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Eleven years ago on a Sunday morning before the Oscars I stood in the doorway of Larry
Norman’s bedroom and watched as he flew away from this planet to another land. A
while later Larry’s son, Michael and his mom, Sarah came over and laid on each side of
Larry’s body. I first met Mike late one night twenty years
earlier when I moved to North Hollywood in the apartment beneath Larry and Charles. One
night around midnight I heard the doorbell ring. I looked out the window and there was
Larry sitting on the steps. I opened the door to hang out or pray with him and found a little
three year old below me holding out his arms. I bent down and Mike hugged me
around the neck resting his head on my
shoulder. I looked at Larry who was chuckling and introduced me to his son, “Mike this is
Flemmingway.” Two years later when Mike turned five he became friends with Jesus like
In Larry’s final days I prayed with him, read to him the red words in the Bible, talked to him
about his life, sang Beatles songs and more than anything we talked together to Jesus.
Every couple of hours I would cut up a Pink Lady apple for him, cool it in ice cubes and
then feed him little slices. Larry always thanked me and complimented me on how I had
prepared the fruit. Even in such horrifying pain Larry remained thankful and complimentary
to his friends and family. While Mike and Sarah were weeping beside Larry’s body on the
bed and the rest of the family filled the room I left and went into the kitchen. In the
refrigerator I found the apple I had cut up for Larry that morning, eight slices. There were
seven people in the bedroom and I was in the kitchen. When I told them about the eight
slices we all shared an apple communion together. Mike swallowed his slice with his
head on my shoulder.
Eleven years later nearly everything in my life has turned upside down. But Mike Norman,
like his father did for thirty years, remains one of my closest friends. He and his wife,
Tiffany, help the orphans of Eden like me just as Larry did back in the day.
Last week Jennifer Robinson and Denny Fridkin sojourned to Larry Norman’s gravesite in Salem Oregon to pay their respects. Jennifer traveling all the way from Australia to Los Angeles, and then Denny Fridkin driving her a thousand miles from Los Angeles up to Salem. After a long prayerful and tearful visit at Larry’s gravesite, Jennifer and Denny met with Charles Norman. (Charles did not have to travel as far geographically, but after all the harassment his elderly mother, sisters, and nephew had to endure from the director of Fallen Angel, I know that this was a long trip for Charles to make as well.) If there had been no Fallen Angel, I believe (and most of the Normans concur) that this meeting would have happened years ago and resulted in either reconciliation or closure between the families depending on the results of the paternity test. Now, with all the damage done by outsiders, the road is full of obstacles. But love hopes all things…
Denny described Jennifer’s meeting with Charles as an auspicious event. I applaud all three of them here for bringing some peace into such a volatile situation. Hopefully the conversation will continue to pave the way to a peaceful resolution, this time without an incendiary video and traveling circus burning the bridges of reconciliation.
A few days later, Jennifer and Denny were in San Francisco. So I grabbed my tape recorder and I drove across the bridge to interview them. Jennifer spoke of praying and weeping at the gravesite, and of her love for Larry, and her anger that all of the beautiful things she had said about him had been edited out of the Fallen Angel video. Denny spoke about Larry leading him to Christ and had us all laughing as he recalled funny stories about life as Larry’s roommate. Of course it wasn’t all love and laughter. There is still the question of Jennifer’s son, Daniel, and his relationship to Larry, and, on the other side, the collaboration with Fallen Angel. But a conversation has begun between the Normans and the Robinsons, so there is hope. I told Jennifer and Denny I would do what I could to help them, but cautioned them that the only thing that I could see that would derail the hopes of a DNA test would be for either of them to involve again the director/producer of Fallen Angel.
Please join with us in praying for everyone involved.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold on to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14 -16 (NIV)
The United States Library of Congress has chosen Larry Norman’s album Only Visiting This Planet album to be deemed a National Treasure. The only other Rock album was U2’s Joshua Tree (an album depicting U2’s vision of America). What I love about this honor bestowed upon Larry is that the criteria for what music was chosen to be included in the Library of Congress had nothing to do with album sales or popularity, but rather, each album was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Just try to imagine all the albums they had to choose from!
