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With cremations on the rise, worldwide, it is quite easy to understand how many new people develop questions. Cremations as a percentage of deaths are forecasted to top 36% by the year 2010 in the US, and are already well above 70% in the UK. In this section of our site, we hope to provide you with answers to basic questions. If you would like additional information, please call.
The standard cremation process is as follows:
At the time of death, professionally trained staff transport your loved one to their cremation facility. While the mandated "waiting period" elapses (normally 24 to 48 hours until the cremation can be performed), the deceased is often sheltered in a temperature controlled refrigeration unit.
At the time of cremation, the deceased is placed in a cremation container (if required by law), and then into the cremation chamber. This process usually takes 2 to 3 hours, and is overseen by licensed and trained staff.
Once the cremation process is complete, the cremated remains are removed from the chamber. Any foreign material, such as metal from bridgework or prosthetic devices, are removed and typically discarded or returned to the family at their request.
The cremated remains are then processed to a consistent size and shape and placed into the cremation urn selected by the family. If an urn is not selected, then the cremated remains are usually returned in a cardboard or plastic temporary container until an urn is selected. The cremated remains are then returned to the family or delivered by a trained staff member to a cemetery or other final destination.
The procedure necessary to create a LifeGem diamond is exactly the same as above; however, eight ounces (or 200 grams) are put aside to be sent to our facility to begin the LifeGem diamond creation process.
If you have lost someone in the past, the most important thing to know is that we CAN create a LifeGem from previously existing remains from many, many years ago. Carbon that exists in your loved ones remains will be accessible for a very long time. If you have just lost a loved one, your loved one can be cremated at one of our certified facilities across the nation, or at facility of your choice. Please contact us and we will direct the location of your choice on how to properly proceed. We can train the funeral home and cremation operators quickly, so your family will not experience any additional stress or concern.
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July 24, 2009
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Filmed in 2003 by the argentinian director Edgardo Cozarinsky, the story of persons meeting in Paris, all with memories from Buenos Aires. With Marisa Paredes, Féodor Atkine, Bruno Putzulu, Tav Falco. Planned to be out end of 2003.Première has been given in Memphis in Dec.2002. Tav's character is "August". August fences stolen merchandise for thieves; 'Boll Weevil' (played by Bill Peitsch of The Church Keys), 'June Bug' (played by Sandra Kramer-Shaw) and 'Fish Fly' (played by the late Cub Koda).
WAYNE COUNTY RAMBLIN' - 2002 - A feature film directed by Dan Rose (USA)
Soundtrack from Iggy Pop, Mick Collins (Gories, Dirtbombs), Suicide, Hydromatics, Lyres, Sonics Rendez Vous, ...
By Ross "The Entertainer" Johnson
I’m the aural equivalent of a carnival geek. I make unlistenable 'rant' records where I bellow incoherently over an instrumental backing track. I’m usually severely intoxicated when I do this and the recorded results are uniformly cringe inducing to me. I simply never want to hear any of my records cuz they’re embarrassing as hell to listen to … but very meaningful for me to do, personally speaking. The process, not the product, is what I’m addicted to. This activity continues to be without a doubt the single most important thing in my life even though at this point in my noncareer in the biz I may do a live gig maybe once every three months and annually play a handful of recording sessions, most of which never see any kind of commercial release. Much more than a small-time career in academia and being a desultory parent, playing music has been my 'life’s work,' emotionally speaking. I’ve failed miserably at it, usually in public where an unsuspecting crowd of music fans or bar slugs are treated to a dose of my brand of shit-rock. It’s a desperate, ridiculous compulsion that has cursed me for decades now. I’ll do anything (and I have) for the chance at one more gig or recording session. I’ll play with anybody anywhere anytime just for the chance to perform in front of a crowd, any crowd.
Frankly, there have been too many all-time lows and musical Waterloos for me to recall, much less to write about here. Okay, I’ll relate one just to give a flavor of the incompetence I’ve displayed publicly on a regular basis for over a quarter of a century. In the mid 90s I had a band that played a handful of sparsely attended gigs in Memphis. The band was called Adolescent Music Fantasy, AMF for short, (truth in advertising there…it started in adolescence but unfortunately kept on growing and festering long after that … we should have called ourselves Middle-Aged Noise Compulsion) and several talented musicians played with me, humoring my 'musical vision' over the course of several live shows and a couple of records. My vision then consisted of playing excruciatingly long instrumental versions of cliched tunes like “Land of 1000 Dances” and “Louie Louie.” Ponderously slow garage sludge is a kind way of describing what AMF was grinding out then.
We had a booking one evening at a local bar and I had decided to add an old friend to the mix that night as something of a vocalist/provocateur. I picked up my pal for the gig and he got into my car literally wearing a lampshade; it didn’t take me long to discover that he was more 'lit' (sorry, why resist something like that?) than I was. We proceeded to the club where said buddy took to the stage with the lampshade perched atop his head while also playing with what I think were little plastic army men. From time to time he would bellow some disconnected words into the microphone that sounded vaguely foreign in an Esperanto-ish kind of way. The boredom, horror and, finally, fear (as Mr. Lampshade menaced a few young pups at the bar with his toys and headgear) I saw on the faces of the audience is something that will and should stay with me for the rest of my life.
What was even more disturbing was seeing the daughter of a woman I had once dated sitting with a youngish musician I had played with a few years before. She looked very much like her mother had 15 or 20 years earlier when I had known her, not quite a mirror image but close enough to creep me out. There I was still playing to ever younger and less tolerant audiences that now included the sons and daughters of former bar buddies who had moved on to some version of adult life while I stayed behind to romp in the playpen of Memphis nightclubs. The audience kept getting younger while I got nothing but older. But Rockin’ Rossie had to keep treading the boards even though I was playing more and more to and with people less than half my age. Blank looks of incomprehension and boos have never deterred me from mounting a stage and punishing an audience to my fullest capacity. There were lots of lessons to be learned that night, but I didn’t pay attention to any of them.
And, oh yeah, did I mention that I’m an old gray haired geezer prancing around the stages of local toilet clubs and overloading vocal mikes in Memphis studios? I’m 51 freakin’ years old and I look it too, every flabby, dissipated inch of me. My stage gear usually consists of jeans I can barely snap over my ample beer gut and a roomy button-down shirt that I untuck to cover the aforementioned gut that protrudes like an enlarged turtle shell where my stomach used to be (don’t even ask about man boobs; yep, I got a pair). And I always bring a towel to wipe away the sweat between tunes cuz a weak-ass, wheezing old guy like me has trouble staying cool or keeping up with any tempos faster than medium or slow. I’m quite a sight to behold onstage, lemme tell ya, visually somewhere between a flop-sweating John Larroquette and a drunken manatee.
blob83000 clip et interview à l'époque des albu... clip et interview
à l'époque des albums sur
le label New Rose
i like to call tav a friend. i hunted him down in 1980 through my guitar player's obsessional encouragement and opened for the mighty pb's a few times. (once lx even called my band the sewer skiffs--it was not named this. ross if of course the main attraction but tav is the buddy holly impaired von stroheim floyd the barber that your mom tells you lurks at a family reunion.After working a diversity of jobs as a railroad 'brakeman', icehouse worker, gas station attendant & flat tire fixer, he moved from Arkansas to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1973. He became a member of Big Dixie, an alternative performance group and with Televista, an alternative film/video group in Memphis. He also worked with the noted Memphis photographer William J. Eggleston. In the process of making films & videos with blues musicians from Mississippi & Tennessee, Falco began to absorb rudimentary blues guitar playing and singing.
he's a classic.
now i will tell you some stories:
no, but i will say that i'm sorry to his ex-girlfriend who accompanied him on a meeting that'd i'd set up with my other weirdest friend, kim fowley, and who had to leave the midnight office toot toot sweet...where she commenced to ball on the sidewalk.
and ladies, to your chagrin--our hero went out there and consoled her while kim and i laughed wickedly.
not that's tav.
On stage in Memphis Falco became associated with and under the influence of an array of Memphis musicians: Charlie Feathers, James Luther Dickinson, Sam the Sham, Roland Janes, Sleepy John Estes, Van Zula Hunt, Mabon 'Teenie' Hodges, Roland Robinson & others. In his first solo performance between the acts of Jim Dickinson's band, Mudboy & the Neutrons, at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Falco sang the "Bourgeois Blues" and simultaneously destroyed an electric guitar with a chainsaw live on stage.
In 1979 Falco founded his band the PANTHER BURNS :
From this cacophonic beginning Falco began to emerge as an underground cult artist with the formation of his band 'PANTHER BURNS', named after a legendary plantation in the Mississippi delta. Alex Chilton (guitar) was a founding band member along with Jim Dickinson (guitar), Eric Hill (keyboard), & Ross Johnson (drums). The band has had a number of revolving members that now include Michael Lo (bass), Peter Dark (guitar), & Tall Cash (drums).
He also used to write songs under the name of Eugene Baffle.
During his early collaboration with Alex Chilton, Tav Falco obtained an unapproachable cult-like status, a position he since has been able to maintain with a repertoire and music that is a surprising mix of conversion of obscure rock'n'roll, tangos, sambas, mambos, ballads, and obscure pop standards. The PANTHER BURNS first record came out in 1980 on the band's own label FRENZI in the USA. Since then their records have been released by Rough Trade in London, New Rose in Paris, Marilyn and Munster in Spain, In The Red in Los Angeles, & Au GoGo in Melbourne, Australia.
Even if his own style was different, Tav Falco spent some time in 1980/1981 in New York, part of the No Wave movement, playing and making friends with such bands as DNA, Walter Stedding, James White, united around the concept of musical freedom and experimentation.
