The Unofficial Comprehensive Dr. Gene Scott Master Tape Database & List Of Lists
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Wescott Christian Center (WCC) - Official Creed
  THE BIBLE is the Word of God, our rule of faith & practice.
  GOD is revealed in 3 persons, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
  MAN is a sinner by nature, until he is born again by the work of the Holy Spirit.
  JESUS CHRIST, born of the Virgin Mary, is the Son of God, Savior from sin.
  SALVATION is offered to mankind through repentance & faith in Jesus Christ.
  WATER BAPTISM by immersion is an outward sign of the work of God's Grace within.
  THE HOLY SPIRIT was sent by Jesus to bring man conviction of his need of salvation.  Jesus also promised that believers may be baptized in the Spirit.
  JESUS CHRIST is the Healer of our bodies, through faith.
  THE LORD JESUS promised He would return to earth, & there are many signs that His coming will be soon.  Till then Christians should live a holy & dedicated life.
Claire Grace's Prophecy to Doc Melodyland, Anaheim, CA  (c1970)
  1--WCC would get out of it's present problem
  2--Doc's ministry would settle in 1 location
  3--Doc's teaching would be used as a compass point around the world as the Antichrist's message would lead people astray
  4--Miraculous healings would be added to Doc's teaching ministry to counterbalance the phony "Healing Evangelists"
  5--A note of joy would enter Doc's ministry
Date Event
02/23/1906 William Theodore [W T] ("Ted" or "Pop") Scott is born in Stone County, MO []
03/12/1911 Inez Leona Graves ("Mom" Scott) is born in Stone County, MO []
04/04/1915 Hope Street Church (HSC) opening day []
12/31/1928 Mom & Pop Scott are Married []
08/14/1929 Doc is born (William Eugene Scott) in Buhl, Idaho []
02/17/1935 First "Jesus Saves" neon sign is erected on Hope Street Church (HSC) []
xx/xx/1935 Mom gives birth to twins--baby girl dies in a few hours
xx/xx/1935 Baby boy dies a month later--Mom's vision
  Move to Gridley, CA []
xx/xx/1935 Doc's family moves to Oroville, CA
xx/xx/1936 Pop healed from coma of Rheumatic Fever, has vision
        Pop heads an Assemblies of God church
xx/xx/1938 Second "Jesus Saves" neon sign is erected on Hope Street Church (HSC)
xx/xx/1947 Doc plays basketball at Oroville Union High School
        Doc works as an ice-truck driver
        Doc becomes an ordained minister
07/xx/1947 Faith Center is founded in Glendale, CA by Raymond Schoch
xx/xx/1948 Doc is ill (Mumps), has vision, becomes sterile [Mumps at age 19 - "God's Angry Man"]
xx/xx/1948 Doc enters Chico State University
06/xx/1949 Doc works as a state inspector (bureaucrat) at a peach cannery
08/xx/1949 Doc marries Betty Ann Frazer (wife #1)
xx/xx/1952 Doc graduates Chico State (BA - Major: History) []
11/13/1956 KHOF-FM 99.5 Los Angeles begins broadcasting []
04/xx/1957 Doc completes thesis on Reinhold Niebuhr
xx/xx/1957 Doc receives Ph.D. from Stanford University []
        Doc teaches at Evangel College (now Evangel University), Springfield, MO
        Doc attends Glad Tidings Bible Institute in San Francisco, CA
        Doc begins missionary work for 15 years
xx/xx/1963 Doc helps Oral Roberts raise funds for Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK
xx/xx/1964 Doc returns to Oroville and founds Wescott Christian Center (WCC) [IRS records show founded 1964]
xx/xx/1965 Faith Center moves to new Glendale Ave building
10/12/1969 KHOF-TV 30 Los Angeles begins broadcasting
        Doc begins work for Assemblies of God
xx/xx/1970 Doc resigns from Assemblies of God
xx/xx/1970 Doc buys Sunset Mausoleum in Berkeley, CA
        Doc organizes GS Travel Inc. travel agency
        Wescott Christian Center (WCC) purchases Dolores Press Inc.
08/04/1974 KVOF-TV 38 begins broadcasting in San Francisco, CA
06/xx/1972 Doc divorces wife #1 (Betty An Frazier) after 23 years (married in summer 1949) [!topic/]
        Claire Grace prophesies to Doc at Melodyland
02/16/1972 Faith Center (FC) acquires WHCT-TV in Hartford, CT
11/xx/1975 Doc preaches as a guest at Faith Center (FC)
xx/xx/1975 Doc's 16 conditional terms are unanimously accepted by 105 members of Faith Center (FC)
11/01/1975 Doc begins pastorate at Faith Center (FC)
  Fountain of Faith completed
        Faith Center acquires Cathedral Chapel, Sunset Mausoleum
        Wescott Christian Center (WCC) acquires Reborn Foundation in San Paulo, Brazil
        Doc fires Jim Bakker
xx/xx/1976 Doc fires Schoch and other Faith Center board members
10/01/1975 Doc is president of Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches (Oct 1975-July 1984) []
xx/xx/1976 Festival Of Faith program Begins
xx/xx/1976 Los Angeles County Tax Assessor attempts to seize control of Faith Center (FC)
xx/xx/1977 King's House Numbers (KH-#) Instituted
xx/xx/1977 FCC battle begins by former board member charges
xx/xx/1977 CA Attorney General files lawsuit against Faith Center (FC)
xx/xx/1977 Faith Center files $777,777,777.77 civil-rights violation lawsuit against Deputy Attorney General William Abbey
xx/xx/1978 CA Attorney General drops lawsuit against Faith Center (FC)
xx/xx/1978 Faith Center drops lawsuit against Abbey
xx/xx/1979 Werner Hertzog Films "God's Angry Man", released in 1981
07/20/1980 Richard Pryor Burn Telethon [,2468741]
08/26/1980 Doc is instrumental in passing CA Petris Bill (SB1493)  []
xx/xx/1980 Phone lines are increased from 15 to 30
xx/xx/1980 FCC denies KHOF-TV (channel 30) license renewal
10/04/1981 Doc's final Living Faith service
xx/xx/1983 Phone lines are increased from 30 to 300
        Doc marries Christine E. Shaw (wife #2)
05/23/1983 Doc goes off TV channel 30 (KHOF) in Los Angeles, CA (Midnight)
07/04/1983 Doc goes on satellite - Westar 5 11/1/83 - Faith Broadcast Network (FBN) becomes University Network (UN) [The UN-Channel)
xx/xx/1983 Seating capacity in KH1 is increased
xx/xx/1983 Phone lines are increased from 100 to 300
xx/xx/1983 King's Dish Numbers (KD-#) Instituted
  Doc-Star 1 (Lear Jet) & Doc-Star 2 (DC-3) & 55 purchased
09/01/1983 Festival of Faith program renamed "The Dr. is In"
xx/xx/1984 Doc's Pad (Secret 1, 2 Oak Knoll Ter, Pasadena, CA 91106) secured by $60k non-refundable down-payment outside of escrow
01/20/1984 Doc returns to TV channel 30 (KAGL) in Los Angeles, CA
  Doc returns to channel. 30 1-20-84 or 1-20-85
12/07/1984 Faith Center sells WHCT TV station in Hartford, CT for $3,100,000
11/04/1984 Anniversary SS at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA
12/30/1984 Secret-1 banquet at Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles
05/30/1985 Secret-1 (Doc's Pad, 2 Oak Knoll Ter, Pasadena, CA 91106) closed escrow for $2M
09/07/1985 Sabbath Service in San Francisco, CA
09/18/1985 King's Tithers Numbers (KT-#) Instituted
xx/xx/1985 Doc goes off TV channel 38 in San Francisco, CA
xx/xx/1985 Doc goes off 99.5 FM radio in Los Angeles, CA
12/xx/1985 Secret-2 is announced
xx/xx/1986 Doc begins to sell paintings
xx/xx/1986 Doc buys Silver Oaks Ranch (SOR) in Bradbury, CA as a tax-shelter from painting sales
07/06/1986 First Sunday Service at Hope Street Church (HSC)
xx/xx/1986 Doc declares, but doesn't reveal Secret-3
xx/xx/1986 Secret-4 is announced
01/09/1987 Save the Books Telethon (thru 01-11-87)  []
02/22/1987 Hope Street Church (HSC) gets Historical Designation
03/22/1987 Doc invites news media to film offering during final SS at Hope Street Church (HSC)
        Phillipian Band Numbers (PB-#) Instituted
        Doc institutes second Sunday Service offering
01/01/1988 Hope Street Church (HSC) is destroyed []
  Doc buys Highpoint Farms in Springfield, Kentucky
xx/xx/1989 Rose Bowl Aquatics Center - Doc donates $430,000 (Groundbreaking 06/23/1988)
04/15/1990 First Sunday Service at Los Angeles University Cathedral (LAUC)
08/30/1990 Pop Scott dies  []
12/xx/1990 Secret-5 is announced
11/07/1991 Rembrandt Stolen From LA University Cathedral (LAUC)
11/xx/1991 Secret-6 is announced
02/27/1992 Rembrandt Stolen From LA University Cathedral (LAUC) is recovered
        Secret-7 is announced
        Doc institutes Pass-System for entrance to Sunday Service
xx/xx/1993 Doc's broadcast covers the globe thru Shortwave
        World Band Numbers (WB-#) Instituted
        Doc dons clerical collar & black minister's attire
xx/xx/1995 Doc divorces wife #2 after 15 years
  Doc marries wife #3 (Melissa)
04/21/1996 Doc's 1000th Sunday Service (VF-1000)
        Secret-8 is announced
        Secret-9 is announced
        Secret-10 is announced
        Secret-11 is announced
        Secret-12 is announced
        Secret-13 is announced
        Secret-14 is announced
04/xx/1999 Mom Scott dies (Memorial Service 04/11/1999)
03/24/2002 Secret-15 is announced
02/21/2005 4:30 PM PST - Doc Passes Away
People - Associations
Associate Clergy
     Jim Elliott - Music minister, Associate pastor until about 1980
     Dan Chan - Associate pastor until about 1980
     Jack Chinn - WCC missionary work director & Oroville church pastor
     Joe Shackelford - Chief Engineer & KHOF-FM Operations Manager
