Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXI
Uncle Nimlash bought promos on a variety of broadcast and cable networks from prime time to late night that very Monday:
“An extra special Uncle Nimlash Show, live, with a surprise special guest. Tune in tomorrow to find out all about Eve! Is she who she claims to be or is she the ultimate scam artist? Tomorrow, on Uncle Nimlash.”
The promos continued Tuesday on the network’s morning shows, so that within two hours of the live broadcast—3:00 PM in New York, 12:00 noon in L.A.—Uncle Nimlash had received word that 93% of the local stations that carried his show, including all his major-city network affiliates who were postponing highly-rated network-feed soap operas, were carrying his live broadcast.
We in the campaign worried that the Anorexic Party might figure out that it was Jesus who was going to be appearing on the show and launch an all-out attack to stop it—anything from firing a cruise missile into Television City to knocking out the power grid feeding Los Angeles—but our agents never detected any activity.
We were praying—we were counting on—Lucifer’s intelligence analysts concluding either that Uncle Nimlash’s surprise guest was going to be a psychic-debunker, or at worst some resurrected historical figure who was going to “come out” to the mortal world in an attempt to play down Eve’s celestial importance.
Patton took personal charge of setting up security perimeters for the show, utilizing the talents of resurrected Secret Service agents who were part of our militia. We actually had Jesus and all our other guests sequestered in a locked-off vacant studio within Television City by 4:00 AM, and from that moment on, Zero minus eight hours, we had our own people in charge of all access and communication at Television City, and a security team performing all the cautionary functions you’d expect from a visit to a television studio by a head of state.
The rehearsal of the musical number we planned was finessed by having Uncle Nimlash’s band play in his studio, and the music piped in to the studio we were using as our temporary headquarters. Even at this late hour, for extra security, we had our chorus rehearsing using nonsense lyrics:
Hand me some more cola!
Hand me some more steak!
Bring me some fried chicken!
Lend a piece of cake!
We relied on our own make-up artists and wardrobe crew so no one from Uncle Nimlash’s production company would have any contact with us until just before air time.
We brought in our own team of stand-ins to Uncle Nimlash’s studio for the technical rehearsal, but even they didn’t know for whom they were standing in. We had warned Uncle Nimlash to make sure his camera operators and booth technicians for this show had experience covering live news and sporting events; most of what we were about to do was going to have to be caught on shoulder-mounted cameras with quick lens adjustments.
At Zero minus sixty minutes, I met Uncle Nimlash in his studio to hand his director a BD-R disk which had pre-generated graphic titles and archived film and video footage, for each of our extra guests. One of our security agents shadowed the director from that moment on to make sure the information on that disk wasn’t leaked outside the studio prematurely.
We allowed Uncle Nimlash to file in their studio audience at Zero minus thirty minutes, and we had a squad of our people walk through the seats peeping everyone’s soul to make sure no operatives from the Anorexic party had slipped by our outer checkpoints.
At Zero minus fifteen minutes we brought our people out of sequester and positioned them behind the curtain of Uncle Nimlash’s studio.
We felt confident enough that our secret had been kept that we ended our news embargo five minutes early. We handed out the full list of names, including Jesus, to Uncle Nimlash’s staff, and allowed them to transmit a prerecorded flash not only to all their affiliates but also to all the network headquarters, telling them what hard news they were about to break.
This was the first moment that Uncle Nimlash looked as if he wasn’t about to have a stroke. With the network news departments, themselves, cutting into their daytime broadcast with breaking news, his network affiliates who had earlier committed to him weren’t going to be blamed by either their networks or the soap fans for ignoring their scheduled programming.
“One minute,” said the director, over the studio loudspeakers.
The stage lights came up to full power and the band stopped tuning and brought their instruments up, waiting for the drummer’s stick beats.
I was standing backstage next to Jesus and I noticed he looked nervous. “After being nailed to a cross, this frightens you?” I asked him.
Jesus smiled weakly. “I’ve never sung before an audience before,” he said.
Oh, God, I thought, silently enough, I hoped, that Jesus wouldn’t pick up on my thought: What if the Son of God was tone deaf? I hadn’t had the guts to ask him to rehearse.
I had no more time to worry.
The director was counting down, “eight … seven … six … five … four … three …” then counted the last two numbers with his fingers, silently, and cued the bandleader.
The bandleader clicked his drumsticks together four times, and the Nimlashers launched into their brassy theme song.
