Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My dirty little basement secret...

When we returned from England last winter we had less than six weeks to figure out our transition from analog to digital television. Long story short we upgraded two of the six televisions to HD--yes, in fact we do use six, ok? High-def baseball, football, Mad Men, Young and the Restless, Today Show's Matt Lauer and Law and Order. Fantastic, couldn't be better. The analog converter boxes for the old TVs have kept them working in the digital age...except for one.

The laundry room TV. An old black and white TV from my childhood, nearing its 35ish birthday. It's so old in fact that it doesn't possess the nubbin on which to attach a converter box to receive a digital signal. It still turns on despite its ancient body....but comparable to Hugh Hefner or George Hamilton "ought to be home praying for a happy death," as my dear old Uncle Jim used to say. I should have landfilled it with the others but I couldn't bear to part with this tangible piece of my childhood. My sister and I watched many an episode of Brady Bunch and Flintstones on this old friend.

It's hiding behind all the crap that hangs around by my washer and dryer. Up until the socialist takeover by the death panel advocate digital special interest groups, I would watch this TV by literally turning the dial to my favorite soaps as I folded or did laundry. I should have known by the cancellation of Guiding Light after 70 years that my laundry room was organized around a fragile house of cards called my nostalgia. The TV has sat idle since the move to digital and my laundry's been backing up.

Yet a true believer doesn't forget there are miracles around us every day. And so the other day feeling alone and lost in the laundry room, I flipped on the set on for a lark. Even the snowy noise was better than being alone, I thought. And lo and behold, two channels came through. Praise. Two channels with a similar theme. Hallelujah. Jesus refuses to be bound by the digital age! Turns out Ecclesiastes is a fine book of the Bible to fold laundry by.

I'm actually a long time connoisseur of televangelists dating back to the seventies with Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. My favorite crooks...er...preachers of all time, though, are the triumvirate of evil, Richard Roberts, Benny Hinn and my old Louisiana buddy, Robert Tilton. My whole family enjoyed Tilton as he often segued into tongues while preaching and begging for money. "The Lord shall sayeth, hobbibity bibbity that you shall walk...dibbidity doo bezahzah.....with your credit card to the phone..zimminy shizzah..."

Benny Hinn sported an elaborate comb-over that renders Donald Trump's coiffure an amateur effort. Benny's TV trademark was whacking people vigorously on the forehead to drive disease and pain out of their bodies. Bodyguards stood at the ready to catch the fallen and presumably cured as they melted to the floor with Benny's "coulda had a V-8" anointing.

Richard Roberts, the son of Oral Roberts, was probably the most mainstream of the three as he and his beautiful wife Lindsay (often pregnant) serenely preached from a chat-show-style set with a vibe so similar to Regis and Kathie Lee that it couldn't have been accidental. Richard also had his moments of speaking in tongues but not with the same enthusiasm or jazz-like scat that characterized Tilton's ministry. I've studied them all.

Of course all of them calculatingly and ruthlessly preying upon the lonely, the elderly and the infirm, taking money for prayer concerns which they then spent on lavish treats for themselves off-camera. All televangelists, some of whom I started watching on this very RCA Solid State set (The Bakkers' PTL Club was often the only thing on UHF back in high school on a day home sick on the sofa) are eventually exposed for their duplicitousness and all the aforementioned are in arrears to the tax man and in some cases, the law man.

And yet, the march of the televangelist apparently soldiers on broadcasting their shows on analog to those lonely few without converter boxes or cable or satellite--shut-ins like myself. A captive audience, lonely for a connection in a big world and willing to pay for it. I look forward to laundry folding again and reacquainting myself with the new crop of charlatans.

I just checked...boring old Pat Robertson. I'm looking for new blood. The hail is falling, Armageddon approaches.


  1. Why do I seem to most appreciate those posts that seem to be inspired by your laundry? This was excellent!

  2. Ann says,

    Ok your description of Tilton had me in stitches. I love that you still have that old TV. I wish I had some of those childhood memories. I was teaching about "small moments" today with my students. We were focusing on thinking of places that were special to us and then making lists of "seed stories" about the place. Some kid said, "Can my bed be that special place?" Suddenly, I was transported back to my childhood, when my sister Rita and I played "camping" on our bed....we never camped in our life. It was Roy Rogers and Dale Evans who inspired us. But I wish I still had the step stool we used to climb up on our bed in this game!!!

  3. I feel so much better now that I know someone else
    is "tv" poor. We have 4 that we use and two more
    in closets, one of them belonging to Mike. AND, we have given couple others away in the last few years! I can't remember what happened to one of my favorites...an old black & white that sat on our kitchen counter forever. $99 K-mart job that
    never had any problems.