Only Visiting This Planet Deemed a National Treasure by the Library of Congress
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said of the significance of the registry “These recordings represent an important part of America’s culture and history.” As I know, and if you are reading this article you know, the art and life of Larry Norman contributed to shaping the culture within our small group of friends, but now the powers that be in America have recognized Larry’s contribution to the culture of the entire country.
Larry, now as long as America exists you will be forever remembered for what I remember you to be: A great artist who believed in Jesus, and who, inspired by America’s great artists Mahalia Jackson and Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, Herman Melville and Superman Comics, Robert Frost and Allen Ginsberg and countless classic movies; created a literature of music that shined a transforming light into the dark corners of my life and into the dark corners of America, and now will shine for all future generations.
- Only Visiting This Planet – Larry Norman (1972)
- A Night at Birdland (Vols. 1 and 2) – Art Blakey (1954)
- Texas Sharecropper and Songster – Mance Lipscomb (1960)
- The First Family – Vaughn Meader (1962)
- Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos – Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (1966)
- Theme from ‘Shaft’ – Isaac Hayes (1971)
- Celia & Johnny – Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco (1974)
- Copland Conducts Copland: Appalachian Spring – Aaron Copland (1974)
- Heart Like a Wheel – Linda Ronstadt (1974)
- Sweeney Todd – Original Cast Recording (1979)
- The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)
Buy a copy today and give it to someone for Larry’s birthday!
And contribute to Larry’s favorite charity Compassion International in Larry’s name.
If you want to be on our mailing list or have any stories about Larry you would like to share (especially film footage or photographs) please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome any of the people who appeared in the Fallen Angel documentary to comment about the film or correct the record on any subject addressed in the film, and we are happy to post their comments here. Send e-mail to: email@example.com.
Pamela (Norman) Newman
“David Di Sabatino told my friend that he planned to destroy Larry Norman with this movie. I thought there was something definitely very evil with this man and decided to remove myself and all the pictures I let him use of Larry and I. Again he refused and told me he was the producer and he was making the movie his way.”
Pam also states in a post on the Facebook page associated with this web site:
“I loved Larry and always will. David lied to me and I’m sorry I even shared anything with him. He just twisted my words and left out the most important part. Larry and I had a Holy and Wonderful Closure of Forgiveness and Healing that God allowed us to experience after 30 years apart before he died. But, that story was never told in “HIS MOVIE.” Why ? Because, David told me, “I Don’t Believe in Fairy Tales or HAPPY ENDINGS!” “THIS IS MY MOVIE….. AND I WILL DO IT MY WAY ! We got into a huge fight and I walked out of his house. He really hurt me and never apologized … I also took a serious fall on his broken chair that crashed backwards and I hit my head and hurt myself seriously. I was in horrible pain the day he filmed me. For 2 years I had to use ice on my neck and head, everyday from the pain. He never paid a penny and refused to send me his insurance information. I’m not a fan of David and have no respect for what he did to me or to Larry. Larry warned me, “Pammie, don’t get involved with him. That guy is evil. David has only one plan… HE WANTS TO DESTROY HIS IDOL !!!!!!”
I just wanted to tell the TRUTH and SPEAK ABOUT “FORGIVENESS.” I will tell my story and the truth. God Bless.”
Larry Norman, who was very interested in literature, both studying it and creating it, produced three of his albums as parts of a trilogy; Only Visiting this Planet, So Long Ago the Garden, and In Another Land. Larry’s Trilogy was a masterful work, so profound that it inspired a doctoral dissertation, Rock for the Ages, A text in Context, Rhetorical Analysis of Larry Norman’s Trilogy.
During the Fallen Angel feeding frenzy the normally astute writer, Chris Willlman, Rock Critic from Entertainment Weekly, uttered the following.
