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If you’ve never tried Quaaludes before, they’re kinda like this guy singing ‘Jesus Loves You’
04.29.2015
11:42 am

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Clearly this video of Rod Boucher singing “Jesus Loves You” has been slowed wayyyy down. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pick up on that. But the result is a type of seemingly Quaalude-induced hilariousness. If you’ve never done ‘em before, look no further than this video because this pretty much sums up what the experience is like. Minus the fun parts, of course.

Dig Rod’s Minnie Riperton-esque high notes, “Somebody loves you! Wooooooooooooooooo!” Also, his use of the word “forever” literately goes on forever and ever.

The video was taken from a Christian Television Association advertisement. An Australian ad from 1980.

 
via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Eye-popping: Sufi holy men stick knives in their eyes
04.29.2015
06:13 am

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Belief
Unorthodox

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If you’re squeamish—then look away now…

During the annual Urs Festival in India some Sufi Muslim holy men of the Chisti order show their devotion by sticking knives in eyes….Okay.

Thousands of devotees attend the six-day festival Amjer in Rajasthan commemorating the death, some 800 years ago, of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chisti order of Sufism. Apart form stabbing themselves in the eyes, these Sufi Muslim holy men also self-flagellate, drive spikes into their backs, pierce their cheeks with knives and skewers and take part in a 75 mile walk to a shrine in Bhadiyad, ending with an all-night (dhikr/zikr qawwali) singalong with other (presumably similarly maimed) worshipers.
 
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Sufism differs from other forms of Islam with congregations formed around a grand master (Mawla) who are claimed to maintain “a direct chain of teachers back to the Prophet Muhammad.” Sufis consider themselves to be “the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam.” The eyeball stabbing and the self-torture form part of the strict self-discipline Sufis consider evidence of their devotion. I wonder what they do for an encore?

And now here’s the usual caveat: This video contains images some may find distressing. Yep.
 

 
H/T Metro

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Holy Ghost People’: Snake-handling, faith-healing, speaking in tongues
04.16.2015
06:21 am

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Filmmaker Peter Adair is best known for his seminal queer classic, Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, a 1977 collaboratively directed documentary featuring 26 gay men and lesbians. The film, created with his lesbian sister Nancy, showed a truly diverse array of subjects speaking plainly about their lives and experiences. (The interviews were also later compiled and edited into a fascinating book by Nancy and the siblings’ lesbian mother, Casey.) Adair’s impulse for treating his subjects with sympathy wasn’t totally personal though. Ten years before Word is Out, he made Holy Ghost People, an intense but humane document of a Pentecostal church in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia.

With unembellished, almost flat narration, Adair describes the practices of Scrabble Creek Pentecostals. (Note that minimalist composer Steve Reich was one of the audio recordists on the film.) Adair interviews attendants and records their four to six hour long services, where they sing and play music, pray for divine healing and “speak in tongues.” They jerk, shudder and drop to the ground in religious ecstasy, some of them “paralyzed” by the experience, and of course, there is the most infamous of Pentecostal traditions—snake-handling. Adair even records a non-lethal bite.

As someone with some exposure to Pentecostal churches and environments, it’s worth noting that denominations like this are often considered marginal by the more mainstream flocks, perhaps more so as rural Appalachian enclaves continue to change and (sort of) modernize. At the services I attended, “catching the spirit” (the shaking and convulsing) wasn’t particularly common (possibly because the spectacle interrupted the music). Speaking in tongues was even rarer, and generally gossiped about later in skeptical murmurs. Praying collectively for a “brother” or “sister”‘s health was common, but actual faith healing was done at special services or events, rather than during regular sermons. And I only saw snake-handling a few times at tent revivals—children weren’t allowed to participate, or even witness, but there were snakes, so (obviously) we found a way.
 

 
It was also generally accepted that a lot of snake-handling was vaudeville flash, with little risk of actual death. The snakes used were considered “docile,” and it was always rumored they had been defanged, or at least “milked” beforehand to exhaust them of most of their poison.  Supposedly, you could make a pretty penny from popping a snake’s fangs through a bit of cheesecloth stretched taut with a rubber band over a mason jar. Many parishioners said that nearby hospitals would purchase the subsequently expelled venom to produce antivenom, adding to skepticism surrounding the “spirituality” of snake-handling. That being said, Pentecostals do sometimes die from snake bites, though when word of a death—or even near-death—reached to our church, it was rare enough to elicit little more than an exasperated head shake—no one ever thought it wasn’t dangerous, most thought it was idiotic.