Because of its raw, unbridled, lurking sound the band has been called a ‘ballroom gothic juntabilly garage band’. Still, Falco has received critical success in publications such as 'New York Times', 'Village Voice', 'Chicago Sun-Times', 'New Orleans Times-Picayune', 'Andy Warhol's Interview', etc. Even though Falco cultivates the image of a suave singer, his new records show his rough style lurking underneath polished productions. Singer and guitarist Tav Falco has always been very interested in making movies (see videos section). He has also appeared as an actor in movie bio of Jerry Lee Lewis, "Great Balls of Fire", as a motorcycle gang leader in the road movie, "Highway 61", and as a criminal mastermind in the forthcoming, "Wayne County Rambling".
His last music film/video clip "Love's Last Warning" was made with the American underground film pioneer, Kenneth Anger.His last studio recordings Panther Phobia were realesed in the late-2000, some 20 years after his first recordings.
2001 saw him played several concerts in Europe and USA, often 2 hours long, unanimously acclaimed to be great & brilliant, enthusiastic & full of energy.
2002 saw a wide autumn tour and also a winter tour (Austria, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Danemark, Belgium, France, Italy, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Switzerland)
An album has been recorded, to be released soon !!
& 2003 begins with some dates in Spain (winter tour).
"Back in the mid-Nineties, when Primal Scream were recording their album Give Out But Don't Give Up in Memphis, they paid a call on Eggleston to ask if they could use Troubled Waters, his strange image of a neon Confederate flag and a palm tree, on the cover. 'I remember he was wearing jodhpurs and leather boots, some kind of military outfit, and walking about with a rifle and a bayonet,' recalls lead singer Bobby Gillespie. 'When he heard we were Scottish, he sat down at the piano and started reciting great chunks of Rabbie Burns. It was surreal.' Gillespie's friend, the filmmaker Douglas Hart, takes up the story. 'William and his wife were knocking back these massive drinks. He asked us to let him hear a song, and then he would decide if we could have the picture. We played him 'Moving On Up', and he fell on his knees and started shouting, 'Bo Diddley! Bo Diddley! Y'all love Bo Diddley!' He rummaged through his records and pulled out 'I'm the Meat Man', by Jerry Lee [Lewis] and played it so loud the speakers blew. Then his wife shouted, 'Y'all want ribs?' She insisted we all go to a local rib joint. It was wild.' Gillespie nods in agreement. 'He let us have the picture though. He was a true gent.'"Poke around and you get these Eggleston anecdotes: the time he pulled a butter knife on a professor at the Harvard faculty club while he was teaching there, the long affair he had in the 70s with Viva from Andy Warhol’s Factory, his cameo in the movie “Great Ball of Fire” as Jerry Lee Lewis’ father, his interest in antigue guns, especially shooting them indoors in the dark, the Gatling gun he has pointed at his front door in his Memphis mansion (which can shoot 1,100 rounds a minute), the time he was stranded in a small town Mississippi motel by an enraged girlfriend with just the clothes on his back and his box of colored pencils.
1939 Born July 27, 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee.
1957 Acquires his first camera, a Canon rangefinder.
1958 Acquires his first Leica.
1959 Sees Henri Cartier-Bresson's "The Decisive Moment" and Walker Evans' "American Photographs".
1965 Begins to experiment with color transparency film.
1967 Starts to use color negative film. Goes to New York and meets Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus. Presents his work to John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1974 Harry Lunn publishes the first portfolio of dye-transfer photographs, "14 Pictures." Receives a Guggenheim Fellowship. Appointed Lecturer in Visual and Environmental Studies at The Carpenter Center, Harvard University. Completes his "Los Alamos" project.
1975 Receives a National Endowment for the Arts Photographer's Fellowship.
1976 The Museum of Modern Art exhibits work in first solo exhibition of color photographs accompanied by a monograph, "William Eggleston's Guide." Commissioned by Rolling Stone to photograph Plains, Georgia before the election of President Jimmy Carter. Project becomes "Election Eve," the first of the artist's books of original photographs published by Caldecot Chubb.
1978 Appointed Researcher in Color Video at Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the invitation of Richard Leacock. Photographs the Gulf states on a commission from A.T. & T. Receives another award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Visits Jamaica.
1979 Chubb published three smaller volumes of original photographs, "Morals of Vision," "Wedgwood Blue," and "Flowers."
1980 Travels to Kenya with Caldecot Chubb and creates a body of work known as "The Streets Are Clean on Jupiter." Commissioned to produce the "Louisiana Project" and to photograph throughout the state.
1982 Invited to photograph the set of John Huston's film "Annie".
1983 Begins to photograph in Berlin, Salzburg and Graz and titles the series "Kiss me Kracow". Commissioned to photograph the mansion of Elvis Presley, Graceland.
1986 Invited by director David Byrne to visit and photograph the making of his film "True Stories". Commissioned by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art to photograph in Egypt.
1988 Begins a series of color photographs of England he calls "English Rose".
1989 Photographs in the orange groves of the Transvaal. Accepts one of 54 Master Photographers of 1960-1979 awards from Photographic Society of Japan. Plays the role of musician Jerry Lee Lewis' father in the movie "Great Balls of Fire".
1992 Travels to China, mainly photographing in Beijing.
1993 Commissioned by Delta Pine and Land to photograph Scott, Mississippi.
1996 Commissioned by Coca-Cola to photograph their plants in four cities in the U.S. Invited by producer Caldecot Chubb to visit and photograph the making of the film "Eve's Bayou". Receives the University of Memphis Distinguished Achievement Award.
1999 Invited by director Gus Van Sant to visit and photograph the making of the film "Easter". Invited by the J. Paul Getty Museum to photograph the museum and its grounds. Also photographs religious locations in Orange County, California.
2000 Commissioned by Paramount Pictures to photograph studio lot in Hollywood, California. Commissioned by the Cartier Foundation to photograph the American desert.
2001 Travels to Japan and photographs Kyoto.
2002 Travels extensively and photographs locations including Pasadena, California; the New Jersey Shore; Queens, New York; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Tuscany, Italy.
2003 Travels to and photographs the Niagara Falls area. Travels to Arles, France to attend Rencontres d'Arles and meets Henri Cartier-Bresson. Accepts Gold Medal for Photography from National Arts Club, New York.
2004 Receives the Getty Images Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Center of Photography (ICP) Infinity Awards. Travels to Hawaii and photographs with new panoramic format camera. Travels to Madrid to accept 2004 Photoespana Award. Travels to Clovis, New Mexico and photographs the city and Norman Petty Recording Studios.
2005 William Eggleston In The Real World, a documentary film on Eggleston by Michael Almereyda is completed. Travels to Xilitla, Mexico to photograph Las Pozas. Longtime advisor and friend, Walter Hopps dies. Invited and travels to Tokyo to be guest judge at Canon's New Cosmos Photography Contest.
By the Ways
The theatrical release of By the Ways: a Journey with William Eggleston has been announced for Febuary 2007. The film will be screened at the Hong Kong Arts Center on August 31st and at the Docupolis Film Festival in Barcelona from October 4th to the 8th. For a trailer and more information, please visit the filmmakers' website at http://www.lamplighter-films.com.
"With it [his camera and portable strobes] Eggleston could shoot in virtual darkness in the juke joints and clubs around Memphis. The portraits are offhand and spontaneous but instantly stark; their brutality is heightened by the absence of color. The portraits have a leveling effect–whether biker or debutante, the people Eggleston photographed are clearly denizens of the same realm. [He] is reminding us: look closely, each of these individuals is subtly different."
Afterward from The Democratic ForestI was in Oxford, Mississippi for a few days and I was driving out to Holly Springs on a back road, stopping here and there. It was the time of year when the landscape wasn't yet green. I left the car and walked into the dead leaves off the road. It was one of those occasions when there was no picture there. It seemed like nothing, but of course there was something for someone out there. I started forcing myself to take pictures of the earth, where it had been eroded thirty or forty feet from the road. There were a few weeds. I began to realize that soon I was taking some pretty good pictures, so I went further into the woods and up a little hill, and got well into an entire roll of film.
Later, when I was having dinner with some friends, writers from around Oxford, or maybe at the bar of the Holiday Inn, someone said, 'What have you been photographing here today, Eggleston?'
'Well, I've been photographing democratically,' I replied.
'But what have you been taking pictures of?'
'I've been outdoors, nowhere, in nothing.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well, just woods and dirt, a little asphalt here and there.'I was treating things democratically, which of course didn't mean a thing to the people I was talking to. I already had different, massive series. I had been to Berlin and to Pittsburgh and completed huge bodies of work. From that moment everything from the boxes of thousands of prints made cohesive sense for the first time. All the work from this period from 1983 to 1986 was unified by the democracy. Friends would ask what I was doing and I would tell them that I was working on a project with several thousand prints. They would laugh but I would be dead serious. At least I had found a friend in that title, The Democratic Forest, that would look over me. It was not much different from Cartier-Bresson bringing the whole world from America to China to The Decisive Moment.
I had picked up The Decisive Moment years ago when I was already making prints, so the first thing I noticed was the tonal quality of the black and white. There were no shadow areas that were totally black, where you couldn't make out what was in them, and there were no totally white areas. It was only later that I was struck by the wonderful, correct, composition and framing. This was apparent through the tones of the printed book. I later found some actual prints of the same pictures in New York. They were nothing - just ordinary looking photographs, but they were the same pictures I had worshipped and idolized, yet I wouldn't have given ten cents for them. I still go back to the book every couple of years and I know it is the tones that make the composition come across.
I am afraid that there are more people than I can imagine who can go no further than appreciating a picture that is a rectangle with an object in the middle of it, which they can identify. They don't care what is around the object as long as nothing interferes with the object itself, right in the centre. Even after the lessons of Winogrand and Friedlander, they don't get it. They respect their work because they are told by respectable institutions that they are important artists, but what they really want to see is a picture with a figure or an object in the middle of it. They want something obvious. The blindness is apparent when someone lets slip the word 'snapshot'. Ignorance can always be covered by 'snapshot'. The word has never had any meaning. I am at war with the obvious.