     Peter Wrate - Sound engineer for many years, occasional singer
     Christine Shaw  - TV producer for many years, Doc's personal secretary, limo-driver, staff recruiter, Wife #2 [1982-1985]
     Mick - TV producer, cameraman
     Brad - Cameraman, Limo-driver
     Gary - Assistant (c1978)
     Ron Kelly - KHOF Station Manger
     Larry - Sound KH-1 (1977)
     Larry Dudley - KHOF-FM General Manager
     Douglas Cramer - KHOF-FM News Director
     Mike Wakeman - Security, Cameraman, Limo-driver
     Joe Cortes - Staff, Assistant to the President [VF-189]
     Jim Castillo - Security [VF-189]
     Keith - Security (African American) [VF-189]
     Marc Travis  - General staff
     Ben Rodriguez - Chief usher for many years, Board Member (Mike's father)
     Mike Rodriguez - General staff (Ben's son)
     Melana James - Secretary, VOF telephone coordinator
     Dr. Craig Lampe - Marketing consultant, Doc-Letter writer
     Tom Bradley
     Peter Esser
     Bruce Henderson
     Edward (Ed) L. Masry
     Spanish - Dan Summers
     French - Dan Summers
     German - Dan Summers
     Portuguese - Jack Chinn
     Portuguese - Unknown female
     Japanese - Unknown female
     Dutch - Unknown male
Horse Trainers
     Silver Oaks Ranch
          Linda Bivins
          Jose Lopez
          Liz Martin
          Mike Martin
     Highpoint Farm
          Joe Smith
          Roy Tuttle
          Lupe Valencia
          Larry Hodge
          Patty Milligan
          Tom Moore
          Bill Robinson
Political Allies
     Richard Alatorre (LA City Councilman)
     Willie Brown (SF Mayor)
     Gilbert Lindsay (deceased LA City Councilman)
     Bill Paparian (Pasadena Mayor)
     Joel Wachs (LA City Councilman)
     Nate Holden (LA City Councilman)
     Lodwrick Cook (Former CEO for ARCO, Doc's friend)
     Richard Murrion (Pastor & Friend)
Evolution of the UN-band
The original "Festival Singers" (c1977-82):
Jake Hess (vocals)
Chris Hess (vocals)
Terry Ogle (piano)
Ron Spann (organ)
Somewhere around 1982-83 Terry, Jake, and Chris all left the group The UN-Band was started around this time:
Ron Spann (vocals, piano & organ)
Sammy Lee (organ & piano, occasional vocals)
Dan Davidson (rhythm & lead guitars)
Leigh Copeland (bass guitar)
John Jordan (occasional vocals - chews gum while singing)
Grant Whitman/Chris Arnold (drums)
[2 Unknown ushers - sang with Peter on "Praisin' the Lord-Damnin' the Devil" & "Same Time--Same Place"]
Later Changes
Ron left in late '84--early '85
Grant left in 1984 then Chris left and was replaced by Jim on drums in Sept. '85
Sammy left in late '85 and was replaced by Jim
Ron returned in early '86 & Jim returned to drums & vocals
Tom joins in '86 on lead & steel guitars
John is excommunicated by Doc in Aug. '86
Ed Wheeler occasionally fills in for Leigh
John is invited back by Doc in '87
Ron left in Aug. '87 & Jim returned to piano
[Unknown keyboardist who joined in '87-'88]
Jim left in '88 or '89
Joe Shackelford plays organ in '88 or '89
[Unknown lead guitarist who joined in '91 or '92]
Jake returns in '92 or '93
Ed replaces Leigh in '93 or '94
Jake quits in '93 or '94 & John becomes permanent vocalist
Toni joins on occasional vocals in '93 or '94
Kimberly joins on occasional vocals in Jan '96
Other Celebrities Mentioned By Doc
Glen Campbell - Country & Western singer/songwriter - "Rhinestone Cowboy"
Lynda Carter - Actress - "Wonder Woman"
Zsa-Zsa Gabor - Actress
Merle Haggard - Country & Western singer/songwriter - "Okie from Muskogee"
Jesse Jackson - Minister, Black Rights Activist - "Rainbow Coalition"
Henry Kissinger - Former USA Secretary of State - "Nixon Presidency"
Wes Parker - Professional Baseball Player, Sports Commentator - "LA Dodgers" 
Smokie Robinson - Singer - "Tears Of A Clown"
William Shatner - Actor - "Star Trek"
Acronyms & Abbreviations
A&H Aaron & Hur - Supporters of Doc (similar to the way Aaron & Hur supported Moses' arms during a battle)
ALR-# Annual List Resurrection (number) - Designation for Annual List of Resurrection teaching tapes
AM 530-1620 kHz radio channel
BSG the Belles of Saint Gene - Female Equestrian Team
C-# Communion (number) - Tape number designation for TTL teaching derived from an S-#
CA California
CIS Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union)
CSL-# C.S. Lewis (number) - Designation for C.S. Lewis topical teaching tapes
CT Connecticut
CT-# Cassette Tape (number) - Tape number designation for early Wescott teaching tapes
DBIJ Difference Between Israel / Judah - Frequent teaching topic
DN-# Doc Notes (number) - Designation for Doc Notes derived from teaching tapes
DP Dolores Press - Publisher
DPI Dolores Press, Inc. - Publisher
FBN Faith Broadcast Network
FC Faith Center - Original location for Sunday Service (1615 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale, CA 91205)
FCC Federal Communications Commission
FF Furious Fund
FFs FirstFruits
FM 87.7-107.9 MHz radio channel
GEL Gimlet-Eyed Lobster - Cartoon that depicts lazy onlookers
GS Gene Scott
H-# Shalom Service (number) - Designation for Shalom Service topical teaching tapes
HSC Hope Street Church - Former location for Sunday Services (7/6/86-3/22/87) (550 So. Hope St. LA 90071  - Now demolished)
IRS Internal Revenue Service
KD-# King's Dish (number) - Designation of a KH-# watching via satellite
KH-# King's House (number) - Supporting location of Doc's ministry
KH1 King's House One - Original Location for Sunday Services (1615 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale, CA 91205)
KH1A King's House One/A - Any location other than KH1 where  Doc has held an SS such as The Beverly Theatre, The Shrine Auditorium, Melodyland, etc.
KH2 King's House Two - TV studio where Doc taught from throughout the week (730 East Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205)
KHOF King's House Of Faith - Designation for certain teaching tapes
KHOF King's House On the Frontier- - A KH-# living in a remote location (prior to global broadcast capability, received tapes of recent messages via mail)
KHOF-FM Call letters for former station 99.5 FM in Los Angeles, CA
KHOF-TV Call letters for former television Station, channel 30 in Los Angeles, CA (became KAGL)
KJV King James Version - Doc's Bible of choice
KT-# King's Tither (number)--Designation for a person who pledged to support Doc's ministry with at least 10% of their income
LA Los Angeles, CA
LAUC Los Angeles University Cathedral - Former location for Sunday Service  (4/15/90-02/21/2005 ) (929 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015)
LF-# Living Faith (number) - Designation for Sunday evening teaching tapes
LFH-# Same as LF-# except for "H" for messages based on Hebrews
LFR-# Same as LF-# except for "R" for messages based on Romans
M-# Mom/Pop (number) - Designation for teaching tapes by Mom Scott, Pop Scott or other special guest
MS-# Miracle Service (number) - Designation for Miracle Service teaching tapes
NT New Testament
OP Other Publications
OT Old Testament
PB-# Philippian Band (number) - Designation for a person who supported Doc's ministry thru thick or thin (similar to the ancient Philippian Christians who supported Paul)
PN-# Pastoral Nugget (number) - Designation for Pastoral Nugget topical teaching tapes
S-# Show (number) - Designation for Festival teaching tapes
SF San Francisco, CA
SOR Silver Oaks Ranch - Doc's stables located in Bradbury, CA
SS Sunday Service (Officially from 11:00pm-1:00pm)
SW ShortWave - 3-30 MHz radio channel
TTL Table of The Lord - Doc's Communion teaching
TV TeleVision
UN University Network
USA United States of America
UTC Universal Time Code (0000 means Midnight)
VF-# Voice of Faith (number) - Designation for Sunday Service teaching tapes
VFR-# Same as VF-# except the "R" for messages based on Revelations
VOF Voice Of Faith - Person who answered telephone calls & took messages for Doc
WB-# World Band (number) - Designation for a person who listened to Doc via Shortwave Radio
WCC Wescott (W-illiam E-ugene SCOTT) Christian Center  (Oroville, CA & Missionary children's orphanage in Brazil)
From:  The Los Angeles Times 7/10/94
The Shock Jock of Televangelism
With Savvy Philanthropy and an In-Your-Face Style,
Dr. Gene Scott Has Generated a Lavish Lifestyle,
Powerful Friends in Los Angeles and a Fiercely
Loyal Global Following
By: Glenn F. Bunting; staff writer for The Times
    ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT, MILLIONS OF weary souls plop down on the
family-room couch, pick up the remote and scan the airwaves in search of
infotainment. They skip past snapshots of Roseanne raiding the refrigerator
and the Bundys swapping insults until a close-up of The Face flashes on the
    Partially obscured by cigar smoke, the face appears puffed with rage
and ready to explode. Piercing blue eyes stare through half-framed reading
specs and gold-rimmed shades, worn one on top of the other. A mouthful of
perfectly aligned, pearl-white teeth sneers behind a wispy beard. Shocking
white hair stands out each night from under assorted head wear--a Stetson,
a Stanford cap, a crown, even a sombrero.
