Reverend Ken Miller from Newbridge Episcopalian first called during the 6/27/06 show to discuss his plans to appeal to the teen demographic despite being completely clueless about pop culture after 1977. He's also being led by stray dogs into the increasingly disturbing underside of Newbridge.
Reverend Ken Miller calls to let Tom's young listeners know about the special things they have on tap. His parish is trying to connect with the young kids of Newbridge on their level and make inroads in bringing them into the church. Tom thinks he read about Ken's outreach efforts in an article in the Newbridge Herald-Times Herald that profiled a priest known as the "Rock 'N Roll Reverend". Ken said that the piece was actually about their good friends over at Newbridge Lutheran, led by their great new minister Rev. Mike Thompson, a former rock 'n roll guitar player for Newbridge's own White Tiger. Ken thinks he's a great guy, and he's heard that Rev. Mike has been booking rock bands and showing movies like The Cross and the Switchblade and The Last Temptation Of Christ. Ken hasn't seen the films, but he thinks Rev. Mike uses them to start a dialogue with the young people. Ken thinks it's a great idea, and Tom agrees that it's healthy to be able to discuss different aspects of one's spiritual life.
Make A Joyful Noise
Ken thinks the events that Newbridge Episcopalian has lined up will be even more appealing to teens. In August, they're doing their Make a Joyful Noise festival featuring groups like Necropsy, Hex Head, and Timmy von Trimble fave White Reign. Tom informs him that White Reign is a white power group. Ken's never heard of any of the bands, but Chuck assured him that these are the bands that kids today really like and helped line them up. Tom wants to know more about Chuck, so Ken gives him the backstory of how he met him.
Ken's 54 and his knowledge of popular culture and music stops in 1977, the year he entered the seminary. The last album he bought was Billy Joel's Stranger. Since he's so out of touch with this stuff, he thought the best way to find out what today's kids are into would be to consult the very kind of person he's trying to reach. He went to Newbridge Commons and started talking to Chuck, the very nice young man who dispenses quarters at the arcade at the far end of the mall. The arcade is located two doors down from where the Lady Foot Locker used to be, and Tom thinks it's odd that there's still not a new business in the location two years after its closing. Ken's heard strange stories about the space from people in the community, and while they may just be tall tales, some say that there are ghosts haunting the old Lady Foot Locker. Ken suggests further exploring this in a ghost story segment, which Tom will consider for next Halloween.
Ken introduced himself to Chuck so he could probe his mind about current music and then hire the bands to draw kids into his parish. Tom asks if Chuck's a typical teen, and Ken says he's about 20, has no hair, and has rings coming out of his eyebrows, which he found very odd. He reminds Ken a lot of Matthew, a young fellow he met at the Video Vault over at East Newbridge Muse. Matthew is helping Ken program films for the festival to spark discussion. Much like music, Ken knows little about modern cinema. The last film he saw was Saturday Night Fever, which followed a screening of Oh, God! Matthew recommended some inspiring titles by a very famous director named Trent L. Strauss: You're Soaking In Her, It's Raining Membranes, Pukeadelphia, and Dr. Sleaze. Tom says they are the opposite of inspiring and informs Ken that Strauss is a director of extreme exploitation horror films. Ken didn't hear anything about that, but Matthew told him that he's very highly regarded in Europe, especially Belgium. Tom doesn't think he's as respected domestically, where he's considered just a sleazy horror guy. Tom tells him that these are not the kind of films he should be showing at church. Ken laments that he's already rented the films and paid the bands.
