Versus the competiton:
Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter, famously known as “Rev. Ike,” was anathema in our staunchly Roman Catholic New Orleans home.
To my parents, Daniel and Lillian Brown, he was a child of blasphemy, an enemy of all things good and true in the Catholic Church.
Nothing would peeve them more than to discover one of us Brown children secretly listening to a Rev. Ike broadcast on a transistor radio beneath our bed covers. In what appeared to be a swift, single motion, the covers would be yanked, the radio confiscated and turned off, and a slap administered to the buttocks.
“You will not listen to that trash!” my Dad shouted.
But I listened anyway. How could I not? Rev. Ike, who died July 28 in Los Angeles, was a black man who preached the “gospel of success and prosperity” and bragged that he had so many cars, BMW and Rolls-Royce models among them, “my garage runneth over.”
The dude, God rest his soul, was totally cool to a car nut like me.
I remembered Rev. Ike last week while tooling about in a platinum bronze metallic 2009 BMW 328i convertible.
The good reverend would’ve liked that one with its hard-top, one-touch, power retractable roof and an interior done in saddle-brown and black Dakota leather with burl walnut accents. The car had the right amount of show — good enough to attract attention and inspire emulation without igniting the destructive fires of jealously.
It mattered not to me that Rev. Ike was a despicable con artist, as my parents claimed, or a saint, as many of his followers believed. I always thought the man preached common sense — that there is, for example, a dramatic difference between showing up in Bethlehem on the back of a donkey or behind the wheel of a BMW, Cadillac or Rolls-Royce.
Rev. Ike said that arriving in something like a BMW would have made a better impression. And although I have no comparable experience with four-legged donkeys, I agree.
Consider, for example, my test-driving experiences of past weeks. Preceding the BMW 328i convertible were a series of economy cars — Hyundai Elantra Touring, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa — all wonderfully noble in their frugality and humility, but not a single one of which inspired public notice or comment, good or bad.
Driving those cars was the motorized equivalent of being a character in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” People noticed you only if you got in their way. Those cars were very un-Ike-like.
Rev. Ike said preachers can’t preach unless they first get attention. In that regard, he was short on miracles but long on cars. Everybody looked whenever Rev. Ike rolled up in one of his fancy rides. A lot of those people stayed around to listen, too.
Likewise was my experience in the BMW 328i convertible. When I told people I got good mileage in a Toyota Yaris, they all yawned. But when I told them I got 27 miles per gallon on the highway in the rear-wheel-drive, inline six-cylinder 230-horsepower 328i convertible, they applauded! And, lo! It mattered not that the thing required premium unleaded gasoline.
Instead, numerous spectators marveled over the ballet-like performance of the 328i convertible’s automatically retractable hard top, urging me, “Do it again!” As Rev. Ike would say, they yearned for more “like manna from heaven.”
I will miss Rev. Ike, as I miss my parents. Here’s hoping that he and they find a quiet place to sit and talk in the afterlife and that, maybe, my Dad will learn that Rev. Ike wasn’t such an awful influence on a boy who loved cars.