- From a conversation with Mark Holborn, Greenwood, Mississippi, February 1988
Out of the ordinaryHe's a softly spoken gentleman from the Deep South, with a taste for bourbon and antique guns and a reputation as a 'hellraiser'. He's also the photographer whose extraordinary ability to find beauty in the banal has transformed the way we look at the world. Sean O'Hagan travels to America to meet William Eggleston
Sunday July 25, 2004
William Eggleston is not hard to spot in the lobby of the Mansfield Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Every inch a southern dandy, he stands out amid the casual wear and sombre suits, dressed in a pastel-blue summer jacket, boldly striped tie, white trousers and matching shoes. His hair is parted on the left and sweeps over a pale face that peers in perpetual suspicion from behind old-fashioned oval horn-rimmed spectacles. He looks out of place and out of time, as if he has just stepped out of a PG Wodehouse novel.
Had you to guess where he came from and what he did from his appearance alone, the words 'English' and 'aristocrat' might spring to mind way before 'American' and 'photographer'. And yet, at 65, William Eggleston is perhaps the most innovative American photographer of the past 50 years whose unique style has transformed the way we look at the world. His influence on our visually led contemporary popular culture is now so pervasive that it goes unnoticed. In fashion shoots and films, advertising and art photography, Eggleston's everyday view of things, initially dismissed by critics in the mid-Seventies, is now the prevalent aesthetic. Put simply, it would be difficult to imagine the world according to David Lynch or Gus Van Sant or Juergen Teller or Sofia Coppola without the world according to William Eggleston.
Both the opening of Lynch's Blue Velvet and Van Sant's Elephant are homages to Eggleston, the first in its use of saturated colour to highlight the surrealism of small-town America, the second a shot of a blue sky straight out of Eggleston's Wedgwood Blue series, where he pointed the camera directly up at the wispy clouds.
'It was the beauty of banal details that was inspirational,' Coppola said of Eggleston's influence on her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides, in 1999, and it is this ability to record, and illuminate, the mundane that is his stock in trade.
His most famous photograph, entitled Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973, but always referred to as The Red Ceiling, is of a bare light bulb from a crimson ceiling, three white cables snaking across the glossy surface like arteries. It is taken from an angle that suggests he may have stood on a chair, or simply held the camera above his head. In its apparent casualness, it is emblematic of Eggleston's art, being both ordinary and loaded with meaning, utterly simple and yet endlessly complex. A mundane image, maybe, yet one that carries within it some indefinable sense of menace. 'It is so powerful,' he once said, 'that I have never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction. When you look at the dye transfer print, it's like red blood that's wet on the wall. It shocks you every time.'
Eggleston has travelled from his native Memphis to Manhattan to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Institute of Contemporary Photography, and the previous night he had celebrated in the company of the great Czech-born photographer Josef Koudelka, who was also honoured. Today, though, the bar is closed and, to add insult to injury, he must repair to the street every time he feels like a smoke. In person, Eggleston looks older than his 65 years, and though his reputation as a gentrified hellraiser precedes him, he comes across initially as diffident and guarded, ill-at- ease in the company of strangers, still more so with strangers who want to question him about his work. This is not what I had expected, having heard some wild stories about his legendary lifestyle.
Back in the mid-Nineties, when Primal Scream were recording their album Give Out But Don't Give Up in Memphis, they paid a call on Eggleston to ask if they could use Troubled Waters, his strange image of a neon Confederate flag and a palm tree, on the cover. 'I remember he was wearing jodhpurs and leather boots, some kind of military outfit, and walking about with a rifle and a bayonet,' recalls lead singer Bobby Gillespie. 'When he heard we were Scottish, he sat down at the piano and started reciting great chunks of Rabbie Burns. It was surreal.'
Gillespie's friend, the filmmaker Douglas Hart, takes up the story. 'William and his wife were knocking back these massive drinks. He asked us to let him hear a song, and then he would decide if we could have the picture. We played him "Moving On Up", and he fell on his knees and started shouting, "Bo Diddley! Bo Diddley! Y'all love Bo Diddley!" He rummaged through his records and pulled out "I'm the Meat Man", by Jerry Lee [Lewis] and played it so loud the speakers blew. Then his wife shouted, "Y'all want ribs?" She insisted we all go to a local rib joint. It was wild.' Gillespie nods in agreement. 'He let us have the picture though. He was a true gent.'
Today, perhaps because of his tendency to excess, Eggleston is accompanied everywhere by his son, Winston, a friendly but firm chaperone who looks after the archive and, one suspects, tries to keep his father's wilder side in check. Winston briefs the photographer and myself beforehand: the photo session must be brief, the interview should not broach the subject of specific photographs nor dwell on his private life. 'I've seen him get impatient with interviewers,' says Winston, 'and he's apt to up and leave if that occurs.'
When we are seated in a dark corner of the bar, I begin by asking Eggleston where he comes from, exactly. He stares straight ahead, as if deep in thought, then, after about 30 seconds, answers softly, 'Nowhere,' except the word comes out as three syllables - 'No-whe-ahhh' - each one enunciated in a soft southern lilt. It is not an auspicious start, but it is followed by a sly smile, then another equally long pause, after which he elaborates in what I will soon come to recognise as a typically vague manner. 'I was born on the Mississippi delta. Cotton country. Married a gal from Mississippi, too, but I've been living in or around Memphis since about 1960.'
Eggleston is the slowest and most softly spoken person I have ever met, and the silence while he considers a question is so deep and long that I find myself wondering if he has simply chosen to ignore my fumbling attempts at elucidation. His thoughts, when they emerge into speech, are expressed succinctly and in oddly illuminating phrases that, like his work, are both simple and complex. I imagine Samuel Beckett and himself would have got on famously. 'A picture is what it is,' he says when I ask him why he no longer wishes to talk about individual photographs, 'and I've never noticed that it helps to talk about them, or answer specific questions about them, much less volunteer information in words. It wouldn't make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they're right there, whatever they are.'
The 'whatever they are' aspect, one feels, is what perplexed the critics back in 1976, when Eggleston had his groundbreaking and controversial show at New York's Museum of Modern Art (Moma). Before then, colour photography was confined to advertising and product catalogues, but Eggleston hauled it, in all its saturated glory, into the rarefied world of fine art. The show and the accompanying catalogue, William Eggleston's Guide, can be seen, in retrospect, as the pivotal moment when colour photography became an art form. It was a cultural shift that enraged many contemporary critics. The New York Times called it 'the most hated show of the year', while Hilton Kramer, the most conservative and influential American critic, took issue with curator John Szarkowski's claim in the catalogue that Eggleston's photographs were 'perfect'. 'Perfectly banal, perhaps,' he wrote, 'perfectly boring, certainly.'
I ask Eggleston if he was surprised or dismayed by the negative critical response. 'Hell, no,' he says, smiling. 'It didn't surprise or offend me. Didn't impinge on me at all. I didn't think either, as some people did, that the work was revolutionary. It was certainly different to what was being done before I started, no question about that. But even if I hadn't done that show I would still have continued as normal. Wouldn't have changed a thing.'
Born in Memphis in 1939, Eggleston was raised in a grand house on a former cotton plantation amid considerable wealth and privilege, and retains the airs and graces of the old southern aristocracy. His father was killed in action during the Second World War and he was raised by his grandfather, Joseph Albert May, who pursued photography as a hobby. Eggleston attended military academy, then Vanderbilt University and 'Ole Miss' - the University of Mississippi - without ever graduating. He took up the camera reluctantly in 1957, encouraged by his best friend, who was impressed by his enthusiasm for the work of Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans.
'I had an old Canon and a Leica,' he says, 'but I didn't know the first thing about photography. Never learnt it off anybody either. It quickly came to be that I grew interested in photographing whatever was there wherever I happened to be. For any reason.'
Does he remember the first photograph he took that he was happy with? 'First one I took,' he says, matter of factly. 'Very first one. I can remember exactly the feeling of satisfaction.' Can he recall the subject matter? 'It was an exact duplicate of the Parthenon across from the university. My friend and I walked over and I took a picture of it. Came back from the printers just how I saw it.'
By the time he arrived in New York in 1967, Eggleston had amassed a suitcase full of slides that he had taken in and around Mississippi and Tennessee over the previous few years. He trailed it around » New York, calling on like-minded souls such as Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, who encouraged him to take it to John Szarkowski at Moma, perhaps the most influential curator of photography in the past century. Szarkowski saw in Eggleston what many others couldn't, or wouldn't, see - a new and radical aesthetic in the making.
In the late Sixties and early Seventies, when reportage was the dominant form, Eggleston had chosen instead to literally photograph the world around him, often in minute detail, and from what seemed at the time like skewed angles. In image after image, he had captured the old, weird America of the rural south as it merged with the vulgar new post-war America of fast food, plastic and neon. His subjects were commonplace: a muddy pick-up truck; a freezer filled with pre-packed food; discarded shoes under a bed. Sometimes he shot from below, making a child's tricycle look almost monumental; a corrugated tin roof resemble a freeway. In 1973, he discovered a process called dye-transfer printing while browsing through a commercial catalogue full of colour-saturated advertising images of perfume bottles and cigarette packets. From that moment, though his neutral gaze remained constant, everything he photographed was rendered heightened and unreal.
'He is the supreme colourist of American photography,' says British photographer Martin Parr, who acknowledges Eggleston as an influence on his own work, 'and what he was doing in the Seventies was so far ahead of the game that it was revolutionary. Photography is a generic form and there are not that many truly original artists, but Eggleston is definitely one of them.'
