In the history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme department, sports fans from the 1970s will surely remember Rollen Stewart — if not the name, the visage, which was ubiqituious at NFL games in the late ’70s. Whenever the networks went into a commercial break, they were sure to feature a shot of Stewart in the bleachers, wearing his giant rainbow-colored afro wig and flashing a JOHN 3:16 sign.
Eventually, Stewart’s benign craziness took a rather apocalyptic turn:
All of this strange behavior finally came to a head in late September of ‘92, when Rockin’ Rollen was arrested after holding a maid hostage in the Hyatt Hotel next to Los Angeles International Airport. Rollen–according to the Sept 23rd LA Times article–held the police at bay with threats that he had a bomb. When the standoff continued well into the evening police officers used what they called “Flash-bang” grenades to stun a wigless Rainbow Man and storm the seventh room floor where he was holding siege. A 38 year old house keeper was found un-injured after having locked herself in the bathroom. The police officers apparently decided to make their move after Rollen threatened to fire a pistol at planes landing at the airport. A few hours after the incident, as the police were driving Rollen away, reporters asked him why he had done it.
“To get the word out ,” he shouted back at them flashing his famous whacky smile.
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During sentencing in the L.A. Superior Courtroom, pandemonium erupted, as Rockin’ Rollen began a rambling end o’ the world rant, screaming at the top of his immensely quotable lungs. Upon being wrestled to the floor by deputies, he shouted: “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they’re doing!” While all this commotion was going on, the maid who had been trapped in the hotel room by Rockin’ Rollen, wept in the rear of the courtroom.
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The L.A. Times from Sept 25 ‘92 stated that Rockin’ Rollen had contemplated killing President Bush and took steps toward assassinating then Presidential candidate Bill Clinton. According to District Attorney David Conn, Rollen purchased a .45 caliber handgun at the same time of Clinton’s campaign visit to L.A. Rollen went to the Boneventure where Clinton was staying with plans to shoot him, but did not carry them out because of the heavy security surrounding Slick Willie. At around the same time he was also spotted at a speech given by the Arkansas governer.
Today at the UN’s Durban II conference, an infinitely more apocalyptic madman was heckled…by two men in rainbow wigs, thus making this one of history’s stranger rhymes. On the other hand, as Claudia Rossett tells Roger L. Simon today in their daily video report from Geneva, for old hands covering the U.N., this is just another day at the office.