Jeff Fenholt Biography
Jeffrey Craig Fenholt (born 1951) is a singer noted for his performance as the title character in the Broadway theatre adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar. In later years, he would gain notoriety as a born-again Christian evangelist and singer, as well as controversy over his claimed involvement with the heavy metal band Black Sabbath.
Fenholt grew up in Ohio, and by his own admission was a troubled youth with a substantial juvenile criminal record. Turning to rock music as an outlet, he was involved with a number of rock bands, including "Fifth Order", which had a couple of regional hit singles.
Fenholt's 1994 autobiography From Darkness To Light makes substantial allegations of abuse and mistreatment at the hands of his parents Janet and Robert Fenholt, including claims that he was subjected to frequent beatings at the hands of his parents. Jeff's siblings concur that the allegations made against their parents were invented by Jeff to further his career as an evangelist. In 1996, Jeff's parents sued him, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and the publisher of his autobiography for defamation of character. The lawsuit was subsequently dropped, and Fenholt later claimed that he now has a "warm relationship" with his mother.
Fenholt's autobiography claims that he was heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs following the end of Jesus Christ Superstar's run on Broadway. Fenholt's often-repeated testimony (later published in his autobiography) details a visit from Christian construction workers (hired by his Christian wife to rebuild a wing of his house) who confronted him regarding his portrayal of Christ on stage. Fenholt was converted, beat his addictions, then spent the next several years struggling to balance his faith and his career, before becoming a high-profile personality on programming aired by TBN. His Broadway and rock music background were used to sell him as an evangelist. Fenholt also sported long hair, an unusual style in conservative evangelical circles. Fenholt would often appear with his wife Maureen (nicknamed "Reeni").
Fenholt built his career as a TBN personality based mostly upon his involvement with Jesus Christ Superstar, and claims of having been a member of Black Sabbath. In the publication 'Never Say Die', Jeff Fenholt very clearly states that Black Sabbath manager Don Arden informed him he was singing for Black Sabbath.
There is a misconception that Fenholt only auditioned for the band. The 'Never Say Die' book refutes these claims, pointing out that a substantial number of recordings were made during this period. It is acknowledged that this was a confusing time in the band history as singer David Donato had left the band after six months only having recorded demos. Geezer Butler and Bill Ward had also left, leaving Tony Iommi to go it alone.
Manager Don Arden suggested Iommi use Jeff Fenholt and tracks were written, in the main by Iommi and Nicholls, for a proposed new album. This has always been maintained to have been an intended Tony Iommi solo album. The book Never Say Die voices opinion from other band members that Fenholt might have been kept in the dark about this. Geoff Nicholls says Iommi wanted to use different singers, including David Coverdale, Steve Marriott, Glenn Hughes and Rob Halford. Fenholt then left to join Driver, a band with Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Craig Goldy.
Only after being heavily pressured by Warner Bros. Records and Don Arden did Iommi decide to release the album bearing the Sabbath name, as Seventh Star (released in March 1986) was credited to "Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi".
Fenholt says several of his melodies were used in songs that appeared on Seventh Star (and subsequently did not receive credit for them). None of his lyrics were used, as confirmed by comparing the Fenholt demos with the album. Rumors suggesting he only left the project because of supposed personal conflicts with the lyrical material being written and his religious faith are denied by Fenholt and Geoff Nicholls, who wrote the lyrics. Other rumours say he was fired because of his inability to come up with any suitable lyrics at all. Fenholt claims it was in fact a physical argument with Don Arden that caused his departure.
For the record, Iommi (who owns the rights to the name "Black Sabbath") has been mostly quiet on the subject of Fenholt. Fenholt's claimed membership in Black Sabbath is also absent from his official biography.
In 1993 Fenholt announced on the televangelist program The 700 Club that he planned to invade Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin and force a confrontation with Wiccan priestess Selena Fox. Having advance notification of his arrival, Rev. Fox got a restraining order from the local county court prohibiting not only his trespass onto private property but actually specifying that he stay a particular distance from the property line.
With his announced confrontation not having occurred, Fenholt left the area, later characterizing the prevention of his trespass as a denial of his free speech rights to gain sympathy in his fundraising solicitations and televangelical appearances.
In 1995-1996 Jeff was involved in the National Religious and Political movement called Washington for Jesus as the National Youth Coordinator. Washington for Jesus drew over four hundred thousand young people to Washington DC on April 30th, 2006 and was influential in the revitalization of the religious right in America. He made several appearances on TBN and the 700 club leading up to the event to promote it.
Fenholt disappeared from TBN programming shortly after an article published in the December 1997 issue of Vanity Fair detailed his past as a "boy toy" for Gala Dali, wife of Salvador DalÃƒÂ. Gala was known for her numerous affairs and affections for young artists during the later years of her life.
For the next several years, Fenholt would be largely persona non grata from TBN, except for a few brief appearances, including one after the events of September 11, 2001 that featured a marked change in his demeanor and appearance, including short collar-length hair and a quick exit from the stage following his performance. He was also briefly given a late-night timeslot for a half-hour program.
Fenholt returned to TBN on March 3, 2004 as a guest on the Behind the Scenes program, hosted by Paul Crouch. Fenholt once again claimed to have been a member of Black Sabbath, citing a recent publication on the history of the band, 'Never Say Die' by Garry Sharpe-Young, that had interviewed then band members and Jeff Fenholt about his involvement with the early Seventh Star sessions in detail.