    This bizarre visage lures television viewers to Dr. Gene Scott, pastor
and supreme leader of the Los Angeles University Cathedral. But it is his
provocative, profanity-laced monologues that keep them tuning in. Scott's
eclectic broadcast mixes high-voltage Scripture and obnoxious solicitations
(for money, naturally) with taped footage of his church's world-champion
American saddlebred show horses prancing to the tunes of Sinatra and
Springsteen. Toss in heavy doses of call-in hero worship from South Africa
to Santa Barbara along with amusing commentary on current events and the
result is a sort of religious Rush Limbaugh.
    "Nuke 'em in the name of Jesus!" Scott ranted during the Gulf War,
boasting that he was the only minister urging President Bush to bomb Iraq.
Recently, after three years of extensive dental work, Scott joked to his
congregation that "there'll be fewer weeks in 1994 that I come here wanting
to kill. So, get on the telephone!"
    "Get on the telephone!" is Scott's favorite bark. It's his way of
ordering the faithful to send cash. And send they do, more than $1 million
a month, according to some estimates. Through the years, the collections
have helped support Scott's lavish lifestyle--chauffeured limousines, Lear
jet travel, a Pasadena mansion, 'round-the-clock bodyguard protection and
scenic horse ranches in Kentucky and the San Gabriel Valley.
    At first blush, w. euGene Scott, as he spells his name, seems miscast
as God's renegade salesman. The 64-year-old preacher's son holds a Stanford
Ph.D., fancies himself an intellectual, a philosopher, an avid bibliophile
and philanthropist. But a closer look reveals a fascinatingly complex
character: Scott has no formal education in theology, an enormous ego,
eccentric personality and extraordinarily diverse interests. He is a
world-renowned stamp collector, an equestrian, painter and hunter, and a
saxophonist who pokes fun at "honkers" like President Clinton. He has been
lampooned on "Saturday Night Live" by comic Robin Williams, profiled in the
documentary "God's Angry Man" and feted by some of California's prominent
    Scott is hailed by some community leaders for reviving the Christian
spirit in the City of Angels. While crime, homelessness, graffiti and the
stench of the inner city have pushed other congregations to the outer
suburbs, Scott relocated his Glendale church Downtown in 1986. Every Sunday
he attracts hundreds of worshipers from all over Southern California to
hear his message in the historic United Artists Theater at Broadway and
Olympic. His church spent $2 million to renovate the classic Spanish Gothic
theater, established in 1927 by Hollywood luminaries Mary Pickford, Charles
Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, and today, the cathedral rooftop carries the
same neon red "Jesus Saves" signs that for decades towered over the city's
skyline a few blocks away on Hope Street.
    For all his achievements, Scott remains misunderstood and the subject
of much ridicule. His wealth and notoriety, coupled with his spirited
defense of the Resurrection lead skeptics to dismiss him as just another
greedy, Bible-thumping televangelist. But nothing infuriates Scott more
than to be lumped with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker and Jimmy
    "In every way possible within the boundaries of God's word, I have
tried to separate from the television evangelists' image," Scott tells his
congregation. Television evangelist "has become a word that can only become
analogized to nigger, kike, beaner and other epithets designed to demean
and create a perceptual set of a lesser-quality being."
    Few quarrel with Scott's insistence that he occupies a planet all his
own in the universe of electronic ministry. Within the mainstream of
religious broadcasters, largely made up of conservative evangelicals like
the Rev. Billy Graham, Scott is regarded as unique. Indeed, he is unusual
even among the many zany characters who operate on the fringe of
televangelism. Who else spreads God's word so fervently while smoking a fat
cigar and cursing his rivals? Or advises his followers that they don't have
to go to church on Sunday to be a Christian? Now that his church's
broadcasting enterprise--the University Network--spans the globe, Scott
claims the world as his parish.
    It comes as no surprise that Scott attracts more than his share of
critics. They portray him as a paranoid, vindictive iconoclast who leads a
flock of rebellious followers. Scott, they are quick to point out, is
accountable only to himself, tolerates zero dissent and exerts a
frightening level of control over his followers.
    "He refuses to put himself in a position where he can be criticized,"
says David Gill, a professor of Christian ethics at North Park College in
Chicago, who has observed Scott. "Instead, he surrounds himself with all
these sycophants and weaklings who are just looking for somebody to submit
    Scott provides a form of drive-by religion for the '90s to a transient
population that needs only to watch television and send in cash to be
counted among the faithful. But Scott preaches no easy gospel; the fiery
pastor guides his congregation each Sunday through two hours of intense
analysis that focuses on his own distinctive interpretation of Scripture.
    "I came to town 18 years ago and said I'm looking for the uncommon man
or woman," Scott explains. "I'm not here to transplant saints. If you just
want an ordinary church, pick up the Yellow Pages and find the closest one
to you."
    ON A GORGEOUS FEBRUARY AFTERNOON, NINE top officials from the Glendale
Adventist Medical Center arrive at a lavish estate in Pasadena with no idea
what awaits behind the heavy iron gates. Upon entering the meticulously
landscaped grounds, they are screened by a guard who carefully checks each
of their names against a formal guest list.
    Scott is entertaining the Adventists to show his appreciation for the
care his 82-year-old mother received after falling and breaking both wrists
and a leg. The hospital staff had accommodated Scott's daily midnight
visits and his entourage of security men, personal physicians and other
    During the next three hours, Scott conducts a tour of his church's
"Sistine Chapel"--an underground, climate-controlled museum that includes
an original Rembrandt and Monet displayed among the pastor's own paintings.
The visitors are treated to an exquisite five-course luncheon catered and
served by trendy Marino's of Melrose Avenue. They are left speechless when
Scott offers to contribute $20,000 to a hospital fund-raising drive to
obtain new surgical equipment. They are dazzled by Scott's riveting life
story, witty charm and encyclopedic mind, later describing him as
"sensitive," "urbane," "humorous," "thoughtful" and "humble." For some
guests, it is difficult reconciling this version of Scott with the same
personality who appears so wacky on TV.
    "People started walking away feeling they had been in the presence of a
Renaissance man," extols David R. Igler, a hospital vice president. "It was
kind of like being with a Leonardo da Vinci. I don't think I've ever had an
encounter or experience like that in my life."
    Igler offered to recount his impressions of the visit at the request of
L.A. City Councilman Richard Alatorre, a close friend of Scott and a loyal
supporter. "Have you talked with him?" Igler inquired, the amazement in his
voice suggesting that I, too, would be in awe after meeting the Renaissance
    For months, I had tried to interview Scott. I had called his church's
toll-free hot line to make a mandatory reservation for his Sunday service.
A volunteer, called a "Voice of Faith," answered, and she noted my name and
asked for my "King's House" number, which identifies all dues-paying
members. She also asked whether I had ever attended Scott's service. When I
told her I had no ID number and that I had never been before, she
apologized and said it was unlikely a visit could be arranged. (But others
have easily made reservations.)
    I drove to the University Cathedral anyway, parking in a vacant lot
across the street from the rear of the church. I couldn't help but notice
several middle-aged men in polyester suits with worried looks painted on
their faces and two-way radios plugged into their ears. They were members
of the church's vaunted security detail, which includes off-duty Los
Angeles cops paid to protect Scott, his congregation and their Downtown
property. The heavy security is necessary, Scott contends, because the
church "has a lot of valuables, including my life."
    Within minutes, one guard retrieved a pair of binoculars and began
looking my way. Another guard walked up to my car and jotted down the
license plate number. A third, with long red hair tied in a ponytail,
approached and stood within a few feet of the driver's side door, watching
over me.
    I left my car and walked around the block to the front entrance of the
cathedral, where I encountered the same ponytailed guard, arms crossed and
chest expanded. I kept walking. The church's lawyer had cautioned me
against sneaking into the cathedral if I wanted to land an interview with
    On a subsequent Sunday, the security crew threatened a photographer who
showed up outside the church to take photographs for this article. Police
were called to the scene when one of the guards repeatedly shouted
    I never did get to meet Scott, shake his hand or pose a question in
person despite repeated attempts. "Gene Scott has no intention of
responding to any questions regarding church finances and Dr. Scott
personally," the pastor comments. All the quotations from Scott in this
article come either from taped broadcasts of his programs or written
responses passed through a church lawyer.
    At my request, Scott furnished five references for me to interview. All
were certifiable big shots who used superlatives to describe Scott while
glossing over his idiosyncrasies. A "brilliant fellow," raved Lodwrick
Cook, the ARCO chairman. "Extraordinarily bright," glowed Mark Pisano,
executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.
"He is a very, very bright, intelligent man," lauded Los Angeles City
Councilman Joel Wachs. "He is caring. He is committed to the city. He is
honest," praised Alatorre.
    None could top the gushing of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown:
"I think he is one of the most interesting public figures in California. He
is an extraordinarily brilliant person. His skills at communicating are
probably equal to anybody that we currently know and may ever know."
    Each of the five men had been exposed to Scott's charm and witnessed
his extreme generosity. When Cook helped lead the "Save the Books" campaign
after the Downtown Central Library fires, Scott organized a telethon that
raised $2 million in pledges. As a fellow director of the Rose Bowl
Aquatics Center in Pasadena, Pisano appreciated Scott for rescuing the
nonprofit swim facility with cash donations exceeding $430,000. When Wachs
wanted to rally support for his mayoral candidacy last year, Scott arranged
for him to address his congregation on television. Whenever Alatorre needs
a contribution to a worthy cause in his district, Scott is "always there"
to chip in. And when Brown's VIP friends visit Los Angeles, Scott gladly
furnishes a church limo.
    A relentless self-promoter, Scott adroitly uses his church's charitable
contributions and his association with personalities to boost his ministry.
Compliments from Cook and former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley, among others, have
appeared in full-page newspaper ads touting the minister and his church.
When Scott wanted to establish his good character during a 1990 court
battle, he did not hesitate to drop the names of Bradley and others in
legal papers.
