This year’s holiday season has me thinking of West Hollywood’s own, unique version of the Messiah – WeHo Jesus.
I found myself wondering what WeHo Jesus would have to say about the pandemic. How would he have reacted? How would the pandemic have affected him? And being WeHo’s answer to Jesus, would he have been trying to heal people?
It was three years ago today that we learned WeHo Jesus had died. Ironically, he died of a lung-related illness of some type. He actually died on Dec. 13, 2017. However, the general public only learned of his death on Jan. 3, 2018 after his neighbor, Brian Hamilton, posted about it on Facebook.
There was tremendous sadness among those of us who knew this unique West Hollywood character. He was definitely someone with whom it was worth spending a few minutes chatting. It was always be an enlightening conversation as he offered random observations on life mixed with philosophical musings. It seems that playing Jesus full time gave him a unique perspective.
For those unfamiliar with WeHo Jesus, his real name was Kevin Short, although he went by the name Kevin Lee Light. His family was from Pasadena, but he’d been living in West Hollywood for years, in an apartment on the corner of Fountain and Laurel avenues.
Kevin was an aspiring actor and comedian, part time philosopher and a bon vivant.
He frequently hung out at the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip, but was often just seen about town in his Jesus garb – a long flowing white robe and sandals.
Kevin had shoulder-length, brown hair and a beard. When he was wearing the white robe, he matched the standard look which Western cultures attribute to Jesus.
At some point in his acting career, Kevin decided to start portraying Jesus. He did lots of appearances in music videos as Jesus, even a few movie appearances. He even appeared in a public service announcement which the city of West Hollywood put together (starting at the 1:45 mark in the video below).
Kevin especially relished freaking out religious conservatives while dressed as Jesus. Every year, a group of anti-gay religious fundamentalists gather on the south side of La Cienega at Santa Monica Boulevard to protest the LA Pride parade as it passes by. Kevin always enjoyed toying with them in various ways, showing that Jesus loved everyone and supported LGBTQ rights.
I first met WeHo Jesus in 2007 or 2008 on Hollywood Boulevard near the Chinese Theater when a friend introduced me to him as “Kevin,” not as Jesus. I just assumed he was one of the many costumed characters that populate that section of Hollywood Boulevard.
However, I soon started spotting him around West Hollywood when I was riding my bicycle or running errands. I thought this was odd. Other Hollywood Boulevard costumed characters weren’t traipsing through the streets of WeHo. Superman wasn’t wandering along Santa Monica Boulevard. Spider-Man wasn’t hanging out on the Sunset Strip. Wonder Woman wasn’t seen on Melrose.
But here was Jesus walking along Sunset, showing up at gay pride or shopping at Trader Joes. Clearly this Jesus was one of the people. So, I started saying hello to him, always calling him “Kevin” rather than Jesus.
At some point, he showed up at an event I was covering as a reporter and I engaged him in conversation. He was quite articulate and up to date on city happenings, clearly having read some of the articles I had written.
Our conversations were always truncated. I rarely got to talk with him for longer than 60 seconds before a passerby or tourist would stop him asking to pose for a picture with him. He always said yes, posed for the picture, then returned to his conversation with me. Sometimes I was even the one who snapped the photo for the passerby.
This would be our pattern for many years. I’d see him often at pride-related events and other places. We’d talk for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, but with constant interruptions for photos with passersby.
At some point in there, I told him I would like to write a profile of him. He was noncommittal, so I didn’t pressure him. I merely put it out there and let it go.
Then in August 2016, I attended the “DTLA Proud” LGBTQ pride event in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. When I got there on Sunday night, Kevin was the only person I knew out of the 1,500 people or so there at that point. Rather than dressed in his standard white robe, this night Kevin was dressed in rainbow colored robes.
I said hello to him as always, but this time he asked me for a favor. He’d hurt his foot and was limping. A portable metal railing used to section off areas had fallen on his foot when someone leaned against it. He asked me to take a photo of the metal railing and where it happened in case there was any serious damage to his foot and he needed to make an insurance claim. I happily obliged.
We chatted some, as always our conversation routinely interrupted by people asking to pose for photos. Since Kevin was wearing his rainbow robe, I finally succumbed and asked to pose for a photo with him. In all my many previous conversations, I’d never asked him for a photo, but the rainbow robe won me over.
As he tried to move about, he was in a lot of pain. His foot was really hurting him. He asked if I could give him a ride to the bus stop which was several blocks away.
I naturally said yes, but explained I was parked several blocks away in the other direction. He’d have just as much pain walking to my car as he would the bus stop. So, I described my car to him and said I’d return to Pershing Square shortly to pick him up.
Once I got him in the car, there was no point in just dropping him at the bus stop. I told him I’d give him a ride home. He was more than happy to let me do that, clearly experiencing relief not standing on his hurt foot for the first time in hours.
And that’s when I got to have an uninterrupted conversation for the first time ever with WeHo Jesus.
This wasn’t an interview. It was just two acquaintances chatting as we drove to West Hollywood. I hadn’t said anything to him about doing an interview in several years, but he clearly remembered the offer had been made. Without any prompting from me, he said that he was always reluctant to do press interviews because he wanted to maintain the mystique of being WeHo Jesus.
He further explained that he’d been the subject of lots of gossip columns and/or quick clips on TV entertainment shows. At first, he’d enjoyed that attention, but had grown to dislike it as they distorted things about him.
He told me of a magazine/website that had drafted him to write an advice column as Jesus several years earlier. He wasn’t pleased by the idea but nonetheless wrote the first column. However, he hated the entire thing and never wrote a second column.
He told me that he was aging out of playing Jesus and was thinking of moving over to play Moses instead. However, he didn’t know how much demand there was for Moses as opposed to Jesus. (He never revealed his age to me, but I learned from his obituary that he was 57 when he died).
Apparently, he’d made good money playing Jesus in music videos and other films and thoroughly enjoyed the gig.
He told me about getting invites to exclusive parties, special tours of various buildings under construction and other perks because of his Jesus garb. He seemed to enjoy this special attention he got because of the character he was playing full time.
He told me how anti-climactic it was when he finally met actor Jared Leto, who for a long time had flowing long hair and a beard and also looked a lot like Jesus. On multiple occasions, people had told Kevin that Leto wanted to meet him because of the similarity in their appearance. One day while hiking in Runyon Canyon, the two came face to face. Leto, coming down the trail, spotted Kevin going up the trail and rushed up to him, breathlessly saying, “Dude, I’ve always wanted to meet you!” Leto then kept going down the trail without saying anything else.
He also told me had cut himself off from technology. He was no longer using his cell phone and rarely checked his email. Said he was spending too much time web surfing. He said the best way to get in touch with him was to slide a note under his apartment door.
By the time we got to the West Hollywood vicinity, he was hungry and wanted to stop at his favorite taco stand, Benito’s Taco Shop, next to the Shell gas station on the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.
He bought me a taco while he munched down on a burrito. Apparently, this was his dinner, even though it was about 11:30 p.m.
Then, I drove him to his apartment. As he got out of the car, he offered me a joint to smoke later. He then paid me the ultimate compliment, saying if he ever was to do an official press interview, he wanted me to be the person who wrote it.
We never did that official interview, but I still feel honored that he said that to me. I miss seeing Kevin and West Hollywood is certainly a less colorful place without his WeHo Jesus around.