Entertainment pioneer Leon Isaac Kennedy is returning to the limelight after decades as an evangelist. Kennedy burst onto the scene as an impetuous teenaged disc jockey in his native Cleveland. In the early 1960s, he became a sensation over the airway, first on Cleveland’s WABQ and WJMO, respectively, and then in Detroit as “Leon the Lover.”
Replicating his success in Washington, D.C., and then in Houston, Texas, he returned to Cleveland, where he met and married the former Jayne Harrison (today she is best known as the first Black woman to grace the cover of Playboy Magazine, and the host of “The NFL Today” on CBS), who’d recently been crowned Miss. Ohio, USA. Shortly after, they moved west to conquer the fabled kingdom of Hollywood.
Unlike most newly arrivals, the newly weds had cache in spite of not knowing anyone in the show biz hierarchy. Using his skills as a D.J. to provide cash flow, Kennedy embarked on a new venture as a nightclub impresario, first with “Disco 1985” at Vine and Santa Monica, and then at the “Candy Store” on Sunset and Sunset Plaza Drive.
Anyone in the fast track of Black Los Angeles eventually crossed the threshold of these clubs, including an aspiring UCLA filmmaker named Jamaa Fanaka. Together, Fanaka and Kennedy directed and starred in “Penitentiary,” a highly profitable prison yarn that put them on the map. In spite of this success, no job overtures were made for the talented duo.
Agents and management explained the cold shoulder given to him with the simple observation that “…they don’t know what to do with you.”
As a man of color he did not fit into the cookie-cutter format of the show biz marketing apparatus. Instead of letting the discouragement overwhelm him, he decided to create his own opportunities by crafting vehicles for his own success, a business model he follows to this day.
“Without knowing it, I was doing things that I later taught,” he says in a reference to his later ministry.
In short order, he jumped into the fray as a writer and producer with “Body and Soul (1981), and “Knights of the City (1986).”
By the 1990s, Leon Isaac Kennedy had disappeared. The reason for his absence was simple; he had an overwhelming desire to go to heaven.
Looking back, he was as surprised as anyone.
Over the next 20 years he strove for the betterment of mankind with the same zeal he’d applied in his entertainment career, directing his ministry from Burbank, Calif. As he plots his return to show biz, he again crafts his own productions instead of waiting for the fates of fortune while sharing his wealth of experience with up and talents.
In the works are a action film slated for 2019, the Christmas movie “Heavenly Stars,” and “Azusa Street Revival” a musical commemorating the 1906 spiritual event with Motown icon Mickey Stevenson.