    Scott maintains that his church contributes only to charities that city
officials recommend for the community good. Asked whether he uses friends
in high places to help legitimize his church, Scott responds: "The question
is an insult to me, the (church) and my friends. We were never
    Nonetheless the hard sell does not make a believer of everyone. The
Rev. Dale O. Wolery became acquainted with Scott in 1985 before the Church
of the Open Door, of which he was assistant pastor, sold its historic
Downtown cathedral to Scott's congregation for $23 million. Wolery had
spent a good deal of time in Scott's company. But after Scott reneged on
the deal, involving the church in protracted lawsuits, Wolery came to view
Scott as a manipulator and a showman.
    "I don't like what he stands for," concludes Wolery, currently senior
pastor at North Community Church in Yorba Linda. "A side of him is
engaging, warm. He knows how to make you feel good. He is dangerous
primarily because he really comes off as a straight shooter. He is the
ultimate hypocrite."
religion. The son of a traveling preacher and his teen-age wife, he was
born on Aug. 14, 1929, in Buhl, Ida. When Scott was 6, his mother gave
birth to premature twins, and the girl died within hours. The following
month, the baby boy was asleep and young Gene was suffering convulsions
when their mother had a vision of angels coming.
    "I saw a stairway begin to roll down from heaven and come right down to
the side of my bed," Inez Leona Graves Scott recalled in a 1980 interview.
"Two angels walked down and they stopped in front of Gene. I said, 'Oh no,
Lord, you can't take Gene!' and they just went around him and picked the
baby up."
    The infant died but Gene was spared. From then on, his parents knew
their surviving child was special. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to
the Northern California town of Gridley when W.T. Scott agreed to head an
Assemblies of God church. He succeeded a pastor who crucified himself on a
tree trying to imitate the marks of Christ. "At that time, the people like
my dad were the cults, the kooks and the nuts," Scott once told an
    In elementary school, Scott proved to be an exceptional student.
Accompanying a straight-A, seventh-grade report card was a teacher's note
to his parents: "Do you know you have a genius for a son?" He played on the
high school basketball team, though his father's congregation did not
approve of the boy exposing his legs in public. The caption under Scott's
photo in the 1947 Oroville Union High School yearbook read, "Always a
good-natured fellow."
    Scott married his high school sweetheart, Betty Ann Frazer, in the
early 1950s. They had no children and were divorced 23 years later. On his
program, Scott has portrayed her as the "devil's sister. I hate her. If I
go to heaven and she's there, I'm going to another planet." Scott's second
wife, Christine E. Shaw, a stunning woman 20 years his junior, can be seen
nightly on his program riding the church's champion show horses. Trained in
ballet for 16 years, Shaw shares Scott's passion for art, stamps, coins and
other collectibles.
    A pivotal point in Scott's life came when he enrolled in a doctorate
program in philosophy of education at Stanford University. One professor
was a leading disciple of Reinhold Niebuhr, and Scott's dissertation on the
American philosopher left an indelible mark on him. Quoting Niebuhr, Scott
described his life's goal: to "descend from the anthill of scholastic
hair-splitting to help the world of men regulate its common life and
discipline, its ambitions and ideals." Like Niebuhr, Scott believed that
this could not be accomplished without religion.
    At Stanford, Scott stood out as a loner who was almost single-minded in
his quest to excel academically. After earning his doctorate in 1957, he
taught briefly at a Midwestern Bible college, helped Oral Roberts establish
a university in Tulsa, Okla., and joined the Assemblies of God movement, a
fundamentalist Christian denomination, where he quickly established himself
as a rising star. Scott traveled all over the world preaching salvation to
rapt audiences and designed a Sunday school curriculum that significantly
boosted church membership.
    "He had one of the sharpest, keenest minds of anyone I have ever
known," recalls the Rev. William Vickery, superintendent emeritus of the
Assemblies of God Northern California and Nevada District. But it was only
a matter of time before the restless Scott would "go free in order to be
creative and relevant to today's world."
    In 1970, Scott resigned his Assemblies of God credential in good
standing and returned to Oroville to launch his own ministry with his
father. Today, Assemblies of God officials are stunned by what they see and
hear on Scott's program. "I just can't imagine someone with his brilliance
and abilities allowing his energies to be diverted the way they have been
diverted," says a perplexed Vickery. "I don't understand it. I think it is
such a waste."
    It was while serving his Oroville ministry that Scott was approached
about taking over the 45-year-old Faith Center Church in Glendale along
with its four broadcast stations and $3.5-million debt. Scott, who also had
established himself as a shrewd entrepreneur, agreed to serve as Faith
Center pastor provided that church leaders resign and approve a
reorganization plan that gave him control. To Scott's amazement, the church
    Faith Center since has expanded and prospered. A congregation that
numbered 500 when Scott took over in 1975 has mushroomed to more than
15,000 members in the Los Angeles area, according to church estimates that
are difficult to confirm. The church acquired the ultimate power address:
P.O. Box 1, Los Angeles. And in 1983, the University Network launched
24-hour-a-day broadcasts of Scott sermons via satellite to North America
and much of Mexico and the Caribbean.
    But soon after, Scott endured two financial disasters that would have
placed most pastors in peril of losing their jobs. In 1983, the Federal
Communications Commission stripped the church of three broadcast stations,
worth approximately $15 million, after Scott refused to turn over financial
records as part of an investigation. (The church sold the fourth station.)
In 1987, the church lost a $6.5-million deposit when Scott sought
unsuccessfully to renege on a deal to buy the historic Church of the Open
Door building in Downtown Los Angeles, which was later demolished after its
owners sold it to developers. The church then pumped more than $2 million
into renovating its current location, the United Artists Theater.
    The setbacks only made Scott more determined to succeed. After the
church lost its broadcast licenses, Scott continued to air his program by
buying time on local and cable TV stations locally and nationally. Scott's
church not only offered programming to an already-established network of
outlets, but continued to air its program on some of the same stations that
were taken away by the FCC. The church also beamed its programming
nationwide via satellite. By 1990, it reached 180 countries. Two years
later, his ministry could be picked up anywhere in the world in four
languages on medium- and short-wave radio. (His program is now seen nightly
in greater Los Angeles on cable.)
    Scott claims that he did not seek out an electronic ministry, but
happened to rescue the first church in the nation to own a Christian TV
station. In a three-piece suit, the clean-cut Scott looked the part of the
stereotypical televangelist when he first hit the airwaves. But it did not
take long for him to realize that he needed a shtick. Enter the long hair
and beard, crazy hats and cigars. "The cigar lets you know I ain't no Jimmy
Swaggart," he howls.
    He quickly earned a reputation as a colorful preacher whose blunt
tactics both attract and offend his audience. He bragged over the air that
he could "probably teach Hugh Hefner a thing or two" about sex and told
those who refused to send money to "vomit on yourself with your head up in
the air."
    This unconventional approach, while widely chastised in religious
broadcasting circles, impressed people like the Rev. Jess Moody, a Baptist
minister and pastor of Shepherd of the Hills church in Porter Ranch. Moody
is an unabashed Scott admirer who wishes he had such nerve.
    "The man is not a fool, but he acts like one from time to time," Moody
observes. "That, I think, is designed to get attention from people he wants
to reach. Apostle Paul said, 'I am all things to all men that I might win
some.' Gene is trying to win people to Christ, and he is not doing it in
the standard way."
    To attract new viewers, Scott later decided that his church needed a TV
sports franchise, something comparable to Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves.
Enter the equestrian team. "There are so many horses' asses on television
that I wanted to show the world what a whole horse looked like," Scott is
fond of saying.
    Using proceeds from the sale of his art prints, Dr. Gene Scott Inc.
acquired the Silver Oaks Ranch in Bradbury, valued at $11 million in 1989,
and a stable of more than 100 show horses that are now believed to be worth
    First-time viewers "stop to see the horses because they are a class
act," Scott told viewers in January. "And before they know it, this
cigar-smokin' preacher is talkin' about something a little different than a
rantin'-and-ravin', hellfire-and-brimstone hypocrite preacher. And they
stop to see the horses and end up hooked on the teachin'. That's it. All
you get on this network is me and the horses and the music. Clear?"
    "Clear!" his volunteers shouted obediently from behind studio phone
    "Just thought I'd say that. Get on the telephone!"
    In response, callers from around the globe phone in to applaud their
pastor. Scott delights in selectively reading the laudatory messages aloud.
    "From Manchester, Ohio: I love the teachin', the horses and the music.
It's the best on TV. Apple Valley, Calif.: Pastor, God's word, you and the
horses are all I need. Klamath Falls, Ore.: We got the No. 1 pastor smokin'
the No. 1 cigar on the No. 1 television program showin' the No. 1 horses."
    IN JANUARY, 1991, MEMBERS OF THE LOS ANGELES University Cathedral
received an urgent appeal in the mail. Their pastor needed them to dig deep
for a special fund-raising drive so critical to the church's future that it
could not be revealed how the money would be spent.
    It was not the first time. Scott has instructed his followers to give
generously to anonymous fund-raisers on at least six other occasions. This
one, called "Secret V," was the church's most ambitious fund-raising
mission yet. By Easter, Scott wrote, his ministry had to receive $10,000
apiece from 700 followers and a minimum $1,000 apiece from 3,000
supporters, for a total of $10 million.
    Estimates vary on the total amount of money Scott brings in. During a
recent sermon, he claimed that his members set "the world record in
per-capita giving" by donating $350 per person per month. He also has said
that his weekly budget of $300,000 does not come close to meeting the rent,
payroll, broadcasting and other operating expenses.
    Scott insists that he only accepts financial support from individuals
who respond to his sermons. "People are taught to give based on what they
think the teaching they receive is worth," he stresses.
