Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Gene Scott Dies: Televangelism's Strangest Citizen

The wierdest and (to me) most entertaining televangelist of 'em all, Dr. Gene Scott, has died of a stroke at 75 years of age. He was into pyramidology, end times craziness, wearing multiple pairs of glasses (which he'd continually remove and replace, in various configurations, while talking), screaming at the FCC (his arch-nemesis), chomping oversized cigars and occasionally cursing on-air, and so on...

I have no idea what the guy actually believed or didn't believe, how much of what he said was "a gig" and how much was actually sincere. Whatever, Scott's version of televangelism was (as one other commentator said of him) like watching a train wreck; you just couldn't look away.

For instance, I once watched "Dr. Gene" in action raising funds. And that was always a treat. He began low-key enough -- for him -- by demanding people "Get on the phone!" But when it soon became apparent that not enough people were actually obeying this divinely-inspired directive, Scott grew increasingly impatient. Finally, he exploded. "I'm not getting the money you're supposed to be sending!" he thundered. "And until I do, this is all you're going to see!" And with that, the camera swung away from Scott's angry face to a blank studio wall... and stayed there.

My all-time favorite moment regarding Scott was sitting in apologist Robert and Gretchen Passantinos' living room and watching tape of his last broadcast before being (temporarily) shut down by the FCC. He had lined up around thirty to sixty wind-up monkeys of various sizes, shapes, and descriptions. Most of them were holding instruments, a few were instead gymnasts twirling on ladders or trees. He called them the "Bureaucratic Monkey Band," pointedly aimed at the FCC. And as the camera panned the band in action, getting close-ups of various monkeys doing their thing, Scott offered a ranting, rambling commentary that was alternately very funny and very twisted (the man seemed to me to have a case of megalomania).

And then, with little warning, Scott suddenly said, "Goodbye!" and the screen went to snow. He'd literally unplugged his cameras live.

Gene Scott's wierd mix of Americana, Christianity, semi-occult themes, and showmanship is unlikely to ever be seen again. And I suppose it shouldn't be, really. But I'll miss it, just a little bit.

A wag might say that someone with more authority unplugged the cameras this time.

1 comment:

Gretchen Passantino said...

How many times did Bob & I show that last hour of Gene Scott's own television station? VHS was in its infancy, and the tape is much corroded now, but there's till nothing to beat the American Religious Schtick that Gene Scott's final broadcast hour epitomized. His theology ranged from the heretical through the dubious and the speculative to the rock solid (he gave one of the best messages on the authenticity of Christ's bodily resurreciton I've ever heard). May God in His mercy judge Rev. Scott by his heart; we can only know him through his words.