Reverend Billy's Unholy War

On a Monday morning in Los Angeles, in a half-empty strip-mall Starbucks on Reseda Boulevard, two young women are declaring their love for each other.

What Would Jesus Buy?

Before there was Reverend Billy, there was Bill Talen, born and raised in Minnesota, in the midst of conservative Dutch Calvinism, a faith he rejected as a teenager. He became a playwright, performer, and producer, working for years in San Francisco before he moved to New York City in the mid-1990s. “Rev. Billy,” Talen’s alter ego, was created in 1997, when Talen/Billy began street-corner preaching near the new Disney Store in Times Square, using the cadences and mannerisms of a TV evangelist to decry the chain-store commercial excesses of gentrification.

The Downtown Gospel According to Reverend Billy

 "I think of a child's mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly."  -- Walt Disney 

"We are drowning in a sea of identical details. . . . Mickey Mouse is the Antichrist. . . . Times Square has been blown up by 10,000 smiling stuffed animals. . . . Don't shop, children, save your souls!"   --Reverend Billy 

The Rev. Billy brings his anti-shopping message to a hall built on capitalism

On a drizzly evening earlier this week, the Rev. Billy, who calls Mickey Mouse "the Antichrist," was denouncing the evils of mindless consumerism at CalArts, the Valencia college partly founded and funded by Walt and Roy Disney.

Thursday night, the Rev. Billy and his Life After Shopping Gospel Choir will be preaching their puckishly anti-capitalist message from the bully pulpit of REDCAT, the multipurpose venue tucked inside Walt Disney Concert Hall. A late-night performance was added after the first one sold out.

Reverend Billy’s Revelation: A Role for Money

Reverend Billy as played by Tony Nuff
Two weeks ago Reverend Billy, the performance artist and activist best known as the leader of the Church of Stop Shopping, was plying his trade, public proselytizing. He and 15 members of the church’s choir traveled from New York to Washington to stage a protest as part of Appalachia Rising, a campaign to end mountaintop-removal coal mining. They gathered around a mound of symbolic dirt in the lobby of a bank that they say finances mountaintop removal, shouted “Hallelujah!” and sang folk songs.

No Marriage Until Gay Marriage

Even though we’ve come way farther than we did back in the day when Abraham Lincoln was alive, and he may have been gay too by the way, reading this New Yorker article about the gospel singer Tonex reminds me (once again) that we’ve got a loooooong way to go. The low down is that in September of 2009 the gospel singer Tonex came out of the closet, after dogging years of rumors and ending a four year marriage. And now he’s struggling to find his way, but not his ego, because his Church is not a-okay with him being gay.

Watch: Reverend Holds Mass 'Unwedding' in Central Park

Activist/performance artist Reverend Billy Talen held an "unmarriage until gay marriage" ceremony at Central Park's Bethesda Fountain on Sunday.

Did You Spend Valentine's Day Getting Unmarried?

The Rev. Billy Talen makes us giggle. Not because he actually got dozens of couples to show up in New York's Central Park on a chilly Valentine's Day to revoke their wedding vows in support of gay marriage, but because he asked the crowd, "Can I have a same-sex-elujah?"

Straight Couples "Unmarry" in NYC

Dressed in his trademark televangelist drag and exhorting the crowd to a “same-sex elujah,” New York activist Reverend Billy Talen led straight couples in a mass “unwedding” on Valentine's Day in solidarity with gay couples denied marriage rights.

The Village Voice offers a detailed report of the scene with nearly 50 couples in Central Park on Sunday.

Reverend Billy’s Un-Wedding Album

Photo by Becky Garrison
On Valentine’s Day 2010, over 50 straight couples gathered in the snow in front of the Bethesda Angel in Central Park for a mass Rev. Moon-style ritual of Unmarriage. Led by activist and performance artist Rev. Billy, these couples signed certificates of unmarriage and ceremoniously suspended their vows. They promised to stay committed but unmarried until gay weddings are legalized in New York State and the rest of the country.
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