I was flipping the TV dial one restless night and I found a sermon by pastor Melissa Scott, a pretty, painted lady with big, 1987 hair and a priest's collar. She had something of Gene's piercing intelligence and conviction, along with his borderline lunacy and seemingly unbounded contempt for the audience. I imagined she was the good doctor's daughter, but the truth was much more exotic.
Melissa Scott is Gene's widow: 39 years younger and a hell of a lot prettier than her late hubby, but just as full of holy piss and vinegar. Although there is still some uncertainty on the matter, various accounts have pegged her as a former porn star who worked under the name Barbi Bridges. ("I am the chiefest of sinners," she has said. "Whatever you've heard about me, I'm worse!") Apparently Gene's fans first noticed her as one of the chippies in his backyard chorus line, but she so charmed the Doc that eventually the other girls vanished from the Scott telecasts, replaced by footage of Gene and Melissa riding some magnificent horses around the palatial grounds of the Scott estate. Soon she was joining him onstage at the University Cathedral for the Sunday sermons, often taking the mike to warble a few hymns. According to various sources, Gene actually proposed to Melissa on the air.
If all of this sounds a little second- or third-hand, that's because, just like Gene, Melissa Scott is a deeply controversial, endlessly perplexing and perhaps ultimately unknowable creature. Her Wikipedia page was subject to so many revisions and so much vandalism that in January it was locked from view to any but the site's inner circle. Google just pulls up a bunch of blog posts tearing her down or fawning over her unimpeachable wonderfulness, while the official Scott website remains as terse and low-tech as ever—virtually unchanged since I researched my original story half a lifetime ago. It's 1997 all over again, and while I'm tempted to go see what I can dig up at the library, I think I'll pass this time. Perhaps we should all just accept that where the Scott empire is concerned, the Lord moves in some very mysterious ways indeed.
Wherever Gene Scott is now, at the right hand of God or the left hand of, er, somebody else, I like to imagine that he is sitting back with a celestial stogie and observing Melissa's progress with a smile. Whether Melissa Scott is doing God's work or not, she is certainly doing Gene's. The King of Weird TV is dead. Long live the Queen.
CATCH MELISSA SCOTT ON KCAL-TV CHANNEL 9 OR KCOP-TV CHANNEL 13. SUN.-THURS., 2 A.M.; ION-tV, UHF CHANNEL 30. MOST WEEKNIGHTS. HER PROGRAM ALSO STREAMS CONTINUOUSLY AT WWW.DRGENESCOTT.COM.