In 1976, Szarkowski helped Eggleston edit his already vast archive of over 2,000 photographs down to the 75 striking images that made up the Moma show. William Eggleston's Guide was, says Parr, 'lambasted at the time for being crude and simplistic, like Robert Frank's Americans before it, when in fact, it was both alarmingly simple and utterly complex. It took people a long time to understand Eggleston. Even when he had the big Barbican show over here in 1990, people were baffled, and it was considered a flop.'
The Guide was followed by other equally arresting books, including Los Alamos and The Democratic Forest. Then, in 1976, on one of his few magazine assignments, for Rolling Stone, he stopped looking through the viewfinder altogether, and began using his Leica 'like a shotgun', often shooting pictures on the move. Anything to stop becoming formulaic.
Juergen Teller pinpoints this curiously cavalier style as perhaps the key to Eggleston's singular genius. 'What has always intrigued me about Eggleston is that he seems so completely free,' says Teller. 'It's like he doesn't give a damn about anything, what people think least of all. It's almost arrogant, but it's more than that. It's a really rare thing to be that free, and you can feel it from his work.' That freedom may be tied in some way to Eggleston's wealth, to the fact that he never had to depend on anything, including photography, to earn a living. 'I guess he never had the pressure of being commercial,' continues Teller. 'He just does what he wants and it shows in the best way. It's like an intense hobby to him.' When I ask Eggleston if he considered photography to be more a hobby than a job, he nods: 'There might be something in that, all right.'
In the early Seventies, Eggleston also established a reputation as a hellraiser, hanging out with musicians and artists in Memphis's burgeoning boho scene. Around this time he shot hours of video footage on an old Sony Porta-Pak camera for a legendary lost project entitled Stranded in Canton. This, too, was an experiment in the democratic gaze, the exotic and the mundane flowing into each other, and of equal significance to Eggleston's lens. He shot day and night in juke joints, on sidewalks, in bars and fields, trailing friends as they drank and took drugs, and even capturing a travelling freak show in which two geeks bit the heads off live chickens. The hundreds of hours of footage has now finally been edited down to a manageable 85 minutes by Robert Gordon, who chronicled the local music scene in his excellent book, It Came from Memphis. 'It's black-and-white hand-held footage, mainly,' says Gordon, 'and it is shot in a form that is not dissimilar to the photographs he took at the time - impressionistic, free-form and often incredibly detailed. It's more character based, though, and many of the characters are acquaintances of Bill's, all of them sharing what you might call an extreme nature. There's a transvestite, and a veterinarian and at least two dentists. It's like the other side of the Memphis looking glass, a world fuelled by drugs, alcohol and poetic furore. Bill told me they were all using Quaaludes at the time, even the dentists. That's Memphis for you, I guess.'
Around this time, too, Eggleston also crossed paths with Alex Chilton, lead singer of Memphis rock group Big Star. The first photograph of Eggleston's I ever saw was the aforementioned red ceiling, which adorned the sleeve of Big Star's Radio City album. On a recent re-released version of Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers album, you can hear Eggleston play piano as Chilton sings a damaged version of the Nat King Cole classic, 'Nature Boy'. Another Eggleston shot of dolls arranged on the bonnet of a classic car appeared on Chilton's solo album, Like Flies on Sherbert.
'Bill used a studio round the back of Chilton's parents' house,' says Memphis musician and producer Bill Dickinson, who has played with everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones, and produced Big Star. 'They were artists and bohemians and their house was like a salon for local talent. The first time I saw Alex Chilton he was about 13. He was running round the lawn, eyes spinning.'
When I ask Eggleston about his involvement with the Memphis music scene, though, he shakes his head and denies any knowledge of it. 'Of no interest to me at all,' he says, in a manner that suggests this avenue of enquiry is closed. 'That's Bill to a tee,' laughs Dickinson, when I mention this. 'But he was a wild man, and still is. He wore Savile Row suits and drove a Bentley, and played classical piano, but he was more rock'n'roll than any of us, even though he probably hated the music we were making. He'd shoot with some kind of night vision lens often until the bitter end, then just fall over unconscious on the floor. He wasn't just at the party, he was the party. When he and Stanley Booth [the Memphis-based rock writer] got together, it was like World War Three.'
It was Dickinson's wife, Mary Lindsay, who first introduced Eggleston to her best friend, Lucia Birch, who, until her recent death, was his long-term lover. 'What a pair,' she says. 'She was blazing with talent. She really pushed him past his greatness.' Dickinson agrees: 'You could say they were kindred spirits. Eggleston used to turn off the lights and shoot his guns in the dark for fun. The house was riddled with holes made by $6,000 antique shotguns. It was a boredom thing. Bill is someone who gets bored easily, and he'll go to extremes not to be bored.'
During his sojourn in New York in the Seventies, Eggleston also enjoyed a long dalliance with Viva, the most beautiful of Andy Warhol's 'superstars', both of them holding court in the famed Chelsea Hotel. 'Beautiful girl,' he says. 'I still see her from time to time and we still get along real well.' I ask Eggleston how he feels when he sees himself described as a hellraiser. 'Don't care much for it,' he replies, shaking his head, 'and it usually comes from people who don't know me, so how the hell would they know? It is sometimes a little bothersome from the standpoint that it is so completely inaccurate it can get real irritating. I try not to think about it. If I did, I'd be mad all day.'
That, I would hazard a guess, would not be a pretty sight. Does he still have a fondness for guns? 'I'm fascinated by certain ones,' he says, smiling. 'Beautiful ones. Some are boring. I don't shoot that much - guns, that is.' And how would he like to be remembered? He considers this for a moment or two, then his eyes light up with a mischievous twinkle. 'As a lover,' he says.
Despite, or maybe because of, his cavalier approach to his life and his art, William Eggleston belongs to that rare and disappearing breed, the instinctive artist who seems to see into and beyond what we refer to as the 'everyday'. Often his truly great photographs are a reflection of himself, mysterious and loaded with suggestion, hinting at some darker narrative that is unfolding just out of frame. Though he rejects the notion that he has a southern sensibility, some of his best work was taken locally, and has a definite southern Gothic undertow. A hooded anorak on a bare wall calls up the spectre of the Klan, even as it mocks that same imagery. On the opposite page, a white boiler suit hangs pristine and lifeless from a tree. Nothing is set up, everything is down to his unerring instinct for the mundane and the mysterious, and his almost uncanny ability to capture the same.
'I couldn't do what that guy does', he says, after the Observer photographer, Steve Pyke, has captured his portrait. 'If I could creep up on someone, that would be different. That would be a secret photograph. Instantaneous and unrehearsed'.
When humans enter the frame, they tend to look suspiciously back at Eggleston's lens, or are blissfully unaware of it. It is often impossible to guess whether the subject is an acquaintance or a stranger. Who is the mysterious blonde woman sitting on the wall in a deserted Memphis street, looking straight at the camera, uncertain and intense? Or the girl stretched out on the sun-tinted grass as if drugged or unconscious? 'Often,' notes Teller, 'there is something morbid about his images that's mysterious and compelling, and unique to him. Everyone, including me, has at one time or another wanted to do that sort of Eggleston picture, but never succeeded. It's totally about how he sees things in his mind's eye.'
This, of course, is his singular genius, and it seems unsurprising, in retrospect, that he might wish to guard it by making it seem simple. Towards the end of the interview, I broach once again the subject of his working methods. Given his famously democratic approach, how, I wonder, does he decide what to photograph? 'I just wait until it appears,' he says, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world to do. 'Which is often where I happen to be. Might be something right across the street. Might be something on down the road. And I'm usually very pleased when I get the image back. It's usually exactly what I saw. I don't have any favourites. Every picture is equal but different.' Is it true that there are thousands of unseen William Eggleston images? 'Indeed, yes,' he nods, then leans across the table conspiratorially, 'but I've seen 'em.'
On that note, he heads out onto the street for a cigarette. When he returns, and drinks have been ordered, he looks relieved. Winston shows us his father's camera, a Leica, embossed with the name William Eggleston, and the man himself tells us he is waiting for a commission 'to come over to England to photograph the Brighton Pavilion'. Somebody please put in that call.
I ask him if he would miss taking photographs if, for some reason, he had to stop. 'Probably not,' he says, shaking his head. 'I don't have a burning desire to go out and document anything. It just happens when it happens. It's not a conscious effort, nor is it a struggle. Wouldn't do it if it was. The idea of the suffering artist has never appealed to me,' he says, smiling his childlike smile. 'Being here is suffering enough.'
Though he seems tired of talking photography, I ask him finally if there is an underlying discipline that governs his work. He shrugs. 'Let me put it this way, I work very quickly and that's part of it.
I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.' Let me get this straight, I say, astonished: each image he has produced is the result of one single shot? He nods. And what happens, I ask, if you don't get the picture you want in that one shot? 'Then I don't get it,' he answers simply. 'I don't really worry if it works out or not.
I figure it's not worth worrying about. There's always another picture.' He makes his genius sound almost accidental, I suggest. He thinks about this for a while. 'Yes,' he nods, smiling. 'There's probably something to that. The "almost" is important, though.'