Ken asks about Pirates Of The Caribbean 2, and Tom thinks it's definitely more family-friendly but doesn't come out in theaters for another week. Ken plans to run a double feature, pairing it with Little Man, which doesn't hit multiplexes for another three weeks. Ken acquired the films through a German man named Werner. Tom thinks this may be the same Werner that used to work out on the docks at Consolidated Cardboard. Tom requests a physical description of Werner, and Ken says the friend who introduced them compared him to a guy who was in a film called The Hitchhiker. (Ken got the title wrong -- it's The Hitcher, which is being remade with Andy Milonakis in the C. Thomas Howell role.) Tom tells him that the actor in question is Rutger Hauer, and Ken echoes the previous description we heard from Darren: he's smaller than Hauer, has a beard that's dyed black, and yellow hair. Tom tells him that it's illegal to have the bootleg films. Ken's concerned and says that explains Werner's creepy behavior, such as lurking around the narthex on Sundays. Tom confirms that Werner is a shady character because he knows people who have had problems with him due to his unsavory business dealings.
The Underside of Newbridge
Ken realizes that he's becoming privy to a whole underside of Newbridge that he didn't know existed. Tom wants to know how he's finding these people, and Ken says he just meets them out in the community. Tom says it seems like he has a real knack for finding the wrong people, especially Chuck, who served as a catalyst to the darkside by introducing Ken to Matthew, who then introduced him to Werner. Ken asks Tom if he's ever heard of The Sopranos. Tom tells him that it's a very popular program on HBO, so Ken's pleased to announce that two huge stars from that show will be attending his services in the coming weeks -- Louis Lombardi, who played FBI Agent Skip Lipari, and George Loros, who played NJ Capo Raymond Curto.
Werner assured Ken that they were big stars, but Tom's seen every episode and can barely place them. Tom wants to know why he's so obsessed with reaching out to young people, and Ken says he's lost a good portion of his flock (attendance is down 80%) to Newbridge Lutheran. He's not as charismatic as Rev. Mike, so he's losing kids, who take their parents with them. Ken is saddened and frustrated by the efforts of what he calls a "Reverend-come-lately". Tom doesn't think that having obscure television character actors show up is an effective means of spreading the message. Ken hopes Tom will be more impressed with his "Communion vouchers" -- in addition to the wine and wafer, you get a voucher for an autograph from Louis and George. Tom thinks he's corrupting what it means to receive the sacrament.
Ken's surprised by Tom's reaction and predicts that he will start knocking the celebrity lookalikes. Next Sunday, Ken will put President Bush and Jenna Jameson lookalikes in pews around the congregation without telling the public that they're not the real people. Tom doesn't approve and informs Ken that Jameson is a porn star. Ken said that Werner sold him on the idea as a way to create a buzz around the mass, and he listened because he's afraid of him. Tom says his fears are justified. Ken asks Tom if he should cancel the third lookalike -- Rich Robinson from a band called "Black Crowe". Tom said he knows that guy and tells Ken that he recently planned to kidnap the real Rich Robinson and switch places with him.
Tom thinks there are higher ways to inspire people other than bottom-shelf mainstream pop culture references and trappings. Ken wonders if "laser Anthrax" fits that bill. Chuck told him about this very spiritual concept that involves kids sitting on the grass in a tent behind the church on nice summer evenings. A professional laser operator then shoots laser beans onto the tent ceiling while the music of a group called Anthrax plays over the sound system. Tom's baffled that Ken would find this appropriate and asks Ken to reflect on the band name. Ken was told it was Biblical in nature, but didn't have time to look it up. Tom explains that it's a heavy metal band and not even a good one. Ken's surprised that Tom doesn't think the laser beans will help draw people, and Tom tells him that, for one thing, it's actually beams. Ken writes that down. Plus, Tom says if people do show up, it will be for the wrong reasons. Ken says he has to get them in somehow and wonders if he should cancel Kamal as well.
Ken heard that the kids today are very excited by what they call "prank telephone calls". He's arranged to have a young man named Kamal perform several of these prank calls over the chuch PA system during sermons. He was told that Kamal is the genre's best performer. Tom tells him that he's part of The Jerky Boys duo and that his partner, Johnny B, is better. Ken wants to know if he would be more expensive, and Tom says yes. This is a problem because Ken is already pretty far over budget for the festival. At this point, he'll need to have at least 700 people giving $20 every Sunday for the next year in order to break even.
