Filmmaker in Town To Protest Phelps, Sodomy Laws
Michael Moore's Pink RV Made Stops At The Capitol And An Anti-Gay Protest
October 31, 1998
616 SE Jefferson Street, Topeka, KS 66607
By Jan Landon and Steve Fry, The Capital-Journal
Michael Moore didn't plan to bring his pink recreational vehicle to Topeka during his
crusade against anti-sodomy laws, but seeing the Rev. Fred W. Phelps Sr. protesting at the
Oct. 16 funeral of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming drew him here.
"There was a collective moan of disgust across America when people saw him there
with his family," said Moore, a documentary filmmaker, author and television satirist
best known for his 1989 film, "Roger and Me," which criticized General Motors
for abandoning its Flint, Mich., plant.
On Thursday, the pink RV could be seen traveling throughout Topeka, with stops
including one at the Capitol and a counter protest against Phelps and his anti-homosexual
activists. A band of men, hired by Moore, suggestively danced on top of the RV to the
songs "Celebrate" and "It's Raining Men."
All of Moore's visit and discussions with Phelps and members of his church were being
taped for Moore's new television series, which is set to begin airing sometime after the
first of the year. Moore said he anticipated the show would be broadcast in March, but
what cable station it will be on is yet to be determined.
This show is similar to his 1994 television series, "TV Nation," which was on
both NBC and FOX.
Signs on the vehicle mocked Phelps' anti-homosexual pickets that are a common sight in
For about 30 minutes, Moore asked Phelps the usual questions about the Westboro Baptist
Church's anti-homosexual activities.
The group presented Phelps with a thick book of etiquette, and in turn, Phelps asked
them to autograph it. At least one signed the book.
The group repeatedly asked Westboro members to step inside the satin and leopard-skin
decorated RV, and church members invited the 12 to follow them to a picket.
"Most of it was pretty silly," said Margie Jean Phelps, a daughter of Fred
Several of the men with Moore kissed each other in an effort to shock church members.
"There wasn't anything that we hadn't seen before," Margie Phelps said, saying
church members have picketed in the Castro District, a gay area in San Francisco, and at
the International Gay Games in New York City.
Moore said there were two reactions to the vehicle covered in pink contact paper and
its signs as it traveled around town.
"They appreciate the humor," he said, standing outside a Topeka hotel shortly
before leaving town. Moore said he appreciated the Midwestern sense of humor that was like
the humor in his home state of Michigan.
"We were also thanked by dozens of people," Moore said. "People in
Topeka are embarrassed. It gives Topeka a bad name."
He said he intended to make every effort to show the story of the Phelps family without
identifying Topeka as the group's hometown.
Moore was also carrying a bigger message. He planned to visit and videotape in eight
states with anti-sodomy laws. He said there is a climate of hate against gays, and he
described it as the "last frontier of bigotry."
He also accused Republicans in Congress of attempting to conduct a bloodless coup
d'etat by forcing President Clinton out of office against the will of the people.
"They're upset because they lost twice to Clinton," Moore said, adding that
he wasn't a supporter of the president and didn't vote for him. His reaction to his
candidate not winning, he said, was trying to find another person to run and building
"I didn't become a cry baby and a sore loser," he said.
Moore is encouraging people to vote a straight Democratic ticket to send a clear
message to Republicans.
The group drove off in the pink vehicle toward a speaking engagement in Overland Park
and then planned to travel south to speak out against anti- sodomy laws.
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