For me, the first time I think I ever had questions about, “What’s he doing?,” or whatever, was when In Another Land came out, and it was like, “part 3 of a trilogy.” Okay, there’s this kind of self-mythologizing starting to happen, where it’s not okay to just put out three really great albums that are just great albums; they have to be, you know, “The Trilogy,” like Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, or something.
You know what, Mr. Willman? Larry Norman, in his genre, is analogous to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in theirs.
This is one of the most troubling articles for me to write because it involves Daniel Robinson’s agonizing desire to know whether or not Larry Norman is his father. In my attempt to find the truth in this paternity matter, I have spoken with the Normans (of course, having been a longtime friend of the family) and communicated through email with Daniel. Even knowing full well that I was the one shining the light on a number of false allegation made about Larry Norman, Daniel was remarkably cooperative with me. I tried to bring the families together to bring about a peaceful resolution, but was unsuccessful. In fact, I set up a Skype meeting between Charles and Daniel, Daniel showed up. So now I am simply going to present here the arguments and evidence of both sides and let the reader decide. Below are what I see to be the main arguments in this case.
Daniel’s mother Jennifer McCallum writes a public letter claiming that Larry Norman is her son, Daniel’s, father. (Letter: http://jennifermccallum.blogspot.com) Next is Charles Norman’s rebuttal. http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/730980.Then there is a video of both Daniel and his mother again claiming that Larry is his father. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRXP4pAwX-s)This is followed by Charles Norman’s attempt to refute these allegations in an interview in Cross Rhythms . Then Charles responds to Jennifer’s letter:
This is the issue at its core: Daniel Robinson wants to know for sure if Larry Norman is his father, as he believes and his mother claims . If you know of any other information that would be helpful in adding clarity to this matter, please submit it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the truth about whether or not Larry Norman is Daniel Robinson’s father, in my opinion, will not be resolved without a DNA test.
[This article first appeared under the title “In the Final Hours of Larry Norman” in Greater Than Magazine.]
First Baptist Church on Haight and Octavia in San Francisco 1952
Larry Norman stood up out of his seat and started for the altar. At the end of the row his father tried to stop him…
“Larry, where do you think you’re going?”
“To meet Jesus.”
“You’re five years old, now sit down.”
“Dad, I know what I’m doing.”
Salem, Oregon 2008
I got a phone message from Charles Norman, telling that if I wanted to see Larry before he left this world that I should come soon. I called back planning to tell him I would fly up from San Francisco the next weekend. Charles’ wife Kristin answered instead and said that I better come sooner. A few hours later I was on a flight to Oregon.
As I drove from the Portland airport to Salem, Oregon, I thought back to the time I had spent with Larry; the late night meals at all night restaurants where Larry spoke to complete strangers about the love of Jesus, the house church meetings in San Jose and Hollywood where he always seemed to be the one closest to the heart of Jesus.
There he was. Larry Norman in a black t-shirt, propped up in bed, his long hair gone. His arms and legs swollen and bandaged; he looked like a man whose organs were shutting down. But his eyes were the same. Bright with that only-visiting-this planet shine. Larry looked at me like I was the very person he had hoped most in the world to see. This is the way he looked at all the people in his circle of friends. When you were with Larry, you never saw him glancing at a clock or looking around for someone more interesting. I wanted more than anything to be that person Larry remembered me to be. I quickly repented of the complacent man I had become, but I only saw love in Larry’s eyes. Larry smiled at me and then apologized for how startling he must look.Then he asked me how I was doing. How I was doing. I muttered something. Larry then asked if I would read the Bible to him. I opened one of the Normans’ Bibles -it must have been 100 years old- and a couple of pages fell out and floated to the floor. I felt compelled to read from the Book of Revelation. Forgive me Jesus and John, but I left out all the beastly verses. Larry sighed and smiled when I read about the throne and the One on the Throne and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
There was definitely some otherworldly fearlessness about Larry Norman. A Christian who was not afraid of to use a medium created by blacks to wake up the white church to their sinful racist and hawkish ways, writing songs against the war in Vietnam and the KKK. Larry Norman. There he was praying without ceasing, He was laughing in his sleep. He was singing black gospel songs and Beatles songs. He was forgiving and grateful. He thanked me for every little thing. And when Kristin was in the middle of telling him that he was close to the end, he motioned her close and gently slipped a loose strand of her hair behind her ear. We read the middle of Matthew and the end of Revelation. We marveled at Joe Cocker in Across the Universe.