    The price of membership is steep. For starters, Scott expects the usual
10% of his followers' income in weekly tithings. Since 1988, at the start
of each year, Scott has reminded his followers that he is collecting
"firstfruits" above and beyond weekly donations. Firstfruits, according to
Scott, is spelled out in Scripture as "the firstfruit of the new year
belongs to the Lord." The firstfruits check includes the first returns on
any form of income--an investment, a pay raise, a second job, a tax refund,
even Lotto winnings. What if you're out of work? "Well then, you give the
first week's unemployment check," Scott advises.
    For non-givers, Scott warns: "If you get too smart with God, He might
let you live this next year without Him so you can see the difference."
    While raking in uncounted millions, Scott refuses to open his church's
books to the scrutiny of independent auditors or follow accounting
safeguards required by the 700-member National Religious Broadcasters, a
group Scott derides as "Not Real Bright" for inviting as a speaker
televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who was disgraced by a sex scandal in 1988.
Such devastating scandals had cast a pall over televangelists nationwide,
but the industry appears to be on the rebound. Former NRB chairman David
Clark says he is encouraged by recent trends in religious programming that
emphasize ministry and teaching in place of "glitz, glamour and hype."
    "This year marks the end of the televangelist scandals and the impact
from them is basically over," Clark says. A recent study of religious
programming found that on-air fund-raising and promotional activities have
fallen to the same levels as before the Swaggart scandal.
    Scott, like a number of other televangelists around the country, is not
rushing to join the NRB, which requires organizations to undergo
independent financial audits annually, publish a yearly report of income
and expenses and disclose total compensation packages of top church
officials. He is, says Clark, one of a fading breed. "I see a move away
from the entrepreneurial, Lone Ranger guy like him (Scott). I think the
next generation will be pastors of mega-churches with thousands of members
and budgets of $8 (million) to $10 million a year, minimum."
    Still Scott thrives, with a church he says is accountable to God, his
congregation, a board of directors he declines to identify and the Full
Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministries, of which he was president.
Such lax financial accountability--combined with Scott's lifestyle--has, in
the past, attracted the attention of state and federal investigators.
    The California Attorney General's Office in 1978 investigated
allegations of fraud at Scott's church and 11 other religious
organizations. The probe, launched after complaints by church members, was
dropped in 1980 when the state Legislature passed a law preventing the
attorney general from prosecuting cases of civil fraud against tax-exempt
religious organizations.
    In 1977, the Federal Communications Commission opened an exhaustive
investigation after former employees accused Scott of diverting donations
of cash, furs, jewelry, stock and other valuables for his own use and
concealing assets in Swiss bank accounts. The allegations were never
proved, and Scott adamantly denies any improprieties.
    He stymied repeated attempts by the federal government to scrutinize
his church's financial operation by directing contributors to sign pledge
slips that specifically stated Scott could spend the money however he
pleased. This arrangement did not appear to affect the church's flow of
    "He can do anything he wants with the contributions I send him," allows
Mike Parker, the former mayor of Tacoma, Wash., who has been watching Scott
for a decade and donates weekly.    It is virtually impossible to know how
financial resources are divided among Scott, the church and their many
corporations. The church's financial empire consists of a complex web of
dozens of interlocking companies, among them Bishop Dr. Gene Scott Corp.,
Dr. Gene Scott Inc., Dr. Gene Scott Consultants Inc., Gene Scott Travel
Inc., W. Eugene Scott, Ph.D., Inc., Gene Scott Evangelistic Assn. and
Wescott Christian Center.
    Scott's second wife, for example, received a $190,000 finder's fee when
Dr. Gene Scott Inc. purchased the Silver Oaks Ranch in Bradbury. At the
time, Christine Shaw's personal fortune included several million dollars
worth of horses, stamps, art and vintage cars--the same items accumulated
by Scott and his church.
    For his part, Scott maintains that he has no property, investments,
stocks or bonds and that everything he owns is in the name of the church.
His contract calls for a $1 annual salary, plus unlimited expenses.
    "God knows how much money he has raised over the years soliciting
funds," complains Chuck Dziedzic, the FCC administrator who spearheaded the
investigation of Scott's church. "We never came close to finding out. I
don't think anybody knows but him."
Hancock Park. But the 58-year-old actor, known best for his role as Levitt
in the television sitcom "Barney Miller," often attends services on
Saturday evenings. That's because Sundays belong to Gene Scott.
    "I have learned more from him than anybody," Carey says. "He is
probably the authority on St. Paul. We just read the Bible and look at it.
He will go right down to the word. This is interpretation. This is
    Like Carey, many of Scott's followers belong to other denominations.
They assert that no one on the religious scene today approaches Scott's
intellect and expertise when it comes to interpreting God's word. His
analysis of Scripture relies heavily on Greek, Hebrew and German studies to
clarify inaccuracies in the English translation. This is evident on Easter
Sundays, when Scott presents a defense of the Resurrection that is rich in
detail, well researched and supported by historical facts, followers say.
    Scott's quarrel with those who deny the Resurrection is that they don't
spend enough time looking at it. "If this is true, this is the central fact
of history!" he fumes. "You gotta be a fool among all fools of mankind to
not think it's worth at least 30 hours of study in your whole life. That's
why I'm doing this."
    During his Sunday sermons, Scott often admonishes his congregation not
to seek God's blessing from a priest, the Pope or a place of worship. "And
you're sure not going to get it from a motel with Jimmy Swaggart," he
cracks. Rather, these blessings flow through God's word as interpreted by
Gene Scott. His is a "word-based church" offering intelligent Christianity,
Scott emphasizes.
    In February, Times reporter Ralph Frammolino visited the University
Cathedral for a glimpse into Scott's appeal.
    No expense has been spared in restoring the historic theater. The
lobby, with gold-backed mirrors and a vaulted ceiling finished in fresco
murals, is half a block long. The massive auditorium, almost medieval in
appearance, features large murals depicting the motion picture industry.
Onstage, a huge curtain bears the letters "UA" in a coat of arms with the
words "The Picture's The Thing"--a fitting slogan for Scott's television
    Reservations are required to enter the cathedral. "I ain't beggin'
converts," Scott scolds. "You don't get in here without a pass. I don't
want anybody in here that doesn't have an appreciation for that smallest
hunger in your heart to pursue the revelation of God's word."
    First-time visitors like Frammolino are escorted into the auditorium,
assigned a seat and closely observed by the church's security force. A
buddy system within Scott's congregation also keeps a watchful eye on
strangers. "We want to make sure our pastor stays alive," whispers one
follower from Orange County, who identifies himself only as Duane.
    The 2,000-seat theater is filled with people from a variety of ethnic
backgrounds. Dressed in casual attire, the churchgoers look as if they
could just as easily be going to Dodger Stadium or a Sunday matinee. No one
under age 12 is in attendance; children of churchgoers ride air-conditioned
buses every Sunday to one of 43 museums within a half-hour of the
cathedral. "We don't lock our kids in a little cubbyhole and teach them to
hate God until they get the first chance to leave the church," Scott says.
    When the curtain begins to rise, congregation members leap to their
feet and cheer wildly. Before them appears their master, clad in a priest's
collar, a teal-and-black windbreaker and gray slacks, seemingly unmoved by
the adulation. After several seconds of enthusiastic applause, a rock band
belts out praise to Jesus as Scott sits impassively on a blue-cushioned
stool until the singing ends. Among the tunes Scott occasionally orders up
is "Kill a Pissant for Jesus."
    Scott strives to conduct his service as if it was a postgraduate
lecture in religious studies. He is fond of boasting that his congregation
consists mostly of college graduates. Unlike most university courses,
though, there is no room for discussion of any kind in Dr. Scott's
classroom. With the exception of not-so-spontaneous laughter at Scott's
one-liners, not a peep is heard from members during the teaching, not even
an "Amen" or a "Hallelujah." Scott insists that his two-hour service goes
uninterrupted and gets angry if people seated in the front get up, even to
go to the restroom.
    As he delivers his message, Scott pauses every few seconds to allow an
interpreter to repeat his words for the benefit of dozens of
Spanish-speaking members in the audience and others listening worldwide. He
illustrates the day's lesson on a glass rectangle with the intensity of an
agitated football coach marking Xs and Os at halftime.
    While reading aloud scattered verses in Ephesians, Scott scribbles
Greek words on the glass. Hagyois is for sainthood, Dike for righteousness
and Logos for the word. He writes in red, blue, green and black felt pens,
using the different colors to strike previous markings instead of using an
    Within an hour, the board is streaked with arrows, circles, lines and
indecipherable words that become nearly impossible to follow. The lecture
suddenly is reduced to a mind-numbing blur of Greek nuances that virtually
force the class to accept a relentless tightening of the instructor's
ecclesiastical monopoly.
    But the underlying message of "basic Christianity" is clear. While
other pastors denounce homosexuality, abortion, adultery, profanity and
drinking, Scott refuses to condemn such sinful behavior. He leaves
worshipers free to make their own choice without coercion.
    "I don't ask you to change when you come here," he instructs the
congregation. "I take you as you are, as God takes me as I am." Scott
preaches that, if people listen to him and start practicing faith, "God is
going to change you in spite of yourself."
    He finishes his sermon and vanishes offstage without shaking a single
hand or meeting his congregation. Herein lies a startling contradiction:
Scott promotes himself as a friend to sinners who have been shunned by
other churches, yet his cathedral doors are sealed off to the general
public. Even highly devoted followers are not permitted to approach him in
the name of security. Scott's retort: "I am more accessible and contactable
than the Pope."
    Most worshipers seem not to care that they are prohibited from seeing
their pastor in the flesh. They can tune him in 24 hours a day, seven days
a week, reveling in the rediscovery of their faith under the guidance of a
shepherd who acts like a rebel and still is elected by God.
    Frank Anderson, a middle-aged aircraft mechanic who sports an unkempt
gray beard, is a typical Scott devotee. He attended church as a child but
eventually strayed from religion. That was before he became hooked on
Scott's television program while working the night shift at Northrop. Now
he and his wife, Tracy, drive in every Sunday from Torrance to hear Scott.
