Steve Drain was Fred Phelps’s closest disciple inside the anti-gay hate group The Westboro Baptist. According to the Daily Beast, he is the Westboro Baptist Church’s future.
I have met Steve Drain. I spent several days with the Phelps family in Topeka, Kansas, writing about them for my book, The American Dream. Though he isn’t related to the Phelps family, Drain is a hundred times more insane. Here’s what happened when I spent a really uncomfortable van ride with him and Fred Phelps’s son as they dropped members of their church (including Steve Drain’s daughter) off at the airport so they could picket a funeral in Cincinnati. This is what makes him tick:
“Those kids don’t have boring lives,” Steve Drain laughs, unfazed that his high school-age daughter will soon be facing hordes of angry bikers at the soldier’s funeral. “They don’t need summer camp!”
Meanwhile, Shirley’s brother Tim, who works for the Kansas Department of Corrections, drives in silence.
“I came out of curiosity. It turned into something more significant,” Steve explains about his first visit to Topeka in 2001 to film a documentary that focused on people’s ignorance of their own religion. Steve had a spiritual awaking. So impacted was he by meeting Fred Phelps, not only did Steve change the focus of his film, but also moved his entire family from Florida to live across the street from the Phelps compound. Steve then made his family join the Westboro Baptist Church — one of the rare few members not related to the Phelps family.
“Fred Phelps told me if I made Westboro Baptist Church look like buffoons, my film career would be over.” Unlike other documentaries that mock Phelps, Steve had a different vision: “You can’t make him look like a fool! You can’t make God’s servant look like a fool!” Originally, Steve had eighteen people helping with his documentary. As the film’s focus become clear, his crew ran for the hills. “When it came time to edit, I was on my own.” Steve recalls.
Once completed, the documentary didn’t get the warm reception he expected. It was banned in Canada. It was banned in Sweden. It violated both countries’ hate crime laws.
“I sent a copy to a childhood friend, and I never heard from him ever again.”
Same cold reaction from the Telluride Film Festival. Prior to his “awakening,” he worked on the festival crew, where he was known by his nickname, Draino. “Telluride takes care of their own. It’s a no-brainer for the crew to get projects into the festival. I submitted the film. Bam! Radio silence.” Other festivals had similar reaction. So did PBS. Easy explanation: “Gramps said, the whole entertainment industry and media are slaves to the fag agenda.” (Funny, I thought it was the evil Jews.) “If you question that lifestyle, you’re done!”
Draino’s film projects now center on Fred Phelps’s love crusades, primarily the Sign of the Times website. “It made jurors cry at the trial they were so angry,” he boasts.
The site contains feel-good video testimonials that ridicule the hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard, dead soldiers, victims of hurricane Katrina, and much, much more!
Clearly, Draino has lost the fucking plot.
As we pass Famous Dave’s Rib House he solemnly confesses, “The Lord has been kind and merciful in the long history of my folly. I’m ashamed of the sins I committed in the past. I’m not proud of it.” Draino’s American Dream defined: “To live in the reverent fear of God is a gift from God.”
Tim mocks with a laugh. “My American Dream is a nice house, white picket fence, golf pants . . .”
“I’m living one of the most fortunate lives in the history of man–completely by lottery. I didn’t even earn it,” Draino continues, looking damaged by deep, hidden secrets. “Any hobo can preach, “Do not steal!” We’re preaching the unvarnished word of God, cover to cover!”
My stomach begins to ache. I hope they don’t bury me in a shallow grave out by the shed because that’s how they interpret God’s word.
“Look at how small our group is. They’re mad at the word of God! They’re mad at the Bible!”
Like a biblical comedy team, Tim and Draino set each other up for Bible verses, occasionally finishing the other’s quote.
Tim’s floodgates have opened: “We’re at that time. How much further will we go before that switch is triggered?” With disgust: “I got some global warming for ya! You can say it’s a fairy tale or holy shit. It’s just a chair shift on the deck of the Titanic.” Clearly worked up: “The economy is collapsing, but the bars are filled with forceful people full of lust chasing each other!”
Am I soon going to receive Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box? ‘Cuz Tim is starting to sound a lot like Kevin Spacey in Seven. As we careen by farmland, Draino rants like a white-knuckled alcoholic telling of the evils of drink: “There’s a moral decay! It’s like a body so rotten, you push into and guts fall out–that’s our nation.” From the front seat he mimes pushing his finger into a rotted body.
Man! Are we there yet? Are they pissed off at fornicators ‘cuz they’re not getting any!? Is this part of the indoctrination? I need air . . . or heroin. Why is it that those who scream, “Sinner!” are, almost always, the people concealing the deepest, darkest sins?
The topic then changes to “fat chicks.”
“Some fat chick came into the jail, and she had a whole bag of drugs and five hundred dollars.”
“Did she have a Michelin flap?” Draino crudely snorts.
“That’s not where she was carrying it!”