry because if they would just COMMUNICATE everything would be alright/fine! Beautiful!
I had a giant crush on both Ted & Carl when I was a kid. Carl was a little more accessible because he had a pop hit in the 80s that was a soulful love duet about being friends with benefits. In 2003 Su was supposed to see JCS when it was touring & Carl was playing Judas. He was battling cancer though & was too sick for the performance & his understudy had to fill in & even though I’m sad that Su didn’t see him, I also remember thinking, “Well of course you couldn’t see him without me because that would have put a divide in our relationship during its early stages & we may never be the strong couple we are today.” Carl Anderson died in 2004. It was like James Gandolfini level grief, though less of a shock since he had been ill. Ted performed Gethsemane at his funeral. *bites fist*
In 2006 we saw JCS & met Ted Neeley & guess what? HE IS CHRIST! We met him on accident. After the performance I had applauded so hard that I’d smacked the broach that my Mom had gotten after surviving a tornado right off my cardigan & didn’t realize I’d lost it until we were eating falafel a few blocks away & marvelling at the perfection of the show. We had snuck into our own box before the second act & two older ladies joined us. They said they weren’t impressed with Ted & thought he just sounded like a country singer & I said, “JUST WAIT FOR GETHSEMANE!” & after he performed the FUCK out of that EPIC SONG one of the ladies tapped me on the shoulder & whispered, “YES!” She was a follower, I had one more conversion point in the Church of Neeley.
After I realized I’d lost the tornado broach, we ran back to the theatre & it was at the lost & found. As we were leaving though we saw Ted in the lobby with a gaggle of devout fans genuflecting to him & I swear to Ted he was beatifically smiling & gently resting his hand atop the heads of theatre nerd children & women were crying & it was so beautiful! Usually I scoff at meet & greets, especially after experiencing the horror of a Tori meet & greet (the sobbing girls with faerie wings who shout “ME AND A GUN SAVED MY LIFE TORRRRIIII” always got the most attention). I wanted desperately to join in on this service though & we wiggled our way into the crowd. When I got my chance with Ted I reached out, clasped his hands in mine, made significant eye contact & told him that he was very important to me. I told him about how much my mom loved him & had him sign our program for her. I told him we were huge fans of Carl & his eyes grew soft & pained & he said, “I miss him so much.” AND IT WAS FUCKING SINCERE. He meant it! We talked to one half of one of our most important slash couples about their love & he confirmed it! I look forward to the day we talk to Tom Hardy about how much he loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dimples & ass. His hug was both tender & strong & unhurried. Praise his holy name.
We saw Ted again a couple years later & he was just as amazing. He’s timeless! He’s epic! He’s Christ! His Facebook is extra super adorable. He’s touring right now for the 40th anniversary of the movie & doing interviews with other cast members. He’s friends with the man who plays Pilate (also good slash!) & Yyvonne & the man who plays Annas have been at some of the appearances. Ted’s so devoted to the show & so sincerely proud of it & all the people involved in it. He’s so genuine, he makes me want to be a better person!
He also has a small cameo in Django Unchained & was all excited when it came out & his fans recognized him. Adorable! God I love him so much. I really hope I get to ride a disco cross all the way to his Heaven when I die.
Every Easter we watch the movie. Last year we watched the commentary with Ted & the director Norman Jewison. Ted was so sweet! He & Norman had a great back & forth, not at all annoying like most dvd commentary. They shared lots of fun facts & laughed nostalgically together & talked so lovingly about Carl that just the sound of Ted’s voice when he recalled stories of Carl made me cry.
I also indulge in many versions of Gethsemane every Easter. It’s my favourite musical song of all time & moves me so profoundly that it’s difficult for me to listen to often, but I just let myself sink into the feels it puts in me every year & I cry. EVERY SINGLE TIME This is my favourite performance. Dig Ted’s cast mates hanging on every beat & losing their minds when he holds that long WHHHHHYYYYYYY. FUCK! Wonderous!
Happy Easter everyone! May Ted’s love guide you through another probably difficult year.