    At first, Anderson found Scott "exasperating" because the minister
jumps from subject to subject during his lectures. But the teachings began
to fascinate him, especially the anti-religious-Establishment thread of
Scott's message. "He teaches that we're free," Anderson notes. "We've been
made free and people who are teaching that you are not supposed to do this
(and) not supposed to do that are voiding that freedom."
    Wes Parker, the former Dodger first baseman, recalls the day in 1980
that he first listened to Scott on television. Within 20 minutes, Parker
was on his feet, pointing at the screen and screaming, "He's right! My God,
this guy is right!" The next day, Parker plunked down $500 for Bible study
materials and has been a regular supporter since. "This man has saved my
life," Parker exclaims.
    He readily admits that some of his friends don't hold Scott in such
esteem. "They don't like a two-hour service. They don't like that he
occasionally uses a swear word. They don't like the fact that he gets
angry. They don't like that he spends a lot of time railing against people
on his staff that he doesn't think are doing a good job. Some of those
things I don't like either, but it is worth it to me to sit through to get
the message."
    GENE SCOTT WAS LIVID. AFTER successfully courting the vote of
flamboyant City Councilman Gilbert W. Lindsay to prevent the Church of the
Open Door from being demolished in 1987, Scott sensed that he was about to
be double-crossed.
    Lindsay, a religious man whose district included the church site, had
assured Scott's congregation one Sunday that "hell's gonna freeze over"
before the building, which Scott's church had moved into, would be torn
down. But when Lindsay began to waver about preserving the 72-year-old
church, Scott did not hesitate to remind viewers that Lindsay, then 86, was
in his "senior years" or "16 years past the biblically appointed
allotment"--three score and 10.
    "Now if you've had an illustrious career, and you're in your eighth
decade, do you want to meet your Maker saying, 'I decided to do one in for
you, God?' " Scott thundered. "Gilbert Lindsay ain't dumb enough to face
his Maker reneging on a sacred commitment in a platform of a church before
5,000 people and an onlooking nation."
    In the end, Lindsay got religion and supported the project. He died at
age 90, presumably at peace with the Lord for keeping his word to Scott's
church. But Scott could not keep the wrecking ball away. After he'd
unsuccessfully tried to renegotiate his deal for the property, its original
owner sold it to developers. Scott lost his $6.5-million down payment, but
acquired the church's "Jesus Saves" signs. He then moved his church to the
United Artists Theater.
    Scott's willingness to invoke the wrath of God against Lindsay
demonstrates the lengths he will go to intimidate an adversary. Friends say
Scott is a fierce street fighter who strives to obliterate an opponent, be
it Satan or a competitor. At horse shows, Scott is not content when his
equestrian team captures a medal. He wants a sweep of all the top places.
    Nowhere has Scott incurred more battle scars than in the courts. Since
coming to Southern California, his church's far-flung enterprises have been
tangled in more than 100 lawsuits. At times, Scott and his lawyers have
drawn criticism for their litigation tactics. A federal judge in 1987
called a desperate bid by Scott to retain the Church of the Open Door a
"reprehensible" abuse of the legal process. In 1990, in a lawsuit on behalf
of the American Horse Show Assn., attorneys for the O'Melveny & Myers law
firm accused Scott of hiding behind corporate fronts to overturn his
suspension by the association.
    In that case, Scott was banned from competition for calling a judge a
"prejudicial, incompetent nincompoop" on his television program after one
of his horses lost a competition. Scott argued in legal papers that his
suspension should be overturned because the horses were owned by Gene Scott
Inc., which he contended was not run by Gene Scott.
    While the suits do not always succeed in court, apparently they are
effective in helping to intimidate Scott's adversaries. Dozens of people
refused to speak about Scott for this article because they expressed fear
of being sued.
    Over the years, Scott's followers occasionally have resorted to verbal
threats and physical violence to defend their minister. In 1985, a musician
in Scott's band who criticized the preacher reported to officials that he
was jumped, punched and tossed through a plate glass window by two church
followers. The musician, Donald Vladimir Nicoloff, was treated for facial
and leg cuts.
    In the months leading up to a trial on assault charges against his
alleged attackers, Nicoloff claimed he received harassing, late-night phone
calls from Scott's disciples, some threatening bodily harm. The trial
against the two church followers ended in a hung jury when the key witness,
the church's former head musician, fled to Tennessee because he feared
reprisals from Scott's disciples, prosecutors maintained.
    Glendale police were so concerned about a potential outbreak of
violence by Scott's devotees that the prosecutor assigned to the case, Los
Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Herb Lapin, was issued a gun permit and
assigned a police officer for protection during the trial.
    "I'm not going to call his followers fanatics or lunatics," Lapin says.
"But whenever you have a group that has strong followers, I find they are
easily led by their leaders, whether they are good or bad."
    ADMIRE HIM OR DESPISE him, Gene Scott has attained the kind of fame,
lifestyle and influence that most people only dream about.
    "Only in America," sighs Clark of the National Religious Broadcasters,
"can people like this get on television, attract an audience and collect
enough money to stay on television."
    And only in Southern California, it seems, can a long-haired,
loud-mouthed preacher pack a cavernous movie house each Sunday with
followers eager to hear the word of God from him. In a city that attracts
people seeking the good life, a pastor with a free spirit, a stable of
horses, a chauffeured limo and an answer for everything can be an
attractive role model.
    "Gene Scott offers you all the advantages of Christianity with none of
the inconveniences except tithing," says Rabbi William Kramer, a religious
studies professor emeritus at Cal State Northridge and an admirer of Scott.
"You don't have to put that in cellophane to sell it."
    Yet others feel strongly that Scott has no business preaching in a
church. The Christian Research Institute, an international religious center
based in Irvine that monitors controversial religious movements, goes so
far as to advise Christians not to attend Scott's services.
    "During the last few years, Scott has become more and more outrageous
and offensive," a CRI analysis concludes. "His language is crude, abusive
and profane, clearly violating God's standards for Christians."
    Such condemnation drives Scott up a wall. At a recent service, Scott
groused that he is fed up with outsiders who have the nerve to question his
    "They never stop!" Scott protested to loud applause. "These judgmental
Photo: The eccentric preacher and his projects.
Photo: (Gene Scott)
Photo: Scott's Universal Cathedral
Photo: Scott makes his points with different pens, crossing out
markings instead of erasing them.
Photo: Guards protect the church's valuables, including Scott
(OC WEEKLY cover story, reprinted on the occasion of Gene Scott’s death, February 24, 2005)
One night a few months ago, I was flipping the TV dial when I came across an unforgettable scene unfolding in the sprawling back yard of a Pasadena mansion. Three flawless, buxom young lovelies were doing some very professional-looking bumping and grinding to the accompaniment of the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” while a well-groomed old man watched impassively from a chair. There was a phone number at the bottom of the screen, and every now and then, an announcer’s voice drifted in, urging me to call. The camera stayed locked on the women for several long, head-spinning minutes, and the more I watched, the more disconcerted I became.
What the hell was this?
Finally, the song ended and the show cut away to a studio, where the old man was sitting in extreme closeup before an out-of-focus, pale-blue backdrop. “Now that you’ve seen what I got waitin’ for me at home,” he said, sparking up a fat stogy with a pistol-shaped lighter, “you should all be extra nice to me for comin’ down here to talk to ya.”
I finally recognized the old man, sort of. He’s Dr. Gene Scott, the TV preacher who owns that red neon sign in downtown L.A. that says JESUS SAVES in letters so big you could probably read it from outer space. For as long as I can remember, he’s been on TV, seemingly 24 hours a day, talking about Jesus in a surly Southern drawl while wearing two pairs of glasses at once and various eye-catching hats–a sombrero, for instance, or a collegiate mortarboard, or a king’s crown. The few times I had actually tried to listen to what he had to say, I’d quickly gotten bored and given up. I certainly wasn’t bored now. Instead of offering an explanation for what a squad of dirty-dancing bimbos was doing in the middle of a religious broadcast, the uncharacteristically hatless Scott plunged right into berating his flock for not sending enough cash. Soon he was so furious that he couldn’t continue, and, with a mighty puff on his cigar, he vanished in a cloud of smoke.
We were then treated to footage of Scott’s girlies riding some beautiful, high-class show horses around a track at a place an onscreen caption identified as the Silver Oaks Ranch. This was just too much, so I called the show’s 800 number and demanded to know what was going on. The operator just laughed good-naturedly, like I was a child asking why the sky is blue. “Dr. Scott owns a lot of beautiful horses,” he told me, “so why shouldn’t he have some beautiful ladies around to ride them?”
I got very little out of him (he even dodged my question of what happened to Scott’s trademark hats). But before I hung up, the operator offered me some advice: “Just keep watching the show, and sooner or later, everything will become clear.”
I followed his suggestion, but what I saw in the following weeks only raised new questions. The bimbo boogie sessions turned out to be a regular feature; night after night, I’d tune in just in time to catch a few minutes of his women jiggling themselves sore to tunes like “Addicted to Love,” “Raspberry Beret” and, perhaps most memorably, a Dixieland version of “When the Saints Go Marching in.” The good doc also escorted his lady friends to the Kentucky Derby and the International Stamp Collectors’ expo, took endless bike rides with them, and, on at least one occasion, snuggled up in bed with them while he went through his mail on the air. There’s none of that humble-barefoot-shepherd malarkey for Scott; this is one preacher man who likes livin’ large. The amazing thing was that, for all the quality time he spent with such lovely ladies, he still seemed to be in a perpetually rotten mood.