In early 1998 I started living in Tony Alamo’s house in Fouke, Arkansas off and on since I was 13 years old. I had been requested by Tony Alamo to stay at his house along with other young girls, one of which was Amy Eddy. There were several other women and girls there which were called his wives. Their names were Sharon Kruf, Lydia Willis, Michelle Jones, Jeannette Orlando, Elizabeth Guitirrez, Angel Streit, Isabel ?, Pebbles King and Amy Eddy. We would all go to visit him in prison in Texarkana, Texas. He was incarcerated on charges of tax evasion due to his church no longer falling under tax exempt status. We went to visit him every Saturday and Sunday. This is when all of my doubts of Tony Alamo began. I had absolutely no sexual education at the time. My parents raised me on the guidelines that were given by Tony and that was absolutely no one talked about sex except for him. I would visit Tony with about 5 of the other wives and maybe another young girl or so depending on who he requested but I was on the list to go every week that I lived at that house. He would ask me to sit next to him (all the wives took turns sitting next to him). He talked of his younger wives. He told me that his wives wanted him to be inside of one of them while the other was licking him. He would go on about these sorts of sexual tales and justify, if you will, his telling them to me because he was not the one who conjured this it was his wives and he was just telling me. I was told to swear that I would never tell anyone the things that he told me. I didn’t understand why he talked to me like this but I kept the promise. Every single week more stories. He told me a story once of the wives of the wives “f—ing” as he would call it with a different wife’s father while that man’s daughter was baby-sitting and later joined in. I later found out that this was an illicit tale that was made up in his own head and that he pressured each one of the particular wives to exceedingly reluctantly confirm. This was how I began to realize how disgusting he was. He talked of how large his penis was and that “nigger’s dicks were nothing’” because he had seen them in the showers. I had to promise that I would never tell anyone the kind of language and profanity that he used during visits. There were several stories of Tony’s wives in bed, how large their breasts were, which one was “hot”, which one liked to be “on top”, which one was “freaky”, what each of them liked etc. It was decided while Tony was in prison that Amy Eddy age 13 would be one of his wives. When Tony got out of jail I was living in his house. After him being out for about one month, it was time to make Amy his wife (it was a literal f–k-fest the first few months he was out, he had his pick of the litter). This meant of course that she had to go to his bedroom. He didn’t spend much time in there with her but the deed was done. Moments later Amy came out looking very shaken and walking as though she was in a bit of pain. Tony came out also and I followed him to the living room. I noticed that on his right middle finger there was blood. I looked into his face and then back down at his finger so that he could see I saw what he did. He covered his hand and said nothing. Right around the same time that Amy became Tony’s wife there was another incident that I remember very well. One of Tony’s wives, Michelle Jones Williams, had a son named Jordan who was not Tony’s biological son. One Day Jordan (age 3 or 4) was playing with Tony’s biological son Sion (age 6 or 7). They were play-fighting and Jordan accidentally hit Sion in the groin. Sion went to his father Tony and told him that he was hurt by Jordan. Tony then started out by verbally reprimanding Jordan him and telling him that he was wrong. But Tony started to become more and more enraged and started to push Jordan in the stomach. He then pushed him so that he was on the floor and started kicking him in the stomach harder and harder, yelling at him for hurting Sion and screaming that he could have made it to where Sion could no longer reproduce. It looked like Tony was mopping the floor with the little boy. Jordan was so scared and hurt he urinated on himself. He was covered in welts. He had them on his arms, his stomach, his legs and his mouth was full of blood. His mother watched and so did all the other wives and no one did anything for fear of Tony. Almost the same thing also happened to Lydia’s son by Tony but disliked because he is half black, Tabor (age 4) on another occasion in the same general time frame. -Approximately one month later I was finally allowed to back to my parents in Saugus, California. I was 14 years old. When I was 15 years old, in April or May of ‘99 I was sent back to Tony’s house in Fouke, Arkansas due to the fact that I was not following all rules and began to sort of rebel. I had so many doubts about Tony Alamo and was realizing things that were so wrong. I was living in his house completely against my will but per my father’s insistence. My father literally forced me to go while I was screaming and crying. I knew of the things that went on in that house that not too many others did. I did not want to be one of Tony’s wives. All I wanted was to be able to go back to my mother in California. There were more girls than before some much younger such as Desiree’ Kolbeck. She was about 7 or 8 but Tony seemed to take quite a liking to and as far as I know she is still in his house and one of his wives now. Also, Piper was there this last time. I was told if I was there I would be more godly and a much better person. I was told that I should be honored to have been invited there by Tony because he liked me. In the church living in Tony’s house was considered to be a very high honor. I wanted to leave so bad. I would ask if I could please go back to my mother and his answer would something like well we can’t afford to assign someone just to take you to California. So I would arrange rides that I knew were already going out there and tell it wouldn’t cost a thing to let me go. But he never let me. He would say very sarcastically “there are no bars on the windows or doors, you can leave anytime”. I thought that ironic because there was in fact bars on all of the windows and all of the doors were padlocked and monitored with surveillance cameras for our protection. One night I disconnected a phone from the office and snuck it into the bathroom where I had noticed a phone jack behind the toilet (of all places). I called my uncle in Chicago for help. I wanted to get out. My uncle called my mother to tell her what I said and she in turn called Tony. I was summoned to the office where Tony was and where he handled all of his business. Tony was sitting there in a rage that I had only seen the tip of until now. He bolted towards screaming so loud and adamantly that he was spitting in my face saying “Did you make an unauthorized phone call?!!!” I turned my face away from him and answered “yes”. He then hit me in the face. When I was smacked he shoved my head into the book shelf that was directly behind me (meaning that the 3rd shelf on the book shelf acted and a sort of baseball bat blow to the head, hitting me squarely in the middle of the back of my skull causing me to black out. I, however, was so terrified that he would kill me if I were unconscious I willed myself to stay on my feet and the next thing I remember is him coming at me with a 2×4 piece of wood smacking his hand with and telling me to sit down ( the chair that he wanted me to sit in was so close to his that I had a hard time obeying the order and I was quite stunned to say the least and doing my best not to cry, this was something he loved: to make the girls cry so that he could make fun of them during and after they did, so I did not cry which just angered him more). After his repeated commands for me to sit I did so. I was then subjected to 2 hours of him attempting to mortify and humiliate me calling me a “dirty whore”, “a slut”, “a sinner”, telling me that I was going to fry in hell, I was worthless, and he kept referring to me as “that thing”. I was surrounded by every wife in the house and the children as well one of which was sitting next to me on the floor in the middle of my rebuke handed me my three earrings that fell to the floor when they were out of my left ear when I was hit. For me the verbal abuse was actually far worse than the physical. The things he was calling and the thoughts that he said were in my head were so awful to me for it was all such a heinous lie he said that god was telling him all these things about me and that he knew what my thoughts were and he continued to recite them out loud and as I sat there I knew he was a fake and all the accusations that I had heard about him were indeed true. I was free. He couldn’t trick me. Later, all the wives denied that anything had ever happened when asked about it by others including my mother. She was told by Tony that he gave me “a pop in the mouth”. He sent me to a room in the house. I was to be isolated for the rest of the evening. The next week or so, Tony basically made fun of me. If I walked through the room he was say how weird I was or there’s that “thing” again. He would laugh and mock me etc. I kept to myself and did not talk. I did not know what to do. No one talked to me either. It was probably the most “mind-fucking” situation I’ve ever been in. I was treated like an unwanted dog. Towards the end of that time I saw Amy Eddy Beaten.
Tony had gone to lunch with some of his wives at the Old Country Buffet and Amy was one of them and so was Lizzy (Elizabeth Guiterrez). There was some kind of disagreement about who was to sit next to Tony. Amy wanted to and so did Lizzy. Tony picked Lizzy and Amy was offended. When they all arrived back Tony was going on about how Amy was embarrassing. She was trying to defend herself in the argument but she should have never opened her mouth. Tony started to beat her, I mean really beat her. She was so bloody and so swollen. Tony had beaten her with his bare hands, kicked her drug her on the floor, punched her, slapped her. It went on for more than ten minutes. I don’t want to exaggerate but I do think that it was almost 20 minutes. She screamed and screamed and screamed. Her screams were really awful. After the first few minutes of the beating Tony had her cornered in her bedroom and Sharon, Tony’s first wife closed the door. There were a lot of children in the house; visiting and she didn’t want anyone to see what was happening. It was too horrific for anyone to see. He came out of her room and about a half an hour later so did she with a bloody, white T-shirt. She attended the “message” he was giving. I don’t recall what it was about in particular. The other wife that he hurt was Jeannette Orlando. She was reading him a paper and her voice was not the way he wanted it to be. He yelled at her and told her to go to the bedroom. This time the door was left open but I could not see anything. I heard her yelp and she later came out with bruises on her arms. I think he hit her in the face because of a bruise that was visible on her face later but she denied it. We later joked and began calling ourselves the “battered wives club”. Amy, Jeanne and I never thought anything like this would happen to us but there we were with the evidence of abuse literally written all over our faces. In June of 1999 I attempted to sneak another phone into the bathroom. Tony was out of the house that afternoon and due back in less than an hour. I had the phone wrapped in a towel as I was on my way to the bathroom. I walked into my room that was adjacent to that bathroom and thought no one was there so I let the towel unravel and the phone dropped right as Tony’s stepdaughter Rebecca popped her head up. She was sleeping on my bed and saw what I was about to do. At this point I really did fear for my life. I was sure that Tony could go too far and possibly kill me with whatever beating he was render to me upon his arrival.
I gathered as much as I could in my backpack. I left with $60.00 in my pocket. I took the padlock off and unlocked the four locks on the door and exited past the surveillance camera and 3 watchmen. I ran in the woods along side of Highway 71 to avoid being seen on the side of the road. If I came close to the highway I could see the white vans going up and down. I crossed 5 barbed wire fences, 2 rivers and crawled through the gutters underneath the highway so not to be seen. after about 4 or five hours I finally came across some homes the first would only give me a Dixie cup full of water but the second home I encountered was owned by [names withheld] and they helped me very much by first driving to Texarkana and then coming back to pick me (they gave me their telephone number) and letting me spend the night with them. The next day they took me to Wal-Mart to buy a few things and they purchased a Greyhound Bus ticket for and that’s how I made it back to L.A. only to be met by my mother at the bus station 3 hours after it had arrived and told that I was not allowed on the church property and that I could not come home. I was to either go to Juvenile Hall or find somewhere to go. In short I was abandoned at the age of fifteen and given 50.00.