He also plans to experiment with a "preach-free sermon" where kids can come by to sit around and play video games, listen to their iPlods, and eat candy without being disturbed. Tom says that they might as well not show up. Ken is determined to do whatever it takes to free them from the clutches of Rev. Sleaze Mike. Tom wants to know why he would refer to his colleauge as "Rev. Sleaze". Ken didn't want to get into this, but says it's no secret that Rev. Mike partook in the debauched lifestyle that goes along with the world of rock 'n roll. He points out that in the article Tom read, they left out the part about his arrest in 1989 for having sex in a public bathroom while under the influence of cocaine. Ken's source on this is Darrrell, a PI he hired because he wanted to find out more about the new Reverend in town. Tom wonders what he'd do with the information other than say it on the radio. (Ken was not aware he was on the air.) Ken would like to think that Rev. Mike's new parishioners would like to know as much as they can about the man they're entrusting with their children's spiritual guidance.
With the exception of that one incident in 1999, Ken's record is spotless. Ken says that the incident in question was technically a breaking and entering, but the charge was quickly dropped. Turned out that the arresting officer, Officer Harrups, was found to be on cocaine when he made the arrest. Ken thinks this is a horrible breach of ethics and wonders what is happening to the community.
The arrest occured after Ken entered Adult Mania after it was closed. Earlier in the day, he was walking down the seedy Frontage Road and saw a stray dog run into the establishment in question. He followed it in to try to rescue it, but had no luck. Later that evening, he had to buy some groceries for an ailing shut-in parishioner and realized that he didn't have his debit card. He figured he lost it at Adult Mania, so he went to retreive it. Tom's not sure how he could have lost the card during a canine retrieval attempt, and Ken says that he thinks he may have bought a Summit bar or some water at the counter. He slipped through a window and just as he had located his debit card, Officer Harrups came storming in. Ken says that the word in the community is that Rev. Mike has a ton of other skeletons in his closet. Ken heard that he was a very frequent customer of a strip club right up until he joined the ministerhood. Tom wonders what bearing that has on anything. Ken thinks it has a lot of bearing and once saw him at the Love Nest on Muffler Row. Ken entered the club looking for another stray dog, and while he couldn't find it, he was thirsty so he had a club soda at the bar. As he was sipping it, he saw Mike come in and pay for multiple, disgusting lap dances. This was all right before he became a Reverend, although Ken was already a Reverend. Tom says he felt sorrow for him at first because he thought he was just misguided, but now he's not so sure.
Ken saw a woman grinding against Rev. Mike before they retreated to a private room for a more intimate entanglement. At that point, Ken had climbed into the false ceiling to get a closer look at what goes on in these places. He fell out onto the stage in the middle of one woman's dance, ripping her G-string. Ken says it was sick. Then she fell on him, which was sicker. Tom thinks the whole thing sounds sick. Ken has something even sicker than that. He once saw Mike drunk beyond all recognition at Los Amigos near NC. He was walking past and saw a stray dog wander in, so he went inside to discover Mike having sex in the bathroom. He alerted Officer Harrups, but he had to let him go because he was still on the Newbridge marching powder. Tom says it sounds like Ken is a very torn person.
Ken wants to know if Tom can help him get ahold of 700 pounds of fireworks in time for the July 4th holiday. He's been placing ads in the local press to promote a massage fireworks presentation that will spell out "Newbridge Episcopalian Rocks!" inside the church. Ken says that nobody will sell them to him because it's too dangerous, and Tom concurs. Ken wants to know if Tom has any ins at Black Cat Fireworks in Middle Westbridge. Even if he did, Tom said he would not provide them to Ken due to safety concerns. Ken thinks Tom is typical of all the people he's been meeting in Newbridge and he may have to give up his quest to connect with young people. He reveals that he's calling from Newbridge Massage, yet another local business he's frequented by following a stray dog. He has to run because he thinks he hears Officer Harrups coming.
Tom thinks Ken may be the saddest caller ever. Mike the Associate Producer is usually as stoic as Maximus in Gladiator and it made him sad.