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Actor's portrayal of Jesus calls in police

All Lee Backhaus of Alexandria wanted to do was take a shower.

At the time, he had no way of knowing that it would trigger a media frenzy that would make the Associated Press news wires.

To back up...

Backhaus played the part of Jesus in the annual outdoor Passion Drama of Easter organized by Zion and Good Shepherd Lutheran churches.

The part required him to dress for his role, complete with fake blood.

After completing his acting assignment in the Tuesday, March 30 production, he headed over to his health club, Racquetball Plus, to take a quick shower. He told the manager ahead of time that he'd be coming over still in costume so they'd know what to expect.

However, the message didn't get passed along to the evening manager and the sight of a bloody bearded man showing up at the health club prompted a concerned call to police.

Alexandria police officers arrived and after talking with Backhaus, quickly realized he wasn't a threat or even injured.

The story, however, was reported on KSAX-TV and quickly spread from there.

It was picked up on Associated Press feeds and versions of the story were reported on websites and news outlets throughout the country, including the Kansas City Star, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio, KTTC News in Rochester, Minnesota, FOX 9 News and others.

Headlines reported, "Cops called after 'Jesus' showers at gym," "Bloody Jesus scares health club employee," and "Passion play prompts police call."

A website in the Netherlands even picked up the story and carried the headline, "Jezus neemt douche in fitness; Politie rukt uit." Rough translation: Jesus takes shower in gym; police tipped off."

For Backhaus, all the attention has been a tad overwhelming and he's had to take a lot of ribbing. One example: He received a card from a fellow 1973 Alexandria graduate whom he hadn't heard from in years kidding him about the incident.

Through it all, Backhaus has kept a sense of humor.

"It's been a little bit crazy," Backhaus said. "I keep telling people that I'm the only person I know that can put on a resume that I was almost arrested for playing Jesus."

But there is a silver lining to the media firestorm:

"Any ink is good ink for the church and for the Passion Drama," Backhaus said.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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