I since then have never even attempted to go back nor will I ever.
The Tony Alamo Stories
The Real Tony Alamo
The person at the left no longer looks like your average Elvis impersonator. Nope, he's taken on the appearance of the archetypal child molester. Considering the various charges this "man" now faces, the stereotype fits perfectly. It looks like Tony Alamo will finally get the justice he deserves. I hope and pray that the ex-members, especially those most recent ones, will have the courage to step forward and provide their testimony. This man deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, then can go on and receive the judgment that only God can provide.
For those unfamiliar with this character, the figure to the left is, in fact Tony Alamo, leader of the Alamo Foundation, or Alamo Ministries or New Jerusalem Church - several variations of the same "ministry." It is a "ministry" that has ruined the lives of at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, who came in contact with Tony and his wife Susan back in the 1960s and up to current times. Tony spreads his hate and tarnished version of Christianity on several hundred radio stations, at least he used to until his arrest. His show was even aired, remarkably, in New York City. I guess New Yorkers aren't so savvy after-all.
Many people, especially those in the southwest are familiar with finding "tracts" from the Music Square Church awaiting them on the windshield of their cars after a shopping trip or among the junk mail in the mailbox. Mr. Alamo, self-described "prophet and strongest Fundamentalist Christian in the world" is in fact facing serious charges now in a Texarkana court following his widely reported arrest in September of 2008.
There are many things Tony "Papa" Alamo would not like you to know about him. He would not like you to read the testimonies of former members featured at Alamo Foundation Discussion Board and he probably doesn't want you to know about the strange court battle he had over his wife's corpse (Tony Alamo Fights for Dead Wife's Corpse). He probably doesn't want you to know that he has had at least 7 public marriages since the death of his soulmate and partner in crime, and we're not even counting the countless rumoured marriages to daughters of members and ex-members forced into his service, many of them reportedly . No, Mr. Alamo wants you to believe he is truly a man of God. Well, judge for yourself - start at the home page of Alamo Ministries: Alamo Ministries Home Page. Be sure to read through all the diatribes about how the Vatican is involved in some vast conspiracy for your soul (Paranoid Conspiracy Theories) Alamo's venomous rants against the Catholic Church earned his group "hate group" status from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007. Do these sound like the words of the "strongest Fundamentalist Christian in the world?"
Tony Alamo 2008
Tony and Susan Alamo
THE ONE BELOW IS BY A MEMBER, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERINGRick A. Ross Institute
Visit Alamo Christian Ministries official website
(Link takes you outside the Rick A. Ross Institute web site)Ex-associate of Tony Alamo to spend 8 weekends in jail for selling counterfeit merchandise
Alamo wants evidence kept from trial
Lawyer seeks ruling in case tied to Alamo
Alamo follower allegedly violated probation
Alamo follower in N.J. regains custody of son, attorney says
Alamo followers refuse to say where children are
In Alamo case, dads' affidavits submitted
Alamo church opposes sealing lawsuit over children
Alamo Follower Sex Offender To Change Plea
Judge denies Alamo request on bail
Alamo ministry sues Ark. for seizing children
Lawyer: Evangelist too weak, old for sex crimes
New lawyer signals new strategy in Alamo case
Alamo-Member Parents Denied Custody Again
Alamo follower released from Arkansas jail
1988 abuse case involving Alamo resurfaces
Alleged Alamo accomplice arrested in California
Judge Orders 18 Children from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to Remain in Foster Care
2nd parent jailed in Tony Alamo ministries case
Prosecutor: Nev. sex offender at Alamo property
Arkansas official: Kids in Alamo case are being hidden
Alamo 'enforcer' also sought for civil lawsuit
Relatives of children taken from Alamo Ministries speak out
Transcript of interview with girl, 17, from Alamo compound
Judge to decide fate of Ark. ministry children
In Alamo case, judge OKs plan to pull video
Teen defends Alamo, says pastor will "go to hell" if guilty
Member of Alamo church faces sentencing
Alamo seeks removal of religious language in suit
Judge says Alamo boy to stay in foster care
Parents of 5 kids ask their return
4 Alamo ministry children to remain with state
4 boys taken into custody from Alamo ministry
FBI: Girls told agent evangelist Alamo abused them
Arkansas officials seize 6 Alamo compound children
Indictment against evangelist Alamo unsealed
Two cite beatings, file suit on Alamo
Lawyer: Alamo ordered punitive fasts over slights
8 new charges filed against Alamo
Judge to parents: Leave sect, get kids back
Alamo case parents tell of fleeing to keep kids
100-plus Alamo children missing
Arkansas seizes 21 more kids from evangelist's group
14-year-old tells court of Alamo's touching
Alamo beating allegation spurs battery charge
6 members of Alamo church arrested for pamphlets
Lawyer: Alamo denied phone calls, visits
Police search for evangelist's alleged enforcer
Report Lists Alamo's Properties
Arrest Warrant Issued For Employee Of Tony Alamo Ministries
Police say teen severely beaten by Tony Alamo follower in Fort Smith
Bail denied for Arkansas evangelist in sex abuse case
Evangelist Alamo arraigned on child-sex charges
Indictment expected in Alamo case today
Alamo judge delays two girls' abuse hearings
FBI, Calif child services visited Alamo compound
Feds bringing evangelist Alamo back to Arkansas
Alamo case major test for state DHS
Former Alamo Church Member Speak Out
Bomb scare at Fort Smith Alamo church
Tony Alamo case may come before Fort Smith grand jury
For Tony Alamo survivors, religious abuse scars the soul
Evangelist Alamo agrees to return to Arkansas
Local Alamo church raided
Alamo arrested by FBI en route to Santa Clarita
Evangelist Alamo faces charges in child sex probe
Hearings set for girls taken from Alamo compound
Woman Talks Of Days At Church Compound
Former Tony Alamo Church Member Speaks Out
The man who couldn't stay out of trouble
Evangelist: 'Puberty' is age of sexual consent
Arkansas 'cult' linked to Canyon Country
Arkansas official: Children seized were in danger
FBI application/affidavit for search warrant Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in Arkansas
Alamo church member speaks out
Alamo denies fostering marriages among young
6 children in Ark. custody after raid on compound
Children interviewed after raid on Ark. compound
Tony Alamo speaks out
Inside the Arkansas compound, tales of abuse and neglect
Federal, State Agents Raid Compound In Sex Investigation
Feds raid Alamo Ministries in Fouke, Arkansas
The Barely Legal Empire of Tony Alamo
Controversy Continues To Follow Tony Alamo
A trip to Fouke
Alamo ministry resurrected
Tony Alamo Ministries is listed as a hate group by SPLC
Storied evangelist still preaching
Fouke voter registration numbers up
Fouke Council says issue settled
Surrounding the Alamo ministries
Arkansas group leaves anti-Catholic literature in Helena
Susan Alamo entombed in Tulsa
Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body
Body of Cult Leader's Wife Stolen From Mausoleum
Department of Labor Decision against Tony Alamo
Take Me Back to Tulsa, I'm Too Young to Bury (that's mine)
Body of Cult Leader's Wife Stolen From Mausoleum
Arkansas: A court order had forbidden members from taking remains of Susan Alamo. Marshals had seized the property to pay off debts.
Los Angeles Times/February 20, 1991
By Tim Waters
The body of Susan Alamo, wife of fugitive cult leader Tony Alamo, was taken from a mausoleum on the cult's compound in Arkansas after federal marshals had seized the property to satisfy a legal judgment, authorities said Tuesday.
During the weekend, marshals discovered that the small, granite mausoleum containing Alamo's remains had been broken into and the casket removed, according to Crawford County Sheriff Bill Grill.
At the request of a relative of Susan Alamo, a court order had been issued last week forbidding cult members from taking the body from the compound near the small town of Dyer, Grill said. The family member feared that the casket would be removed after the property was confiscated.
"It looked like (someone) took a sledgehammer or something and busted one end out," Grill said.
After his wife died of cancer in 1982, Tony Alamo, whose secretive Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation operates another commune in Saugus, predicted that she would be resurrected. Her embalmed body was reportedly kept on display at the Arkansas property for about six months until it was placed in the mausoleum.
The Alamos' foundation has gained notoriety for circulating anti-Catholic literature. In 1985, it had its tax-exempt status revoked after the Internal Revenue Service concluded that one of its primary purposes was making money for its leaders.
In 1989, Tony Alamo, leader of the fundamentalist Christian Foundation, fled Saugus after he was charged with abusing the child of a follower and has eluded capture. Alamo has contended that he was being persecuted by a "legal Mafia."
Marshals began seizing the compound property last Wednesday so it could be sold to settle a $1.8-million federal court judgment levied against the foundation. The judgment resulted from a civil lawsuit filed by a former foundation member who lived at the Arkansas compound, charging that his child had been abused by the Alamos, said Mike Blevins, chief deputy in the marshal's Fort Smith, Ark., office.
Besides the 250-acre compound, marshals seized Alamo properties elsewhere in Arkansas, including a 40-acre farm, numerous commercial properties and a church, Blevins said. Personal property, such as vehicles and office equipment, was also confiscated.
Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body
Los Angeles Times/February 20, 1997
By James Ricci
The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed on a technicality religious cult leader Tony Alamo's appeal of an order requiring him to produce the missing body of his long-dead wife for burial.
The body of Susan Alamo, who died of cancer in 1982, disappeared from a Dyer, Arkansas mausoleum owned by the cult in 1991, shortly after federal authorities moved to seize church assets for tax irregularities.
In 1995, a lower court found that Alamo was responsible for the theft of Susan Alamo's remains. The couple had built a religious cult and business empire from a storefront effort to reclaim drug users and teenage runaways in Hollywood during the 1960s.