There are moments of Holy Ghost People though, that will ring pretty familiar with any former Pentecostal. A woman recounts an experience following a series of surgeries where a mysterious child brings sweetened milk to her deathbed for a few days; by the grace of God, she was healed, her recovery the result of her trust in the Lord, an act of God here on earth. These deathbed stories are incredibly common. The poverty and geography of Appalachia fosters a desperate, insular kind of faith, and in the common context of poor health, the spiritual and corporeal congeal into a complex delusion of “miracles” and inexplicable, supernatural forces. While more recent portrayals of Pentecostals tend to resort to smug sensationalism, Holy Ghost People manages a dignified, compassionate look at an all too frequently spurned community.
 

 
Part 2

Via Internet Archive

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The actual Ku Klux Klan application form
04.10.2015
10:22 am

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Belief
Crime
Race

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The Ku Klux Klan are America’s leading terrorist organization—there isn’t really much competition, it wins that contest by a wide margin. If you want a quick ‘n’ easy way to find out everything about the darker side of our country’s history, you really can’t beat a tour of the KKK, and if you have any real problem with my description of the KKK as a terrorist organization, you need to go read any random four pages of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.

Rebecca Onion at Slate posted this incredible find yesterday—it’s an application to the Ku Klux Klan from (most likely) 1921. The KKK’s status as America’s foremost secret organization obscures the fact that in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Klan was almost respectable—it was the second resurgence of the group, the first obviously coming right after the Civil War (the third would come during the Civil Rights Era). Bolstering the theory that this application derives from 1921, we have this chunk of text from Wikipedia:

Starting in 1921, it adopted a modern business system of recruiting (which paid most of the initiation fee and costume charges as commissions to the organizers) and grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions of urban industrialization and vastly increased immigration, its membership grew most rapidly in cities, and spread out of the South to the Midwest and West. The second KKK preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism” and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism. Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South.

According to the same page, by 1924 the enrollment of the KKK had risen to nearly six million from almost nothing. Just a few years earlier, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which extolled the KKK, had become the world’s first monster box office hit; President Woodrow Wilson famously described it as follows: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Baseball fans interested in history get upset about supposed racist Ty Cobb while generally ignoring the KKK membership of Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (allegedly) and Rogers Hornsby. The point here is that KKK membership in the 1920s was not incompatible with being one of the most famous athletes in the country. In his book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James notes:
 

The KKK in the 1920’s had a populist phase in which it toned down its racism, and drew in hundreds of thousands of men who were not racists, including Hugo Black. When Larry Doby broke the color line in the American League, Speaker was strongly on his side, worked with him daily in the outfield, encouraged and supported him, and was remembered by Doby in his Hall of Fame induction speech…

 
Doby’s speech, by the way, is here. That, more than anything, explains the semi-official and semi-innocuous tone of this document. If not for the content, the form is in many ways indistinguishable from the kind of information HR’s gonna need for you to start getting a weekly paycheck for your cubicle job. Of course, at the same time, simply reading the questions will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the Ku Klux Klan.

Here are the questions:
 

1. Is the motive prompting your inquiry serious?
2. What is your age?
3. What is your occupation?
4. Where were you born?
5. How long have you resided in your present locality?
6. Are you married, single or widower?
7. Were your parents born in the United States of America?
8. Are you a gentile or a jew?
9. Are you of the white race or of a colored race?
10. What educational advantages have you?
11. Color of eyes? Hair? Weight?
12. Do you believe in the principles of a PURE Americanism?
13. Do you believe in White Supremacy?
14. What is your politics?
15. What is your religious faith?
16. Of what church are you a member (if any)
17. Of what religious faith are your parents?
18. What secret, fraternal orders are you a member of (if any)?
19. Do you honestly believe in the practice of REAL fraternity?
20. Do you owe ANY KIND of allegiance to any foreign nation, government, institution, sect, people, ruler or person?

 
This is a weird thing to confess, but I was always a good test-taker in school, and as I read through this list I find myself idiotically looking for the smoking gun question that will disqualify me. “Aw, shoot! My mom was born in Austria, was half-Jewish and a socialist! Darn! Just missed!”

Here’s the application itself—note that clicking on the image will let you read a larger version.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Scientology’s redacted view of the proper role of women is (surprise!) incredibly sexist
04.08.2015
12:29 pm

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Belief

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L. Ron Hubbard auditing a tomato. He claimed that that they “scream when sliced.”
 
