God's Angriest Man

From the OC Weekly Archives - Jan. 3, 1997

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.

ME WATCHING DR. SCOTT WATCHING GOD'S ANGRY MAN

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."

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