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Wednesday, July 14, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Rock 'N Rollen' Hits Spotlight One Last Time; Receives Life Terms

Seattle Times Staff: AP

The crazy, colorful odyssey of "Rock 'N Rollen," the Cle Elum native who became internationally known for his ability to get on television wearing a multicolored wig, apparently has come to an end.

For a man who sought publicity, it seems fitting that television cameras were present in a Los Angeles courtroom yesterday when Rollen Frederick Stewart was sentenced to three life terms for holding a maid hostage and making terrorist threats last September in a hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport.

As he was sentenced, Stewart, also known as the Rainbow Man, started a long rambling discourse and began shouting end-of-the-world references from Scripture. Judge Robert O'Neill ordered deputies to control Stewart and he was wrestled to the floor, shouting, "Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they're doing. . . ."

Sally Lipscomb, Los Angeles deputy district attorney, called Stewart, "a David Koresh waiting to happen," a reference to the Branch Davidian leader killed with his followers in the Waco, Texas, standoff.

Stewart, 48, traveled thousands of miles in the late 1970s and 1980s, showing up at televised sporting events wearing a blue, red, yellow, green, purple and pink Afro wig. By 1980, Stewart had mugged for the cameras at events beamed by satellite into 103 countries.

Stewart said that at one point he was driving over 50,000 miles a year, traveling to 50 to 60 football games, golf tournaments and the Kentucky Derby. He even showed up at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the Los Angeles Olympics four years later.

He apparently used inherited money and cash from the sale of his ranch to finance his exploits.

Stewart's TV mugging seems to have started in Portland in 1977 during the NBA championships. He eventually parlayed his persona into a television beer commercial.

Stewart's TV hijinks were in contrast to his private life.

Bruno Bonetto, a former neighbor of Stewart's near Cle Elum, said when he wasn't on television, Stewart kept mostly to himself.

"He was kind of a loner, he never spoke to nobody," Bonetto said.

Kittitas County Sheriff Bob McBride knew Stewart in the 1970s. He, too, said Stewart was a "fairly routine, normal" person.

Stewart turned to religion about 1980, apparently inspired by a TV program, "Today in Bible Prophecy," that he said called him to a religious life. "It's the 20th Century and I am the chosen one," he said.

When a TV camera panned on Stewart, he held up a sign, John 3:16, a Bible verse.

Los Angeles police think Stewart's belief the end of the world was fast approaching prompted his actions Sept. 22. He took a maid hostage, put religious placards in the windows of the seventh-floor hotel room and set two small fires. The maid locked herself in the bathroom and was unharmed in the nine-hour standoff.

Information from Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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