When we returned from the emergency room on the night Larry died, Larry said “can we pray before I go home?” And even though we were right in front of his house where he had not been for weeks, Charles and I knew what Larry meant. Charles asked him, “Do you mean your house here in Salem or your home in Heaven?” Larry said, “Both.” I honestly can’t remember a single word we prayed except that we all ended our prayers in Jesus’ Name. Charles, for the hundredth time, lifted Larry out of the van, and I moved the wheelchair into place. Charles, Kristin, Silver and Kristy, Nancy (and many others) had spent many days changing the whole layout of Larry’s place, so it would be wheelchair accessible. Longtime friend Rick van Dyne, who also worked tirelessly on the remodel, came out and helped us get Larry into the house. As we rolled him up to his door, Larry began praising God, – Jesus thank you for the sky and the stars and the moon and the little boy with the bubble on his head (a stone statue of a young boy holding a glass fish bowl on his head stood in the middle of the yard). Inside the house the carpet was gone and the new laminate wood floors were sparkling. As we navigated Larry toward his old room he said, “Everything is so beautiful”, and again I was wondering if he was seeing both worlds. We put him in his bed, and soon Larry was asleep. We all went to our rooms and fell asleep.
Around 3:00 AM Kristin knocked on my door. Flemming, wake up. Larry is dying. I rushed into Larry’s room where Charles and Kristin were holding Larry in their arms. “Larry, are you okay?” Charles said.
“I am perfect,” Larry replied and departed for another land.
Larry committed his life to following Jesus when he was young, like many of us do. Being in love with Jesus as a child is one thing. To keep your love for Jesus strong through all the years is another. This was the real thing. Not faith from a story in a book or rehearsed words from a pulpit or on a TV screen. Larry Normans faith stood tall in the face of certain death, before his mother, before his brother and sisters, before his friend of thirty years: a safe haven to share doubts or fears. No fear. No doubts. Faith alone. The same faith, the same truth, the same unabashed love for Jesus, that Larry had declared from the altar when he was five, then from the stage and on the streets, he declared from his death bed.
I met Larry Norman in the late 1970’s, and we continued to be friends for the rest of his life. I saw Larry Norman day after day after day in a hundred different situations. I knew him when he was broke and when he was stuffing hundred dollar bills into his visitors coats that were hanging in the closet, during the L.A. earthquake and the Rodney King riot. I was with him in Cedars Sinai Hospital after his first heart attack and in his home in Salem after his last. Larry Norman really was a true follower of Jesus. I can easily see why Frank Black said that Larry was “the most Christ-like person I ever met.” Larry Norman committed his life at five years of age and followed Jesus for the next 55 years, and in his final hours he had no concern about his own soul. For him the destiny of his soul was decided in 1952.
Larry knew he was in his final hours, And just like every other day of his life, what he wanted to talk about the most was Jesus and now the wonder of seeing his Lord face to face. When I stepped into his room three days before he died, Larry apologized to me for how difficult it must be for me to look at him. This was so typical of him, his concern for others. “Make sure the children I support through Compassion International continue to be supported, find Steve Scott and tell him this, or Mark Heard’s widow and give her that, some woman loaned me that scarf, please have it sent to her . . .” And his prayers were similar, focused on Jesus and others.
For me, a seminarian doctoral program dropout full of doubts, Larry Norman was a walking apologetic for the existence of God. For those of us who really knew him, what comes to mind first when we think about Larry Norman is and always will be his undying love for Jesus Christ.
ALLEN FLEMMING. FEB 24, 2010