The show freely mixed Scott’s live performances with taped bits 5 or 10 (or more) years old, and it became apparent that, over the decades, the man has changed his look more often (and more drastically) than David Bowie. On one viewing, he was clean-cut, wearing the dark, conservative business suit of an insurance salesman; the next time, he sported the look of a decadent ’70s rock star, with long blond hair, a floppy hat and a yellowish fur coat; other times, he’d wear a leather jacket and dark glasses or a tuxedo and a pith helmet. In the early days, he often paused midsermon to look at his studio audience and ask, “I’m not boring you, am I?” as if he actually cared. Today’s Scott, by contrast, often barks, “Am I borin’ ya?”–his tone making it clear that if anybody said yes, he would kick their ass. He was a moody, often fire-breathing tyrant on the air, taking a near-fiendish delight in abusing his cringing staff for even the smallest slip-up. Once, a cameraman accidentally jiggled the camera while Scott was giving us a tour of some of his fascinating oil paintings, and Scott became furious. “Don’t move the camera until I TELL you to!” he barked. “I’m the director here. I’ll show you what I WANT to show you, and then you can play with the camera all you want!”
The doctor went no easier on his flock. Once, when they weren’t ponying up the dough to his satisfaction, Scott referred to them as “dumb, Christian quote-unquote assholes!” Another time, he warned them that unless they shaped up quick, God “might let you live this next year without Him so you can see the difference.”
I couldn’t imagine why people followed the man. His sermons were certainly far from compelling. He could, and often did, spend hours explaining how the King James Bible botched the translation of a particular word from the original Hebrew. He was also big on the sort of dodgy mystical material you used to see a lot on In Search Of, often reading aloud from highly questionable volumes on the legendary lost continent of Atlantis or expounding at length on his pet theory that angels built the pyramid at Giza (Jeez-uh, as he pronounced it). When he was in one of his rare jocular moods, he treated his followers to readings from joke books. Mostly, however, he just roared at people to send him money. And they did.
If I could have dismissed Scott as a charlatan, the whole thing might have ended there. But the man spoke of the Resurrection with such passion and at such length, day after day, that it seemed impossible for the whole thing to be just an act. Occasionally, the doctor would address some of the mysteries that plagued me: one time, he read a note from a viewer asking why he always had pretty women around him. His answer: “To keep the ugly ones off me.” But it didn’t take long for me to realize that watching the show most definitely would not answer all of my questions.
Eugene Scott was born Aug. 14, 1929, in Buhl, Idaho, to W.T. and Inez Leona Graves Scott, a traveling preacher and his teenage bride. In many ways, it was a childhood straight out of a Southern gothic novel. When Gene was still a child, his mother gave birth to premature twins, one of whom died within hours. A month later, Gene began to suffer from strange convulsions in the middle of the night, and his mother had a vision: she saw a stairway roll down from heaven and come right down beside her bed; then two angels descended and stopped in front of Gene. “Oh no, Lord,” Leona cried out. “You can’t take Gene.” The angels heard her and picked up the remaining twin instead. Gene survived the night, but his brother didn’t. The incident convinced Scott’s parents that their son was bound for glory.
Soon after, the family moved to Gridley, California, where Gene’s father agreed to head a church whose previous pastor had crucified himself on a tree. Young Gene was well-liked in town, and he excelled in school; in the seventh grade, he brought home a straight-A report card with a note from his teacher that read, “Do you know you have a genius for a son?” He played on his high school basketball team, although he took some guff from his dad’s congregation for showing his legs in public.
When he came of age, he enrolled in the philosophy of education doctorate program at Stanford University, still somehow finding time in his hectic collegiate schedule to wed his high school sweetheart, Betty Ann Frazer, and work alongside his father at the Assemblies of God church on weekends. Soon, however, the pervasive secular skepticism of his Stanford peers rubbed off on him, and he suffered a paralyzing spiritual crisis, although he re-discovered his faith before graduation. For his dissertation, he summed up his life’s goal with a quote from the American Christian philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr: to “descend from the anthill of scholastic hairsplitting to help the world of men regulate its common life and discipline, its ambitions and ideals.”
After earning his doctorate in 1957, Scott taught at a Bible college in the Midwest and helped Oral Roberts establish a university in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although Scott speaks with a certain grudging admiration for Roberts today (“I believe that Oral believes he saw a 900-foot-tall Jesus . . .”), the tension that eventually caused them to part ways is also clear (“. . . I guess it takes 900 feet to convince him”). On his TV show, Scott often tells the story of the days he spent golfing with Roberts. Roberts was a sore winner, and every time he trounced young Scott on the green, he walked away, leaving the golf bags behind for Scott to carry. Finally, the day came when Scott won. He still cherishes the memory of strolling off and leaving his golf bag for a chastened Roberts.
Post-Roberts, Scott rose steadily through the ranks of the fundamentalist Christian Assemblies of God movement, resigning as a member in good standing in 1970 to found his own Oroville ministry with his father. In the early ’70s, he was asked to take over the 45-year-old Faith Center Church in Glendale, a position that came with four broadcast stations and a $3.5 million debt. Scott agreed to sign on as pastor, provided the church leaders resigned and he got complete control. He never seriously imagined the church would go for it, but they did. Scott went on the air in 1975, and although his show was a hit virtually from the start, his early years of broadcasting were personally trying. His 23-year marriage, perhaps unsurprisingly, crumbled almost immediately after he became a star (he calls his ex-wife “the Devil’s Sister” and adds that if he goes to heaven and she’s there, he’ll move to another planet). In the ’80s, Scott was hit by two financial disasters. His 1983 refusal to turn over his financial records for an FCC investigation cost the church three broadcast stations; four years later, the church lost a $6.5 million deposit when Scott tried to renege on a deal to buy a historic Los Angeles church.
These blows could have destroyed Scott, but they only strengthened his resolve. After he lost the broadcast stations, he kept his show on the air by buying time on national TV and cable outlets. He also devised an ingenious system to keep the government out of his financial affairs by demanding that his followers “give without strings”–i.e., donate their cash without having any idea what it’s going to be spent on. “The spirit of life goes to work for you . . . only if you give materially to me,” Scott says. “You should give to me if I wanted to go out and buy a rock band or the Mustang Ranch.”
He has survived his trials and prospered beyond belief. Today his program is available, by radio or television, all over the world, 24 hours a day. He lives in a mansion, consorts with beautiful women and owns classics of impressionist art. (He hangs his own paintings beside them, feeling that their beauty upgrades him; he claimed he keeps the women around for the same reason.) He races horses, hunts, smokes and swears a blue streak, and his followers love him for it. He’s even taken a dazzling bride 20 years his junior (and damn pretty on horseback), Christine F. Shaw. Many famous people have sung his praises, from Tom Bradley to Buffy Saint Marie. Years ago, he achieved the ultimate pop-culture milestone when he was parodied (by Robin Williams, no less) on Saturday Night Live.
Perhaps most intriguingly, he was even the subject of a documentary by Werner Herzog, the mad-genius director most famous in this country for his epic tale of obsession, Fitzcarraldo. When I discovered that the film existed, I had to see it. But the tale of the months that I spent looking for a copy could easily make another article. Suffice it to say that, in the end, I tracked down God’s Angry Man at a wonderful place in L.A. called Mondo Video A-Go-Go. The fellow behind the counter explained that Scott was so incensed by the film that he threatened to sue, and it was pulled from circulation. The tape I got at Mondo was actually a grainy video of the film being projected on a screen. The sound was terrible, but because this was one of the few surviving copies, how could I complain? According to the guy at Mondo, the person in the tape who’s watching the film being projected is none other than Dr. Scott himself. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I like to pretend it is.
The film begins with Scott midtantrum, screaming himself purple at an unlucky studio engineer: “Give me the volume! When I yell, I wanna be heard! ‘Cause I only yell when there’s an occasion for yelling! [He turns, speaking to us.] God’s honor is at stake every night. This is not a show; it’s a feast! A feast of the faithing experience.”
Later, we catch up with him in the back of a moving limo; he’s beardless, blond and dressed like an undertaker. He reminds me of Dennis Hopper. He seems almost like a different man from the grizzled prophet I see on TV every night, but his eyes have the same chilly blue glow. He offers a few choice words for nosy reporters like me. “I kid the media,” he says, “and say they worship the Great God Two-Sides, because if they went down on the beach to report on the sun comin’ up, they’d add a line that there are some on the beach that say the sun didn’t come up. . . . I have a conviction: if you know your subject, you cannot avoid coming to a conclusion.”
As he speaks, I realize that despite the reams of material I’ve gathered on the man, I’m still nowhere near coming to a conclusion about him. Is he a fake? Is he a true believer? After all this time, how can I still not know? While I’m puzzling over that one, we’re treated to a brief interview with Scott’s parents (two sweet old folks who clearly think the world of their son) and a television segment where Scott counts the pledges as they roll in. It comes to a quarter of a million dollars in 16 minutes, a total Scott is content with. For now.
At this point, I’m pretty convinced he’s a shyster, but the next segment finds him matter-of-factly outlining his schedule: three to 10 hours of live television daily, two separate two-hour services on Sunday, board meetings, conventions, pastoring another church in northern California, visiting sick church members, writing and publishing religious texts, leading tours of the Holy Land, visiting an orphanage he supports, and more. It’s a dizzying lineup, far more than any man could do purely to keep up appearances. I’m as confused as ever.
Then the film strikes an unexpectedly poignant note. Scott sits silently in his study for a long while, his face unreadable. “Let me tell ya what makes me happy,” he begins. “Get me on a jet, [and fly me] 8,000 miles to a city where nobody knows me. I’d like to . . . just not have some life-or-death struggle.”
For the first time in all the time I’ve been studying him, Scott looks lost. “I am too good to be really bad and too bad to be really good,” he says. “I don’t enjoy being the good guy, ’cause I’d rather do some hellish things. . . . My dream is to go somewhere where I can lay on the beach and read books and do my thing. . . . I dream of [going] to Australia and getting a college-professor job where nobody knows me, teach about Plato and go out back and hunt rocks. Now, that probably exaggerates it, but that’s what I’d like, just to get away from this mess.”
The film really comes to life in its final minutes, beginning with a scene taken from Scott’s show. He is in closeup, his face a mask. “I will not be defeated tonight,” he whispers. “Five phones are available, and one person has the key.”