If you haven’t seen Going Clear, the HBO documentary on Scientology, I suggest you get on it. The science fiction cult of the rich and famous is so much more disturbing than most people know! From the mouths of ex-Scientologists themselves, you hear about surveillance, blackmail, brainwashing and abuse administered strategically upon celebrities and mere mortals alike, all to build this lucrative empire based on a batshit pseudoscience religious cult. There’s so much crazy, the doc can’t even cover it all.

For example, one of my favorite details is L. Ron Hubbard’s fundamentally retrograde views on the sexes (which have, of course, been edited out of more recent publications). It’s pretty well-known that old L. Ron thought you could “pray away the gay” (or “audit” it away or whatever), but Scientology’s obsession with heteronormativity goes way beyond basic homophobia.

Below is the entirety of a now-omitted chapter from Hubbard’s 1965 treatise Scientology: A New Slant on Life, covertly titled “A Woman’s Creativity.”

The whole future of the race depends upon its attitude toward children; and a race which specializes in women for “mental purposes” or which believes that the contest of the sexes in the spheres of business and politics is a worthier endeavor than the creation of tomorrow’s generation is a race which is dying.

We have, in the woman who is an ambitious rival of the man in his own activities, a woman who is neglecting the most important mission she may have. A society which looks down upon this mission and a society in which women are taught anything but the management of a family, the care of men, and the creation of the future generation is a society which is on its way out.

The historian can peg the point where a society begins its sharpest decline at the instant when women begin to take part, on an equal footing with men, in political and business affairs, since this means that the men are decadent and the women are no longer women.

This is not a sermon on the role or position of women; it is a statment [sic] of bald and basic fact. When children become unimportant to a society, that society has forfeited its future. Even beyond the fathering and bearing and rearing of children, a human being does not seem to be complete without a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. This relationship is the vessel wherein is nurtured the life force of both individuals, whereby they create the future of the race in body and thought. If man is to rise to greater heights, then women must rise with him or even before him. But she must rise as woman and not as, today, she is being misled into rising—as a man. It is the hideous joke of frustrated, unvirile men to make women over into the travesty of men, which men themselves have become.

Men are difficult and troublesome creatures—but valuable. The creative care and handling of men is an artful and a beautiful task. Those who would cheat a woman of their rightful place, by making them into men, should at last realize that, by this action, they are destroying, not only the women, but the men and the children as well. This is too great a price to pay for being “modern” or for someone’s petty anger or spite against the female sex.

The arts and skills of woman, the creation and Inspiration of which she is capable and which, here and there, in isolated places in our culture, she still manages to effect, in spite of the ruin and decay of man’s world which spreads around her, must be brought newly and fully into life. These arts and skills and creation and inspiration are her beauty, just as she is the beauty of mankind.

Obviously gender conservatism is nothing new in religion, but you just kind of expect something a little more progressive from a UFO cult! This is a science-fiction religion founded in 1952—the futuristic aesthetics apply just fine to aliens, “Thetans” and bullshit E-meters (seen in the picture above, with Hubbard “auditing” a tomato), but a career girl is just way too “out there?” What would Xenu say?
 
Via The Pitch

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Book of Yeezus: ‘In the beginning Kanye created the heavens and the earth’
04.06.2015
09:37 am

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Belief
Books
Music

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Finally a book that can adequately express the exquisite ambition and ego of the one and only Kanye Omari West, the man behind such stirring religious texts as “Jesus Walks” and “New God Flow.” Kanye reportedly considered naming his sixth album I Am God (it was actually named Yeezus) but then settled for merely calling one song on it “I Am a God.” In an interview with BBC News in September 2013 Kanye defended himself on his use of the title by in effect crying racism:
 

I just told you who I thought I was: A god. I just told you. That’’s who I think I am. Would it have been better if I had a song that said “I am a n*gger” or if I had a song that said “I am a gangster” or if I had a song that said “I am a pimp”? All those colours and patinas fit better on a person like me, right?

 
Well, maybe, Yeezus. The opposite of naming a song “I Am a God” isn’t naming a song “I Am a Pimp,” it’s opting not to name a song “I Am a God” in the first place! And the end result is that you do seem to spend an awful lot of time wondering if you are God. So there’s that.
 

 
Seemingly designed to mock at least as much as honor Kanye, you can now buy a bound edition of the Book of Genesis in which “God” or “Y——A” has been replaced “Kanye” and “Yeezus.” So for instance, the first sentence of The Book of Yeezus is, “In the beginning Kanye created the heavens and the earth.” The books costs $20 but includes “a 300-word social commentary on the religion and spectacle of media icons in the 21st-century.”

