'Butt naked and demanded cigarettes'

A few years ago, about 2,500 of my closest friends and I packed into a megachurch auditorium in the Oklahoma City area to hear Randy Travis sing.

The Nashville superstar entertained us with his all-time country hits such as "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Diggin Up Bones" as well as the gospel tunes that won Travis a string of Dove Awards. His "Baptism" duet with Kenny Chesney remains one of my personal favorites.

At the concert, Travis talked freely about his faith in Jesus Christ and shared an easy rapport with the predominantly evangelical audience.

That Travis is a far cry from the one who this week turned up "butt naked and demanded cigarettes," as a Texas television station described it. Here is how my former Associated Press colleague Diana Heidgerd in Dallas characterized the singer's brush with the law (at least his second arrest this year):

Country singer Randy Travis was charged with driving while intoxicated and threatening law officers after he crashed his Pontiac Trans Am and was found naked and combative at the scene, Texas officials said.

The accident was reported Tuesday night, and Travis walked out of jail Wednesday morning wearing scrubs, no shoes and a University of Texas baseball cap. It was the second Texas arrest this year for Travis, who was cited in February for public intoxication.

A Pontiac Trans Am registered to the 53-year-old singer had veered off a roadway near Tioga, a town about 60 miles north of Dallas where the entertainer lives, and struck several barricades in a construction zone, said Tom Vinger, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Vinger said Travis made threats against DPS troopers and was not wearing clothes at the time of his arrest. The singer refused sobriety tests so a blood specimen was taken, he said.

(Are we certain Travis wasn't filming a video for a new country song?)

For all the humor that Travis' real-life human tragedy has inspired, I can't help but wonder about the path that one takes from the top of the music world (and presumably from a place of strong Christian faith) to hit rock bottom like he seemingly has. From a faith standpoint, I am curious if he has — or had — a church family and where they are amid this downfall. Has Travis renounced his faith? Or is he a struggling sinner? (And we may never know the true story.)

While checking out what major news sites were writing about Mitt Romney's running mate pick Paul Ryan, I came across an unrelated CNN.com headline that asked:

Can country singer Randy Travis get past his rough patch?

The CNN story noted:

Travis, of course, isn't the first country star to run into problems.

Hank Williams and George Jones were known for their tumultuous lifestyles and drinking. Jones even earned the moniker "No Show Jones" because he missed so many performances.

"The difference is George Jones had his clothes on," said country radio consultant Joel Raab.

And it's certainly not the first time a celebrity from any genre has found himself in the middle of a personal and public relations challenge. R&B star Chris Brown worked his way back up the charts after he was convicted three years ago of assaulting ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen is back on television after a very public firing and meltdown.

Interesting analysis. But I kept reading and hoping that CNN would address the elephant — er, ghost — in the room.

This is about as close as the story comes:

Travis' last major hit came in 2002 with "Three Wooden Crosses," a song about faith and redemption.

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,

Why there's not four of them, Heaven only knows.

I guess it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you,

It's what you leave behind you when you go.

Travis "was able to tell it with sincerity and it was a hit," Jessen said.

I realize that it's not exactly breaking news when a celebrity gets drunk and does something stupid. But in the case of Travis, I'd love to see someone in the mainstream media take a real crack at the religion angle.

Perhaps "It's Just A Matter of Time."

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