Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Goodbye Dr. Gonzo Baby, and Amen!

Yesterday there was a brief discussion amongst the RUFNKM staff as to whether or not we should do anything on Hunter S. Thompson. It turned out that none of us had read enough of him to comment( Pace Rude Pundit however, we all have made it through many Bukowski and Chomksy books and some of us have read in even amounts the linguistics and the politics, so go eff yourself, Rude Pundit!) This post isn't about Hunter S. Thompson.

Today marks the passing of Dr. Gene Scott, pastor of the University Cathedral in Los Angeles. Doc, as he was known, was the Gonzo Evangelical, and I for one am sorry he's gone. It seems apt that he'd go right around the same time as Thompson.

It's appropriate that the descirption of him linked above is from rotten.com. I went to high school with some of those guys, and we lived in the perfect milieu to appreciate him. If you were an insomniac teen ager hungry for the weird but without cable and living in suburban Northern California in the 1980's and the early 1990's, there really wasn't all that much going on. So Channel 38 was where you tuned in every night. This was the station Doc owned, one of several thoughout the country.

There, you'd see Doc, sitting in his chair, a huge cigar jammed between his lips. He'd normally be ranting and cursing at his congregation for some failing or other. If not, he'd be telling them to "get on the telephone!". This would signal a break where random footage of the LA Freeway, Doc with his horses, Doc with a bunch of girls in bikinis, whatever else. After a while, the footage would end, the camera would cut back to Doc. If he'd gotten enough calls, he'd start in on either another rant, or the the evening's "teaching".

The "teachings" would range wildly in subject matter. Sometimes it would be a justification for why Doc took the coarse attitude he did when preaching, especially in regards to other Christians. Other times he would explain how Reihnold Niebuhr influenced him, and the dangers of "progressive education" and moral relativism - he had an unlimited supply of ire for John Dewey. Other subjects included the pyramids, UFO's, Atlantis, and the Media. He claimed he was using the "gestalt" method of teaching, but I think that may have just been an excuse for the chaos.

He would often spend an entire week's worth of broadcasts on a certain book or subject. When he wanted to discuss a book, he'd read it aloud to the viewers and stop every few pages to offer his comments. He did a few nights on God Knows by Joseph Heller. He once dedicated several night's to a mostly favorable discussion of Michael Parenti's Inventing Reality. How many other TV preachers would even acknowledge the existence of a critique of the media by a far leftist? And how many more would take time to read and discuss it with an audience? Well, now that Doc's gone, that number would be zero.

Dr. Scott's broadcasts were everything modern TV wasn't(and isn't, and never will be, the good folks at Williams Street notwithstanding). They were an exciting unpredictable mess, totally subject to Doc's whim. They'd last as long as he felt like going, they'd show whatever he felt like showing. It was always an ego-trip for him, but an engaging one. Doc showed that if you had a little bit of technology, a bad attitude and an audience, you could do amazing entertainment that was more exciting than anything promised by any major media. He was a DIY'er and punk as hell. And that's why I'll miss him.
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