Robert Downey Sr. set Greaser’s Palace in 1837 in the Old West, where the wicked and permanently constipated Seaweedhead Greaser (Albert Henderson) not only owns the money but all of the people around him.
He rules from his saloon (“The Palace”), and those who disobey him are shot or put in prison. Even his naughty son, Lamy “Homo” Greaser (Michael Sullivan), is killed for being undutiful.
But a stranger drops in from Heaven via parachute with a zoot suit, lavender pink hat and Seventh Avenue strut.
He places his hands on the expiring Lamy. murmuring, “If ya feel, ya heal,” and Lamy lives again, joyfully spreading the tidings of this mysterious zoot suiter, who explains he is on his way to Jerusalem to become an actor-singer-dancer.
Zoot Suiter – whose name is Jessy – brings Lamy back to life numerous times as his father keeps killing him.
As the Western Babylonians stare slack-jawed, Jessy cakewalks upon the waters to a celestial ragtime band and one and all – the Indians, a priest, even a nun in drag – are transfigured. A hoary old timer tosses away his crutches and exults, “I can crawl again”.
The Holy Ghost (a man in a white sheet) crops up now and again, complaining that “nobody knows my name and nobody cares either.”
And so on to the cross, though zoot-suited Jessy has begun to enjoy some of the joys of this world and has misgivings, but the script is written and what can he do?
Though some things work and some things do not, on the whole Downey’s Journey to Jerusalem was one of the more amusing trips you could take in the summer of 1972.
Allan Arbus is a fine saviour, a white straight out of Lenox Avenue in the 1930s; and Albert Henderson as Greaser, Luana Anders as his daughter, Cholera, Michael Sullivan, Elsie Downey and Alex Hatch all have their moments. Dancer and singer Toni Basil turns up as a topless Native American.
Greaser’s Palace was shot in Santa Fe for a little over $1 million.
Lamy ‘Homo’ Greaser
Holy Ghost/Card man
John Paul Hudson
Jackson S. Haynes
Robert Downey Sr.