Up in the booth, behind glass, I could see Uncle Nimlash’s announcer, Cineman Hulls, holding the script we’d written for him. No one aside from Neil Nimlash, himself, had seen it prior to the broadcast.
Hulls got his cue through earphones.
“Live, from Television City in Hollywood, it’s your Uncle Nimlash Show! Today we have the most spectacular line up of musical talent ever assembled on the same stage, to be led in a new song composed specially for this broadcast! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, back from the grave, here’s Jerry Garcia!”
Garcia flew out into the audience the way Lucifer had (okay, we stole the bit; it was a good visual), then landed on stage.
The audience went wild.
Cineman Hulls read off each name, with one more of our resurrected celebrities flying into the studio to join Jerry Garcia.
“Nat King Cole!
“Laverne and Maxene Andrews!
“Sammy Davis, Jr.!
“…and Elvis Presley!
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, the New Grateful Dead!”
They all joined hands and started swaying back and forth, as the band began playing the opening chords of the special song that Lennon and Garcia had composed for this occasion (with a little help from a friend):
When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask him for a helping hand
He will bring you peace!
“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced Cineman Hulls, reverently, “the next voice you hear will be God’s firstborn son and the firstborn man, he who brought back to life all the wonderful people you see here before you. You know him as Adam, the first man, and you know him as the savior of all humanity, I give you, Jesus Christ!”
A clear Irish tenor voice, reminiscent of Dennis Day, rang out mellifluously into the studio:
I only want to give you
The greatest gift of all
When dreams look past tomorrow
You can hear my call!
And Jesus walked—not flew, but walked—onto the stage, dressed in his traditional robes, holding a handheld mike.
The New Grateful Dead behind him sang in chorus:
Hands across the water
Hands across the land
Bring the little children
Lend a helping hand!
Your creed is unimportant
Nor color of your face
I’m here to be redeemer
Of the human race!
Hands Across the water
Hands Across the sky
Paradise is waiting
You don’t have to die!
And Jesus reprised the first verse:
When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask me for a helping hand
I will bring you peace!
And Jesus and the chorus sang the final chorus together:
Hands across the water
Hands across the world
I am here to save you
Every boy and girl!
The audience went crazy.
The interview program that Uncle Nimlash did for the rest of his hour with Jesus and the assembled performers was almost anticlimactic after the opening song, but it was a way of presenting our campaign platform for the first time.
Jesus was careful to say nothing negative about Eve, perhaps disappointing that segment of the viewing audience who had tuned in expecting debunking or scandal. He did not “out” her alternate identities as Lucifer, Lilith, or Satan, and stuck to promoting his own positive message of love and the universal brotherhood of humankind.
In the last half hour of the show, Uncle Nimlash turned the questioning over to his audience, who asked questions about what it was like to be dead (“There’s no such thing as death,” said Jerry Garcia, “only audiences of deadheads.”) and whether Jesus’ mother, Mary, was still a virgin (“My mother has seven billion grandchildren,” replied Jesus. “I think it’s time to find a new adjective to describe her.”).
At the end of the hour, Uncle Nimlash took his best shot and said to Jesus, “This hour has gone by so quickly. Will you come back and visit this show again soon?”
Perhaps it was an oversight that I hadn’t anticipated this question, but even I was surprised by Jesus’ answer, “Uncle Nimlash, I’d be happy to come on your program again … but only on two conditions. The first one is that I don’t have to sing again—”
Which brought a huge laugh.
“And my second condition is that I’d want Eve to come on the show with me.”
The audience cheered wildly at this.
“You heard it from the Man, himself,” said Uncle Nimlash. “And to all my faithful viewers today, if you want Adam and Eve to appear on this show together, go to our website and tell Eve you want her to come here.”
Uncle Nimlash put his arm on Jesus’ shoulders and turned to his audience again.
“Let me say, as I say at the end of every show, but now with more understanding of what it means, “God bless you all … and try to make each other happy.”
The band started playing the closing theme music.
The mikes went off, the lights came down, and I saw production credits rolling on the studio monitors.
A little later, I buttonholed Jesus in the Green Room to ask him why he wanted to come back on the show with Lucifer.
He paused for a long moment then said gently, “Don’t worry about things you can’t do anything about, Duj.”
I decided not to press him on the point. “You look tired,” I told him.
He nodded, but smiled. “Know any place on this planet where a god can get a decent beer?”
Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXII.
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.
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