Willie Aames on 'Fit Club,'
Faith, and Fame

The former child star and his wife on that notorious 'Celebrity Fit Club' scene and their hope for the Christian community.

BY: Interview by Dena Ross

 

Continued from page 1

What else do you think is lacking?

 

I think what we lack is a determination to be a community. I don't think that very often we know who we are as Christians. The Jews know who they are as a people. The Christians have not come together as a people yet. That's, in fact, one of the things that I would like to speak the most to, that we're so fractured, whether it's by denomination or by one belief or another.

 

We spend a lot of time fighting with one another over things that don't matter. We spend a lot of time judging each other over things that don't matter. Until we can get that together, until we can come together and really be a little bit more unified, I think we're going to lack a lot of role models.

 

Just through that whole experience as Bibleman and creating entertainment for kids, I would get letters from parents who were outraged that the villains got the good songs, in their opinion, and swore never to support the ministry again. You look at something like that, and you think, "Did you even look at the message of the video? Did you listen to it?" All they could think of was their child started humming a song that one of the villains sung. 

 

Things of that nature need to be reexamined. They overlook the overall message and they hone in on one thing, and then, as a result of that, they don't support anything. I think we need to support one another. Otherwise, we won't have any role models, period.

 

You were recently the victim of a mugging, along with your son. Did you rely on your faith during that time? Did you feel confident that you'd come through it?

 

Maylo, my son, and his girlfriend and I were walking through L.A., just wrapping up a thing with VH1, and I heard a guy yelling. I turned around, and this guy had a .45 to my head. 

 

I thought the whole thing was a bit overblown. I know it made the news all over the place. I guess they picked it up on the police scanners. I was never once afraid. My heart rate never went up. I was never nervous. I never shook. I had been through training to disarm the guy if I needed to. That's really what I was looking for at that point—to just defuse the situation. Every time he'd point the gun at my son, I'd step between the gun and him. Every time he'd point the gun at my wife or my son's girlfriend, I'd step between the gun and them. 

 

What I wanted to do was remain calm and get myself into a situation where I could take the gun away from him. Every time I took a step toward him, he would take a step backwards. That eventually kind of freaked him out and made him turn and run.

 

I was never afraid, wasn't afraid afterwards, wasn't afraid during. Naturally, afterwards, you think about the fact that you could have died very quickly, especially when you look at the shootings in Chicago just a couple of days ago. 

 

But I also have to say that, having faith, death is not something that I have to fear. My life didn't flash before my eyes. I wasn't praying, "Oh God, please help me." That's ingrained in me. I don't think that's ever a question.

Tell me about the incident on Celebrity Fit Club.  What happened behind the scenes?

It takes a lot for me to get to a point where I get  really angry. [On] Celebrity Fit Club we had guaranteed the network four days a month to work on that show. At the same time that I was doing Celebrity Fit, I was also writing the pilot for my daughter's new series, "The Public Life of Sissy Pike."

 

When Jani Lane [lead vocalist for Warrant], who was on Celebrity Fit Club, overdosed, they asked if I would take over his work as well. I said, "I'd be happy to, I'll help him out."

 

I had worked some five days or seven days in a row extra for them to get all of this work done. And in doing so, I put off my responsibilities to write the script. I was getting pressured heavily by Thomas Nelson to get that script in, or they would pull the plug on the show.

 

At the same time, my wife Maylo has lupus, and with all of the stress and going back and forth, she was in the middle of a pretty heavy flare-up and had a very high fever. Many times when that happens, she ends up in the hospital. 

 

I had been home less than 24 hours, had spent that entire time writing. When [the TV crew] came to the door, you didn't see me asking them very politely three or four times to please go away. My wife was ill. I'd been up all night. It was an inappropriate time, and I needed to get some sleep and be left alone. I had just completed more than my obligation for them.

 

What you saw on television really was the last point of where I had finally just had enough of them ringing the doorbell over and over at 6:30 in the morning. I had a Rottweiler that was going absolutely crazy. Prior to my even answering the door, I had no idea who it was. As Bibleman, I had my life threatened 12 to 15 different times. When somebody comes to your front door and they're screaming obscenities at you and telling you to come outside and you've had your life threatened several times, you take it pretty seriously. It's the reason I have a Rottweiler. 

 

When you discover that what it is a camera crew thinking that they're funny and your wife is almost [not] ambulatory at that point and they won't leave you alone, that's when I got angry. I acted the way I acted and it was not a pretty thing. I was frustrated. I was cornered. If I'd called the police, that would have looked even better for them. 

 

Then what happened?

 

The backlash is what really threw me. It went on and continues to go on to this day—about what a disappointment as a Christian man I am, what a disappointment, as a celebrity I am, and what a disappointment as a role model I am.

 

I was extremely blown away that anybody would care, in the first place.  I was completely taken by surprise at the reaction—primarily from my Christian brothers and sisters in the community—where after 10 years of solid service as Bibleman and [my] family sacrificing, it was suddenly all thrown away over two minutes worth of edited footage.  

It's funny because that whole Celebrity Fit Club experience had so much impact and there were so many complaints from people that, although we did one episode and one pilot, it was never picked up.

 

In fact, "Grace Is Enough," two years after the [incident], was almost scrapped. They heard the rumors that I acted poorly on television, and they were going to scrap the entire book deal. That's how drastic the judgment and reaction can be in the Christian community, and that is something that I really hope to change.

As more projects come up, I hope to get people to think about what it is that they say and do before they do it based on a few seconds of edited footage. That's why we wrote "Grace is Enough." We really need to extend more grace to one another.

 

While you were growing up, your family participated in a lot of occult activities—tarot card readings, séances, etc. Back then, did you feel comfortable with those activities? Or was it something that you didn't want to be involved in?

 

My family had a lot to do with occult activities. My grandmother liked to contact spirits and do what's called spirit writing—have people ask questions and let the spirit take over and write for her and answer those. We went to a lot of psychics and tarot card readers. We had Ouija boards and played with them. I felt completely comfortable with all of it.

 

What I found that is so bothering about that is that later on, as you begin to understand who God really is and you begin to look to Him, the seeds that were planted in your mind by these different psychics and things don't go away. Instead of looking to God to take care of things, you're reminded of a tarot card reader who said, "One day you'll do this or that." It's very bothersome because it gets in the way of your faith and in the way of following exactly what Scripture says you should follow. 

 

It really never bothered me as a kid because it was more just kind of a way of life. It was instead of any kind of religious faith. We were atheists, primarily, in terms of who was God and what was God or what we consider a traditional faith. But, as an adult, and still to this day, as a mature Christian--I've been a Christian over 20 years now—when something comes up in life, that little voice in the back of your head says, "That one tarot card reader said this or this would happen." You have to learn to put that away and go right back to Scripture, back to prayer and wait on God. I think that's one of the reasons why Scripture says we shouldn't go to [the occult] because it truly does get in the way of you trusting in God.

 

Interview with Maylo Upton-Aames

 

In the book you write that you believe your mom was in a religious cult when you were a child. Were there any scary moments for you?

 

She was involved in a small sect of people that met every weekend in a different warehouse in Los Angeles. It was all scary. She had visions all the time in the living room. She had séances and tarot readings and there were a lot of drugs. 

 

There was a belief system—everything we did in that house was connected to these working apostles within that sect. [My mom] was an apostle and there was a man who was an apostle that lived with us at the time and he began sexually abusing me at the age of 11 until I was about 15. There was a lot of violence. We moved as a result. My mother was always trying to kind of hide us from the rest of them.

 

Continued on page 3: Maylo's battle with lupus... »

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