Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Otherworldly class

Since the early 1970s, I have been a fan of Jesus Christ Superstar. For me, it's not the spiritual aspects of the rock opera that attract me. I just love the music.

Ted Neeley, who starred as Jesus in the 1973 movie and who has portrayed Jesus thousands of times on stage around the world, is in the midst of a farewell tour. At age 63, he's going strong -- and still hitting the high notes.

The elaborate production is in my neck of the woods for a week, and I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Neeley by phone last Friday for a freelance article. Neeley was gracious and good-natured, and he asked me to come back stage on Tuesday night (opening night) to meet him.

The performance earned a standing ovation, and afterward I was led through the bowels of the theater to Ted's dressing room. My guide was none other than Darrel Whitney, who plays Caiaphas. I stood outside the closed door for about twenty minutes, waiting anxiously and wondering if perhaps Ted was having second thoughts. After all, I was just a writer from a small town. Why would I mean anything to him?

Eventually Ted emerged. He looked tired, but not in a bad way -- more like the kind of warm weariness that comes from a long workout at the gym. He came to me and shook my hand, greeting me like I was an old friend. Yet our only previous encounter had been a brief phone interview.

I told him that I was honored to watch him perform and even more honored to meet him. His eyes gleamed, as if it was the first compliment he had ever received. Then I gave him a copy of the newspaper article I had written, along with a business card plugging my fantasy series and blog. Ted seemed genuinely interested, and he asked me at least a dozen questions about The Death Wizard Chronicles. Surprisingly, we ended up talking a good deal more about my work than his -- and our face-to-face conversation went on for at least twenty minutes. When we parted ways, Ted even gave me a hug. Then he swept into the main lobby, where dozens of fans had waited more than an hour for his autograph. I can only imagine how many of them would have loved to have traded places with me.

I guess the point of all this is two-fold: One, I was privileged to meet a man I had admired for more than thirty-five years. Everyone has a top five list of the people he or she would most like to meet: Ted was on mine. Second, Ted represents the rare breed of celebrity who has somehow managed to remain humble. It's amazing how some people are able to keep their heads on straight no matter how much adulation is heaped upon them.

I didn't ask for an autograph; I'm not a big autograph guy. I didn't ask for a photo of he and I standing together; I'm not big on that either. In fact, I hadn't even asked beforehand to meet him and say hello. He offered that himself.

And on top of all this ... while exhausted from another draining performance, the superstar singer/composer/actor had the courtesy to ask me questions about my work.

That's class, in my book. The kind of class that comes not from fame and fortune but from the depths of a humble heart.

-- Jim

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The Death Wizard Chronicles is a sexy, action-packed six-book epic fantasy series: Book One (Forged by Death), Book Two (Chained by Fear), Book Three (Eve of War), Book Four (World on Fire), Book Five (Sun God), Book Six (Death-Know).

The DW Chronicles is not for children and teenagers -- or the faint of heart. But if you like graphic fantasy that is bursting with excitement yet still has a lot going on between the lines, I think you'll love my series.

In a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative -- death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken will take your breath away.

In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a "temporary suicide." Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath with incestuous cravings.

Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The DW Chronicles carries readers on a journey they will never forget.

Do you fear death? The Death Wizard does not. Find out why.

-- Please go to for more details.

About Me

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Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.