By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
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.