February 23 marks the 70th birthday of one of the biggest fans the world of sports has ever seen, Rollen Stewart, better known as Rainbow Man and Rock ‘n’ Rollen. Just in case the photo didn’t jog your memory, Stewart was often seen at sporting events, both at home in the US and abroad, wearing a rainbow afro wig and holding a a sign that read “John 3:16.” His wacky appearance transformed him from a spectator to a celebrity but there was a lot more going on with the seemingly happy-go-lucky superfan.
Rollen Stewart first appeared at the 1977 NBA Finals wearing his rainbow wig and dancing around. The attention he received became an addiction. He would carry a battery operated TV with him at sporting events, following the cameras to guarantee some national exposure. For some reason, Stewart expected that a Hollywood bigwig would see him and turn him into a star. Actually, that sounds reasonable these days but people had more sense in the 70s.
Once his fame waned and the fortune never came, Stewart became depressed. Watching TV in his hotel room after the 1980 Super Bowl, he came across a televangelist that changed his life forever. He became a born-again Christian and made it his life’s work to spread the word of Jesus. At sporting events. In a rainbow afro wig. But this time he would wear shirts emblazoned with “Jesus Saves” and hold signs that read “John 3:16.” By the mid-80s he was married to a fellow Christian who would attend sporting events with her husband to spread the good word. Alas, Rainbow Man would soon veer off the righteous path.
By the late 80s, Rock ‘n’ Rollen’s wife had left him, after an incident where he choked her at a baseball game for holding a sign in the wrong location. Broadcasters were sick of him and did their best to ignore his antics. He soon found himself alone, broke, and out of the spotlight. He was jonesing for attention and began a string of stink bomb attacks at various locations such as a church, newspaper office, and Christian bookstore. He would also send out letters that warned of the coming apocalypse and contained a hit list of preachers. All this and he still hadn’t hit rock bottom.
Rainbow Man totally flipped his wig in September 1992. Stewart got a room at a California hotel near LAX airport and took a maid hostage. To make matters worse, he then threatened to shoot at airplanes. An 8-hour stand-off ensued, ending when the SWAT team broke in, arresting Stewart. Since then Stewart has been in prison, having been denied parole as recently as 2010. His next hearing is set for 2017, and I suggest we cheer him on in rainbow afro wigs. After all, what would Rollen do?