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Tom tried to remain cheerful as Teenagers was released and subsequently slammed by critics. But by Thanksgiving weekend, he was unable to deal with the pressure any longer. Whether he snapped or had a legitimate religious experience, Tom sat down that weekend to pen the first of two notorious full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times proclaiming that God had spoken to him and that he was now tasked with spreading love throughout the world.

The second ad, which appeared in 35,000 copies of the Christmas Day paper, explained that he was officially changing his name to "Jesus Christ II" and would be preaching at various houses of worship around the Los Angeles metro area. The ad was pulled from circulation immediately upon detection, but not before it caused a furor. The incident was mocked days later in Time Magazine, and the Times suffered great ridicule for their oversight.

Tom's first letter to the LA Times.

True to his word, Tom preached at (and was removed from) a number of institutions in January 1960, including The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, next door to where he shot Teenagers. From all accounts he was in complete control during these appearances, making a grand entrance in a baby blue Cadillac and working the crowds that showed up to gawk. Tom made further waves when he began petitioning for the release of Death Row inmate Caryl Chessman and distributed letters he had written to Nikita Kruschev demanding world peace.

After his name change was denied during a hearing attended by local Christian groups, Tom became more and more vocal, and found himself arrested by the end of the year, facing a criminal trial in early 1961.

After this incident Tom went east, and after a few stops wound up in Pennsylvania, where he had relatives. He enrolled at the Pendle Hill Quaker school near Swarthmore and took classes there for a year, living in the tiny town of Broomall, a million miles away from the pains of Hollywood. But Tom hadn't given up his dream. He held a second screening of The Noble Experiment, where he invited the audience to submit suggestions for the film's ending, claiming it was unfinished and never before seen. He also was able to screen other films there, but after some trouble with the leaders of Pendle Hill and a number of physical altercations, Tom was asked to leave.

Weary from his adventures and hardships, Tom returned to Hollywood and his parents in 1964.

Later Life & Death >>

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