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Reverend Billy

The irreverent
Reverend Billy.
I have been saved, brothers and sisters, and it is about damn time. For years I have been corrupted by the evil soul of consumerism. The foolish purchase of unnecessary items has blackened my soul time and time again. But now, brothers and sisters, that is over, for I have attended Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping and my consumerist sins have been washed away.

That's right, brothers and sisters. No longer will I tune in to the dementia that is MTV to hear the Backstreet Boys' newest smash. No longer will I so much as cast my eyes upon one cover of People magazine. Reverend Billy and the Macky Dees Gospel Choir have shown me that there is more to the world than what is so easily bought. In fact, as I sat in the Church in the Salon Theater, looking up at the large stuffed animals of Mickey and Minnie Mouse being crucified at the altar, I felt a wave of despair for I too have come close to purchasing tickets for The Lion King. I too have purchased items from The Disney Store. Confessing to these conscious acts of moral death in front of countless readers is not easy at all, brothers and sisters, but it must be done so may all see the light that I have seen in Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping.

Last Sunday's sermon was titled "There's a Hakim's Knish-Hotdog Stand on Every American Airlines' Flight" and it was rousing. It told the sad but true story of The Roundabout Theater's proposed decision to change the name of the former Selwyn Theater--their new 42nd Street home--to American Airlines for big money that will help them in their unending pursuit of American theater, but it is a blind pursuit, my people. It is a deal that shades their eyes from the consequences of turning Broadway into a corporate commodity. But here I am letting myself get carried away, and preaching's not even my game. Must be my spirit still soaring from my conversion.

Reverend Billy's passionate speech condemns the Roundabout and remembers the good ol' days of Times Square, back when sex palaces and all-night movie houses littered the streets. For those nostalgic in the church, the Reverend even procured a drunken showgirl to bump and grind to the re-enactment of "the death of the sex dancer". The Reverend also spoke of countless hours spent in Hakim's, the food joint on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway that stood tall for 28 years until Disney came and chased it away. We even got to see footage of Hakim and his emotional family, courtesy of Richard Sandler, on their last day of business before the Mouse tore the place down. It was a searing sight, my people: a man who worked all his life to build a dream, only to see that vision stripped down to make room for Little Mermaid knick-knacks and life-size Mickey Mouse dolls.

Reverend Billy sure knows how to get his church all worked up over the moral crime called capitalism. My fellow churchgoers were stomping, hollering, booing, hissing, and trying with all their might to scream that sin right out of their poisoned bodies. It seemed to work; I could envision them marching right home and taking an open flame to all things IKEA. The Reverend also took time to praise the theater denizens/saints of the Lower East Side, in particular The Present Company (inhabitants of the Theatorium and producers of the New York International Fringe Festival), for their pure, undying love of theater.

Rousing spirituals are a major plus to this holy experience, courtesy of Evan Gray and the passionate Macky Dees Gospel Choir. Under the watchful eye of director Tony Torn, Reverend Billy (Bill Talen, who writes his own hilarious sermons) and his crew offer wayward consumers an alternative to an empty land full of credit card debt, empty stomachs, and barren Starbucks containers. They offer a solace where you know that the new Britney Spears CD does not need to come home with you. It is possible to resist the temptations of a collectible Jar Jar doll, even if it is discounted. Leaving the church, a certain elation will set in, but that is to be expected. After all, as Reverend Billy said, "Belief is such a high."