Kanye West, “Jesus Walks”:
 

 
via Consequence of Sound
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Just in time for Easter: Jesus returns on a hot cross bun
04.02.2015
04:31 am

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Amusing
Belief
Food

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Like the Scarlet Pimpernel, they seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him almost everywhere… and no one seems to know where the elusive Jesus Christ will next turn up. This time it appears JC has been spotted on a hot cross bun.

Mother-of-two, Lindsey Norman bought a pack of six buns from her local supermarket and noticed what appeared to be a likeness of Jesus on one of the traditional Easter treats.

“I saw them and I thought ‘That looks just like a figure of Jesus with a sign of the cross on his shoulder,’” Ms Norman told the press.  “It made me giggle to myself because it’s coming up to Easter.”

Ms. Norman purchased the buns and returned home where they were devoured that night. Whether Jesus was toasted or just gobbled-up with a dab of butter, we don’t know.

However, there are many superstitions attached to hot cross buns—from its supposed symbolism of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, to the belief that sharing one of these seasonal goodies will ensure long-lasting friendship; and if you hang a bun in the kitchen and keep it for a year, it will not go off and can then be broken down and used as medicine; and that the cross on top of the bun can ward-off evil spirits. Whether anyone has successfully tested these claims, I don’t know, but I do think Ms. Norman should have kept her Jesus bun and sold it on eBay.
 
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Via Daily Mail

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Don’t Mess with My Mind! Christian magician warns children of evil Ouija boards, Dungeons & Dragons
04.01.2015
09:32 am

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Amusing
Belief

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You can fool my eye, but don’t mess with my mind [emphasis added].

Here’s a hilarious short clip from Kids Tricks: It’s a Secret by Danny Kormen. Danny teaches wide-eyed kids about the dangers of Ouija boards and of course, Dungeons & Dragons. I got a good laugh from this.

I found the the show in its entirety for $6 on eBay if you just gotta see the rest of it. (Which I’m pretty sure you don’t.)

 
via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Vietnamese Buddhists decide ‘crazy’ Allen Ginsberg must be a government spy
03.24.2015
10:17 am

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Belief
History
Literature

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A dedicated student of meditation throughout most of his adulthood, Allen Ginsberg fell into Buddhism fairly early on in life, well before the mysticism craze of the 1960s, to be fair. He was even instrumental in bringing Buddhist thinkers and writers into the mainstream—hardly a shallow New Age dilettante. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have super goobery white dude moments early on in his quest for spiritual education.

In this fantastic little 1963 item from The New York Times (cheekily titled “Buddhists Find a Beatnik ‘Spy’”), Ginsberg finds himself in the midst of a government/religious conflict that he clearly hadn’t anticipated.

SAIGON, Vietnam, June 5 - The Buddhists, who are in conflict with the South Vietnam Government, asserted today that they believed the Americans has sent a “spy to look at us.”

A Buddhist spokesman told this to newsmen. The newsmen, incredulous, asked if the spokesman would be good enough to describe the “spy.”

“Well, he was tall and had a very long beard and his hair was very long in back and curly,” the Buddhist said. “He said he was a poet and a little crazy and that he liked Buddhists. We didn’t know what else he was so we decided he was a spy.”

At this point his listeners burst out laughing and said the “spy” was the American poet Allen Ginsberg, a well-known beatnik. Mr. Ginsberg was here briefly for several days on his way to British Columbia after a long stay in India.

The Buddhist controversy with Government involves their resentment over Government curbs on their activities, including a ban on raising the Buddhist flag.

 
Via New York Times

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘A lot of people do bad things’: The bizarre tale of child evangelist turned conman, Marjoe Gortner
02.27.2015
09:53 am

Topics:
Belief
Movies

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Marjoe Poster
 
If you’ve never had the chance to watch the fascinating 1972 Academy Award-winning documentary, Marjoe take a look at it below. Produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, it’s flat-out great, a singular document chronicling the life of former child evangelist, Marjoe Gortner who, as an adult superstar preacher, admits on film that he’s using the whole evangelist racquet to scam answer-hungry parishioners out of their hard-earned cash. Gortner works with an infiltrating hippie film crew to expose his whole dishonest practice. Watching this is a truly I-can’t-believe-my-eyes experience not just because it gives first-hand evidence that the evangelist thing’s a scam (many of us are well aware of that already), but because of the willing, even eager participation of the film’s subject. This is just a truly only-in-America film that you have to see

It starts by giving a little necessary backstory about Marjoe Gortner. Strangely, the name Marjoe is an odd combination of the biblical names Mary and Joseph, and from the age of three-and-a half, the boy’s parents, especially his bizarre evangelist stage mom, saw little Marjoe as a sanctified, Pentecostal cash cow. While other kids were out running around doing the things that kids are supposed to be doing, Marjoe was forced to memorize elaborate sermons with the threat of a pillow smothering or long dunks underwater hanging over his head when his mother got frustrated. She knew he had to appear in the public all the time to keep the money rolling in, so she didn’t want to leave any visible scars of abuse.