There’s a nearly 30-second pause–it feels longer–until at last Scott speaks. “Not one more word tonight,” he vows, “till that thousand comes in.”
Then there are two minutes of some of the most agonizing silence I’ve ever experienced. At first, Scott just sits there, his eyes boring a hole into the viewer. After a long while, he oh-so-casually shuffles some note cards, but the tension is building by the second. Eventually, we cut to a big-haired operator in the studio, who is weeping beside her silent telephone. After a moment, the operator next to her begins to cry as well. They’re tears of fear; the women know what’s about to happen. Scott looks like he’s going to explode at any second. Finally, he does.
“Do you understand that GOD’s work hangs on 600 MISERABLE dollars?!” he roars. “And you SIT there, GLUED to your chair! How long must I teach you the principles of spiritual warfare?! Thirty thousand means nothing now; GOD is being held up to an open shame! . . . It has NOTHING to do with money . . . [and then aside] at this point.”
He savors each word like William Shatner playing King Lear. “People who [sings] ‘I Surrender All’ will let GOD, for an HOUR, hang over PEANUTS!”
Overcome with disgust, he can scarcely continue. “The network oughta be SHUT DOWN,” he spits, “as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, if God can’t find four people. What IS Christianity?! Games?! Gimmicks?! Words?! Massage?! [I must have rewound the tape five times for that one.] Or life and death?!”
Finally, his rage is so over-the-top that even he can barely keep a straight face. “Husbands and wives, if I was married to either one of you I’d get up and kick both of you. If you got somebody sleepin’, go jump in the middle of their gut. This is WAR. God’s honor is at stake!”
The money comes in at last, even more than Scott asked for, but by now, it’s too late to please God’s Angry Man. “We’re well over,” Scott screams, “after I YELLED at you. Why didn’t you do it ’cause you love GOD?”
With a growl, he throws a wad of paper at the camera and storms off, whether to go fume in his dressing room or laugh himself sore, I honestly can’t guess.
The next scene features Scott in his study, quietly and candidly discussing his utter lack of privacy. He says that for security reasons, he’s never, ever alone, and the only thing he owns that nobody else has access to is a zippered black bag he carries with him at all times. “I hope somebody thinks $10 million in gold bars is there, for the simple dignity that there is something I don’t have to go naked about,” he says. “Maybe there’s dirty socks [in there]. I hope when I die . . . the government bureaucrats salivate themselves sick getting into this bag. [It] may be my memoirs. My simple dignity of privacy is restricted to that bag. That’s all I got.”
Forget the government bureaucrats; I’m salivating over that damn bag. What treasures does it contain? Perhaps the key to the man’s whole life–his Rosebud–is in there! My mind is reeling with the possibilities when I suddenly realize that Scott has just answered one of the interviewer’s questions with a line I have to scribble down: “No man should be boss who wants to be a boss. He’ll abuse his authority.” The astonishing thing is that he sounds like he means it. Is this the same Gene Scott who shrieks at his staff every night on the air?
At the scene’s end, Scott talks about the pains of the life he’s created for himself driving him to tears on a weekly basis. The interviewer suggests that Scott must be a lonely man, which Scott almost simultaneously affirms and denies: “Oh yeah, sure. Who could I have as a friend? Every friend is a potential enemy until this job is finished . . . I guess I’m lonesome sometimes, but I’m more of a loner than lonesome. I don’t have any close friends, no. Yeah, I’m lonesome.”
There’s a long pause as Scott looks off camera at the interviewer. The shot holds for just a bit too long, and Scott starts to break into a sly grin. The shot holds, and the grin gets wider.
The film concludes with a bizarre scene from the era of Scott’s FCC troubles, the time of the FCC monkey band. In those days, when Scott was feeling particularly hassled by the government, he’d holler, “Bring me that monkey band!” and one of his helpers would hurriedly wind up a gang of piano-playing, cymbal-crashing toy monkeys, a bizarre toy-shop caricature of our government at work. The concerto usually ended with Scott taking up a bat and whacking the gears out of one of the band members. The scene is almost frighteningly odd, but Scott’s delight is infectious.
“You hit ‘em on the head, and all they do is squawk!” he cries. “Look at ‘em! There’s your bureaucrats! Wouldn’t you like to grow up and be a bureaucrat, if you’re a kid watchin’ this?! That’s our government for you! Haw haw haw!”
Shortly after I saw God’s Angry Man, Scott’s nightly shows took an ugly turn. I watched for weeks, but I never managed to figure out exactly what happened; apparently, Scott discovered that one of the women in his employ had been saying unflattering things about him on the telephone. It never got any clearer than that, but for the next few weeks, Scott raged endlessly, hideously, against this woman in particular (“She was like a blob, expecting me to stuff food into her opening. Well, I don’t touch an opening like that!”) and all women in general (“God is the ultimate chauvinist . . . I’ve never met a woman who didn’t need a man to lead her around”). The incident brought out the beast in him, and soon Scott was enacting his own words about bosses who want to be bosses. “Hell, this ain’t a democracy” became his new favorite phrase. He began to spend his Sunday sermons screaming at his congregation that he is literally a chosen one, selected by God before he was born to lead a select handful of followers, a “master race” in the fight against the forces of Satan. These followers absolutely will not ever talk back to the boss.
“I don’t care what I do,” he told them more than once. “If you think it’s wrong, I don’t wanna hear about it. I do what I do because God wills it, and if you don’t like it, you can get the funk out.”
His flock sat silently through every rant, only piping up when he barked a question at them: “Am I boring you?” Of course, there could be only one answer.
At 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I was outside the imposing University Cathedral in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. After repeated, unsuccessful calls to arrange an interview with Scott, I had given up and made a reservation to attend one of his services. I was greeted (intercepted, really) at the door by a doughy, smiling fellow who checked my name on the reservation list and then proceeded to brief me on the rules for the two-hour service: absolutely no talking, no wiggling in my seat, no getting up to go the bathroom. “We wouldn’t want to get Dr. Scott mad, now would we?” he said with a laugh.
I’m a shaggy creature, clearly out of my element, and I could tell my appearance made the man nervous. As he escorted me to my seat, I noted with a chuckle that I was in the next-to-last row, far away from the cameras.
The cathedral interior is a gorgeous, brassy, kitschy mess, a mix of the UA theater the place once was and the pulpit to the world it is now. They’ve hardly tried to hide the past; the drop curtain still says THE PICTURE’S THE THING and UA in giant, ornate letters. The crowd was an odd mix of blue and white collars, with a couple of girls floating around dressed like they were at a Cramps show.
It was well past the scheduled starting time when the curtain went up; but when it did, there was Scott on a stool, sharing the stage with a few musicians and a sports-bar-style big-screen TV. The crowd applauded thunderously for what must have been a full minute until Scott finally snapped at them to stop it already. The band immediately struck up and performed a few numbers, although I was disappointed that they didn’t do “Kill a Pissant for Jesus,” a song Scott’s been known to call for on occasion. The musical interlude gave me a chance to inspect the enormous mural behind Scott. At first, I took it to be a religious scene of some kind, but it turned out to be a ’30s-style painting of a bunch of cowpokes heading for the last roundup.
After the third song, Scott came forward to speak. He wasn’t far in, though, when he broke off to look ominously in my direction.
“I’m about to embarrass somebody in a minute, if they don’t sit up.”
There was dead silence all around me. I was slouching in my seat a little, but I was 25 rows back and in the dark. Could he possibly mean me?
“You sit up now, or I’ll putcha in a wheelchair. I’m serious. I’d make no exceptions if my own mother was sitting here.”
Everyone around me was now sitting up so straight I could practically hear their spines cracking. I briefly considered slouching over even further (getting thrown bodily out of the cathedral sure would have made a dramatic closing for this story, wouldn’t it?), but I decided to play along. I sat up, and Scott launched into a bitter rant against reporters. I’m sure he wasn’t talking about me, but it was one hell of a spooky coincidence.
From there, Scott mounted a fresh attack on the mysterious woman who had wronged him, pledging that, in the future, he would be more intolerant of dissent and more generally unlovable than ever. The crowd laughed and applauded wildly at that one, and while they were still recovering, Scott announced that it was “offering time.” The words left me momentarily dumbfounded, until a bunch of men bearing red cloth sacks came bounding down the aisles and all of the churchgoers gave them cash. When the men got to me, I waved them away, and I could immediately sense waves of hostility emanating from the churchgoers around me. I stopped myself from slouching guiltily down in my seat just in the nick of time.
When Scott preaches at the cathedral, he works before a large, white board, writing in red and blue and green and black pens. He never erases; he simply writes over old words with darker pens. By morning’s end, they make some interesting, Kandinsky-like patterns (for a time, the ever-entrepreneurial Scott sold the boards when he was done with them). The one drawback to the system is that, after a while, the messages are virtually indecipherable; detail upon detail piles up until it becomes such a jumble that your brain starts to hurt. Eventually, my eyes glazed over, and with the scant reasoning power I had left, I started trying to organize this article in my mind. It seemed impossible; I’d gathered enough material for a book about Scott, and more details kept coming in, but I still had no clue about what makes him tick.
When I came out of my reverie, Scott was winding up a speech: “God doesn’t like failure, and mankind, as it stands, is God’s great failure. . . . I want the world to know its hate is returned.”
When the service was over, I went upstairs and looked at Scott’s world-renowned collection of Bibles. Some were on metal pages; some had pages as big as a car door. There were a few of Scott’s books for sale, most of them transcripts from his TV sermons. His flock was all around me, looking at the merchandise with wide eyes. What did they see there? What was in it for them?
I didn’t care anymore. I went downstairs and stepped outside. It had rained the day before, and all of a sudden, L.A. was beautiful. It felt good to get away from that dark room and free from God’s Angry Man. I crossed the street to my car and drove through crowded downtown streets, glad as I rarely am to be alive in my own godless world.