The court ordered Alamo to return the body so its identity can be verified by an Arkansas medical examiner prior to a "proper and legal entombment."
The court order resulted from a suit brought by the dead woman's daughter, former cult member Christhiaon Coie of Reseda. It ordered Alamo, who is nearing the end of a six-year federal sentence for tax evasion, to produce the body or be jailed for contempt of court upon his expected release from federal prison in Texarkana, Tex.
"I'm just so happy today," Coie said Wednesday. "He had no right to do anything like this. This is so perverse. So insane."
Alamo, a flamboyant evangelist who acted as his own attorney on the appeal, has alternately confirmed and denied he knows the whereabouts of the body.
Coie's lawyer, Charles Karr of Fort Smith, Ark., said the appeals court threw out Alamo's appeal because it wasn't filed in a timely manner. He said decisions of the appeals court are rarely reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Karr said he wouldn't be surprised if Alamo approached the high court nonetheless. "That would be his next step if he wants to take another one, and, knowing him, he probably will."
Susan Alamo entombed in Tulsa
The Associated Press/August 11, 1998
Van Buren, Arkansas -- Susan Alamo's remains were placed in a crypt in Tulsa, putting to rest a years-long fight over the body.
Mrs. Alamo, the wife of evangelist Tony Alamo, died of cancer in 1982. She was entombed Monday.
In February 1991, Alamo ordered his followers to bring along his wife's body when they evacuated the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation compound in Crawford County. The compound was about to be raided by federal marshals in the wake of a civil lawsuit against Alamo.
Alamo was ultimately arrested on tax-related charges and was convicted in 1994. He is completing a six-year federal sentence, now in a halfway house in Texarkana. His scheduled Dec. 8 release would have been in jeopardy had the body not been returned.
Alamo was ordered in 1995 to return the body. The Chancery Court judge stipulated that if Alamo did not produce the body, he would be sent to the local jail upon his release from federal custody.
Alamo agreed last month to deliver the corpse. His followers from the Alamo Foundation brought the body in a sealed casket to a Van Buren funeral home on July 23. Last week, state medical examiners in Little Rock, where the corpse was subsequently transported, affirmed the body was indeed that of Mrs. Alamo, clearing the way for the burial.
The court order to deliver the body came when Christihaon Coie of Los Angeles, Mrs. Alamo's daughter, went to court because she wanted to bury her mother near relatives in Van Buren. However, she said she would not contest a previous order releasing the body to Alamo for suitable burial following its identification.
A Nashville dentist who had made a bridge for Susan Alamo identified his work, and Circuit-Chancery Judge Floyd Rogers accepted the identification.
Mrs. Alamo's body was returned to Van Buren on Thursday.
Tony Alamo Story
By Nancy Ross
THE FOUNDING OF ALAMO'S MINISTRY
In the early 1960's, Alamo and his late wife Susan, went out on the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood, California and preached the Word of God to young street people, including drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes. They were the first of the "Jesus movement," and their street preaching attracted thousands. The Alamos' beliefs followed a strict adherence to the King James Version of the Bible, and were so popular that their first church was ironically a transformed former drug den in Hollywood. The ministry grew quickly, and soon moved to larger headquarters in West Hollywood and then to Saugus, California.
In the late 1970's, the ministry expanded to Georgia Ridge (near Fort Smith, Van Buren, Alma, and Dyer), Arkansas, where Susan Alamo was born. Soon ministries were founded in Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and New York. They began modestly, by preparing meals, providing clothing and a place to sleep for their followers and anyone in need. As the congregation grew, they built housing for families, schools, nurseries, medical and recreational facilities. They developed workshops1 which provided job training for their followers, many of whom had never worked before. Through these workshops they opened a grocery store, restaurant, service station, hog farm, and trucking firm. They began manufacturing clothing, and Tony Alamo's fashions became a major success. His "glitzy" denim jackets were sold in department stores, in the most fashionable boutiques throughout the U.S. and Europe. The "Alamo of Nashville" store became world famous for its western, continental, and rock'n roll fashions. Clothes were made for Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, and countless others.
The church developed a complex social and religious environment, which one must understand to have an accurate assessment of its practices and mores. The church followed an orthodox fundamentalist tradition. Church followers lived in an extended community and dedicated their labor, money, and time to expand the church in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether a church member worked in a church-run workshop or in an outside job, salaries were contributed, and all personal necessities, all bills and expenses including housing, medical care, food, clothing, and schooling, were met by the church.
The primary commitment of church members was to spreading the gospel, winning new converts and building their church--not in receiving high salaries. With every restaurant meal served, every gallon of gas pumped, every jacket sold, the customer was sure to receive a church brochure, and if they chose, be "witnessed" to.
Throughout the 1970's, Alamo and the church received strong praise from government officials and the media. In 1972, Herb Ellingswood, an aid to Governor Ronald Reagan came to the Saugus community to present a commendation from the government to Tony and Sue for their work. Press from throughout the world, including the French Paris Match and German Der Stern, wrote praises about Alamo and the church. Neil Young, for Warner Brothers, recorded the Holy Alamo Christian Choir singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" and the Alamo orchestra playing "King of Kings" for the motion picture "Journey Through the Past."
THE CULT AWARENESS NETWORK
SEES AN OPPORTUNITY
The church's enormous growth and success also attracted the attention of the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). CAN has a significant ideological and financial interest in the destruction of churches and so-called "new religions" they unlawfully deem illegitimate, particularly those which demonstrate success in attracting large numbers of converts among young people. CAN-related deprogrammers prey on the pain of families to convince them they can cure their child of their faith, which CAN terms "brainwashing." These deprogrammers charge these parents tens of thousands of dollars, and use such "tactics" as kidnapping, coercion, and physical abuse. They subject them to sleep and food deprivation, humiliate and ridicule them, deprive them of privacy, and have even used sex--all to deprogram a "believer."
CAN went after Mr. Alamo and his ministry in the worst tradition of the Salem witch hunts, the 19th century attacks on the Mormons, and other examples of religious intolerance. CAN's campaign of demonization against Alamo lasted 25 years, during which they disseminated and distorted misleading interpretations of church practices and false information to the media, and instigated investigations by government agencies -- from the Labor Department to the I.R.S.
Several qualified religious scholars have studied Alamo’s church, and have regarded it as a legitimate fundamentalist religion. However, these scholarly opinions have been drowned out by the "cult hysteria" whipped up and unlawfully manipulated by CAN. It is this latter interpretation that has most influenced the media and the courts. Although the consensus of the psychology profession is that the concepts of "brainwashing" and "mind control" are entirely without scientific merit, the media adopted CAN's allegations that Alamo "brainwashed" his congregation. CAN pseudo-psychologists recently lost a major law suit which has permanently ended their financially beneficial practice of testifying in court that so-called "cult leaders" could "brainwash" people to act against their will. But Tony Alamo was attacked before these theories were debunked, and these phony psychologists were allowed to peddle their bogus theories against Alamo in court. They portrayed him as having total control over his congregation, and compared church workshops to sweat shops whose workers were forced to hand over all their earnings to the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation (TSAF). Thus the image of a "cult" leader was firmly ingrained in the public's perception of Pastor Alamo; and once demonized with this label, Alamo, like the Branch Davidians, became less than human in their eyes. The successful and good work of the church, of helping people overcome crime, drug and alcohol problems, of providing stable livings and jobs, and of giving people faith in God and a reason to live, were completely ignored.
ALAMO'S TRIALS BEGIN
Between 1976 and 1994, Alamo faced a multitude of lawsuits, many of them fomented by CAN. In 1976, the U.S. Labor Department filed a lawsuit against the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation (TSAF), alleging that it was subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that its members had to be classified as employees rather than volunteers. Church members countered that they did not expect a salary per se. They were volunteers working for the Lord and the goals of the church, and were working to pay their own bills as well as church bills. The church provided them with housing, food, all their necessities, spending money, and they were using additional money to build homes for new followers and other community facilities. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1985 that people working in church-related businesses were subject to the minimum wage and FLSA regulations.
In January of 1988, Tony Alamo was accused of child abuse, of allegedly directing--over the telephone--the beating of 11 year old Jeremiah Justin Miller. At the time, the child was at the center of a custody battle between his mother, a member of Alamo’s church, and his father, Carey Miller who had left the church and joined CAN. Miller had abandoned the mother and the child, and according to the church, had embezzled church funds. Nonetheless, the father's accusations prompted a March of 1988 raid on the Saugus community, in which 60 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies took the child and confiscated church property to be used as evidence. The raid turned up no evidence and the prosecutors initially declined to file charges. However, the charges were reinstated in April of 1989, when father and son, under the "guidance" of CAN-associated attorney Peter Georgiades, agreed to testify against the church. (Justin later became a ward of the state.) This case was never brought to trial, and recently, the California district attorney formally dropped the charges.
In October of 1988,nine months after the child abuse charge, Justin's father, Carey and his brother Robert Miller, filed a suit against Alamo, TSAF and Music Square Church, falsely charging Alamo with stealing their trucking business, and asserting there was no distinction between Alamo and the church. The Church claims that in fact, it was the Millers who stole $100,000 and the trucking business from the church. (The Millers used church drivers, who were never paid, as well as church administrative officers, trucks, and the church's credit rating.)
Georgiades, the Millers' attorney, claimed they tried to serve Alamo with a summons, but they couldn't find him. Even though the Millers knew Alamo was in California, they convinced the court to serve Alamo in Arkansas. The court finally effected service in an obscure Arkansas newspaper, and then charged Alamo with unlawful flight. Alamo denies this, pointing out that during the three years the government asserted he was fugitive, he was seen in pictures with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, (now congressman) Sonny Bono and his wife, martial artist Benny the Jet Uriquidez, and George Albert of Cash Box Magazine, who were all modeling his trademark jackets. He did photo sessions with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the mayors of Las Vegas and Jersey City; did numerous radio interviews, including several with his brother Dan Hoffman, a well-known talk show host in Nashville; attended clothing trade shows in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas; did business with several Las Vegas casinos; and had dinner with the Wynn family, owner of the Golden Nugget, Dunes and Mirage Hotels and Casinos. At one point he even spoke with the LA Sheriff’s office.