He would walk into press conferences as a six-year-old and tell the editor of whatever magazine that he was talking to that he was “here to give the devil two black eyes.” He blew people away while sometimes garnering all-press-is-good-press criticism. The film shows Marjoe as a child performing a wedding ceremony for full-grown adults while bedecked in a little white sailor suit with shorts and cowboy boots. He drew headlines. Preachers at the time were outraged at the sensationalism and the affront to the sanctity of marriage. Not unexpected of course. Preachers are always outraged about that sort of thing.

But all the while, despite the accolades, the controversy, LIFE magazine articles and all sorts of people telling him he was blessed with a supernatural gift sent straight from GAAAWD almighty, Marjoe Gortner never really believed it. He just knew he was a good performer trained to entice people to open their wallets, and he became very good at it.
 
Marjoe Gortner Child Preacher
Marjoe Gortner as a child evangelist
 
Quickly, the film cuts to a time years later where we find a now long and lean, tie-dye adorned, all-grown-up Marjoe Gortner in a hotel room with a very stoned looking hippie film crew. He’s debriefing them about what to do and what not to do when he lets them follow him around capturing his now thriving evangelistic enterprise on film. He’s very clear that the whole thing’s all an act, and Gortner warns the crew not to blow their cover by taking home any of the evangelist groupies (Marjoe sticks with the airline stewardesses himself) or smoking in front of anybody. He warns his far-out friends that they’re about to see people speaking in tongues, acts of faith healing, individuals writhing around on the floor, the whole nine yards.

Before you know it, film is being shot in a church and all of the above happens on camera. A lot of the “tent revival” footage throughout would be relatively unremarkable, except that you know the guy doesn’t really buy into one singular goddamned thing the he’s saying to the shouting crowds of gullible hayseeds and proto mega-churchers. You see how adept Gortner has become at getting people to hand over the “largest bill they have,” while behind the scenes we find him literally counting a pile of cash on a hotel room bed, shaking his head about how easy it is to get the money flowing. He knows he’s a business man, and he even has merch in the form of a record. He talks about how he used some kind of water-activated powder that made a cross show up on his head when he started sweating during one his “crusades.” People ate it up and, more importantly, ponied up the cash.

In a 1972 interview with Roger Ebert around the time of the film’s release, Gortner illuminates the materialist sham:

These people lead miserable lives, and suffer in silence because they know they’re going to get their reward in heaven. A preacher is a man who has been blessed by God on Earth. If he doesn’t drive a Cadillac, they don’t think much of him; God must not favor him. He’s got to look good, feel good and smell good.

There’s a moment in Marjoe where Gortner talks about imitating Mick Jagger when he throws down his stage act. He says he probably would have been a musician if he hadn’t chosen the ministry. The footage is pretty incredible. He nails it. He cock-struts, hand on his hip across the stage, the whole deal.

From the 1972 interview:

You have to go into the heavy religion in order to give people on excuse to loosen up and enjoy themselves. When I’d do a hip movement or a jump, or start walking over the backs of the seats, they’d say, ‘Hallelujah! God’s behind him!’ But if they saw Mick Jagger doing the same thing at a rock concert, that was the work of the devil.

Lest you conjecture, as I did, that the whole coming clean thing was itself a scam, Gortner claims in the 1972 Ebert interview that he actually stood to make a lot more money simply staying in the evangelical game.

A lot of people have charged that I made the movie for money. For example, some of the hard-sell radio preachers are attacking me. That’s ridiculous. At the time I quit, I honestly think I was the best preacher on the circuit, I could cut anybody. In five years I would have been on top and probably a millionaire. One thing a lot of people forget about is the tax advantage: I was tax-deductible.

Post evangelizing, however, Gortner eventually enrolled in acting classes and used his tan, blonde, curly-haired, So-Cal look to land himself a few leading rolls in films, including 1976’s Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw across from Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter:
 
Bobbie Jo
Marjoe Gortner and Lynda Carter in ‘Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw,’ 1976
 
You can watch all of Marjoe below, courtesy of the Internet Archive.
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
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