Despite Alamo's obvious visibility, Judge Morris Arnold adopted the Millers' claim that Alamo was nowhere to be found, and proceeded with the case. In April of 1990 Arnold ruled in a default judgment against Alamo, and awarded Carey and Robert Miller $1.466 million in damages. The judge ruled that Alamo had fraudulently transferred assets to avoid a judgment, and that Alamo, the TSAF and Music Square Church were all the same--"alter egos" of each other. Neither Alamo or other church witnesses were allowed to testify at the trial, and no evidence was allowed on behalf of the church. It is clear from the judge's statement, that the case was highly colored by CAN's inflammatory charges. After issuing the judgment, he said, "No feeling person could fail to be moved by the testimony in this case or be reviled by the cold-blooded and calculated manner in which the [abusive spanking] punishment was carried out."
On July 5, 1991, Alamo was "captured" in Tampa, Florida where he and other church members openly operated a hardware store and family-style restaurant. He was charged with threatening to kidnap Judge Morris Arnold. In September of 1991, a Ft. Smith, Arkansas jury acquitted Alamo of these charges.
In April of 1982, Susan Alamo died of cancer, and was buried at Georgia Ridge. In 1991, after the government confiscated the church's Georgia Ridge property and there were threats that the mausoleum was going to be desecrated, her body was taken from the Georgia Ridge mausoleum. In March of 1992, Christhiaon Coie, Susan Alamo's estranged daughter whom she had disowned, filed a lawsuit inspired by CAN against Alamo accusing him of stealing her mother's body. Coie hadn’t seen her mother in over twenty years, including during the time she was dying. (She has even denied that her mother died of cancer.) But neither Coie or CAN could miss the opportunity of a potential financial reward from characterizing the removal of the body, a felony in Arkansas, as a "theft." The judge fined Alamo $100,000 and ordered his imprisonment unless he reveals the whereabouts of the body. While Alamo denies knowledge of where the body lies, he points out that according to Arkansas law, the body belongs to the spouse and not to the child. The case is on appeal.
REVOCATION OF THE CHURCH’S TAX
During this same period, the IRS began to move against Alamo and the churches. In 1985, prodded by CAN members, they revoked the church’s tax-exempt status retroactively for the years 1977 to 1980. Despite the church’s attempts to reverse this ruling, it was upheld in 1992. The IRS simultaneously opened a criminal investigation against Alamo, thus effectively denying him the right to testify in the tax exempt case.
In 1990, the IRS filed liens of $7.9 million against church-run workshops (businesses) for taxes it claimed were due in six states -- Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Oklahoma and Florida. The IRS then issued a (jeopardy) assessment against Alamo claiming he owed $745,000 in personal income taxes for the years 1977 through 1980, and that Alamo-related companies owed another $5 million in corporate income tax, and $1.6 million in unpaid employees withholding taxes.
These charges, coupled with the default judgment in the Miller case, gave the IRS license to seize church property. In July of 1990, two dozen IRS agents raided the "Alamo of Nashville" store, seizing all of its merchandise and equipment. In October of 1991, the jeopardy assessment was abated by Federal Judge Thomas Weisman, who stated that the IRS had acted illegally. Eventually, the IRS and CAN attorney Georgiades, succeeded in getting another judge to allow them to re-seize the property.
In February of 1991, sixty U.S. Marshal Service agents, with weapons drawn, stormed the Alma and Georgia Ridge, Arkansas communities of more than 200 families. They confiscated their homes, businesses, and personal possessions, took scores of designer jackets ready for market, industrial sewing machines, dozens of cars and trucks, and over $8,000 in cash. They cut off phone and electrical lines, and closed the cafeteria, throwing the families out of their homes in the dead of the winter, and guaranteeing they wouldn't return. In addition, they took all the financial records, depriving Alamo of any means of defense in the tax violations cases. At least six separate court pleas in federal courts for return of the financial records were denied. Other seizures took place in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida and Oklahoma.
THE POWER OF THE "CULT" LABEL
Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles "cult" division, in a CAN-related campaign, launched a successful boycott to get stores to stop carrying Alamo fashions. They echoed the Millers' false child abuse charges against Alamo, and even arranged media interviews for the Millers. Even though these charges were unproven and later dropped, the department stores did not want to get caught up in a controversy, and Alamo lost contracts with Bullocks, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and many others. These contracts projected enough income to pay all back taxes the IRS claimed Alamo owed.
In February of 1993, a Memphis grand jury indicted Alamo on charges of filing a false income tax return for 1985, and failing to file tax returns for the years of 1986, 1987 and 1988. In April of 1993, Alamo was arrested, and one year later, in May of 1994, his trial began before U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla. On June 8, 1994, Alamo was convicted of all four tax charges and sentenced to six years in prison.
Once again, Alamo was convicted by CAN-orchestrated slanders. When Judge McCalla ordered Alamo jailed, he expressed concern about the "very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people." While Alamo was not on trial for such bogus charges, it is clear that his conviction for tax fraud was influenced by this and other slanderous charges, which were given full play in the media.
Within a month, in July of 1994, Alamo filed a motion for a new trial, after discovering that his attorney, Jeffrey Dickstein, had been operating under a serious conflict of interest, making his defense ineffective. The government was considering charging Dickstein with tax fraud, and a bankruptcy judge had reported Dickstein for possible criminal prosecution for money paid to him in cash on behalf of Alamo. Alamo, who was largely unaware of these charges, was a potential government witness against Dickstein. In addition, Dickstein was facing a disbarment charge in California.
Dickstein's failure to provide a competent defense, and his propensity to alienate judge and jury alike, worked against Alamo. With the exception of a few government agents who testified, the remaining witnesses were disgruntled ex-church members who were aligned with CAN. Dickstein either refused to cross-examine these witnesses, or his examination was so lackluster that he allowed these witnesses to introduce slanders damaging to Alamo's character. The trial lasted three weeks, and despite Dickstein's feeble defense, it still took the jury three days to render a verdict.
It took eighteen months after Alamo's sentence for the judge to rule against his motion for a new trial. An appeal is pending.
Beginning in April of 1991, the U.S. Marshal Service, on behalf of the Millers and Georgiades, began auctioning off church properties and personal items to supposedly "satisfy" the debt. The IRS held simultaneous auctions which included real estate holdings in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Meanwhile, through these auctions, Georgiades was able to purchase church properties for pennies on the dollar which he then resold at a hefty profit. The church has not been able to get an accounting either from the U.S. Marshal Service or from the IRS as to the worth of their confiscated properties and goods. While the church estimates their value at over $100 million, the real value will never be known. Besides the loss of property, there were several cases of Alamo fashions being sold illegally. For example, in 1992, a Ft. Smith police officer, employed by the U. S. Marshal Service, was charged and convicted of stealing Alamo jackets. There are other similar stories of stolen church goods illegally sold for individual profit.
In February and March of 1995, a court hearing was held on seven more civil tax cases against Alamo and the churches. The IRS, Alamo and the churches agreed to resolve the issues in an "offer in compromise" which is presently under discussion.
In July of 1995, Alamo filed a (2255) double jeopardy motion claiming he had been punished twice. Alamo's liability by the government was assessed at $765,009. But between 1990 and 1991 over $52 million in property and goods were seized to satisfy this tax liability. Even if the government disputed the figures, there is no question that the seizure was excessive. Alamo also filed a motion claiming the government had indicted him 254 days after the expiration of the Statute of Limitations on the first two tax counts. Alamo noted that the government waited until after they had seized his financial records to charge him, effectively stymieing his ability to defend himself. The government counter-charged that the Statute of Limitations didn't apply since they refused to count the time Alamo was a supposed "fugitive." In reality, the government waited two years until after Alamo was arrested before they even indicted him.
CAN INTERFERES IN PAROLE HEARING
On June 5, 1995, Colorado Parole Examiner Robertson conducted a parole hearing at Federal Corrections Institution in Colorado and recommended Alamo for parole. He noted that Alamo was a model prisoner.
On October 30, 1995, the U.S. Regional Parole Commission in Kansas City, Missouri overturned the recommendation and denied parole. The Commission chose to ignore the Parole Examiner and over 400 letters in favor of his release, and instead relied on letters from disgruntled former church members, all allied with CAN. These letters were initially kept secret from Alamo's attorney, and only two, both heavily redacted, have since been released. But their content was unmistakably CAN slanders, and it was based on these slanders, taken as fact, that the acting Regional Commissioner Michael Gaines made his decision. He referred to Mr. Alamo's church as "a cult in the truest sense... [L]etters from victims are sufficient for a reasonable conclusion that subject committed his scheme by exerting unusually strong control over very vulnerable religious followers of his... He used destitute people, unwed young mothers and children to bring in money in exchange for living in subject's religious compound." The Regional Parole Commission adopted CAN's explicitly ideological anti-First Amendment terminology, which has been soundly rejected by reputable religious scholars.
The Commissioners seem unaware that CAN is a religious hate group whose "brainwashing" theories have been completely debunked and are inadmissible in court. They also seem totally unaware of the First Amendment, including its prohibition of government on the free exercise of religion. With total prejudice, the Commissioners do not recognize that these so-called "destitute people" and "unwed mothers" have the right to join any church they desire.
The parole decision is presently on appeal before the U.S. Parole Commission in Washington. Tony Alamo was denied due process. He, like all American citizens, has the right to have his case tried on the merits, in a trial free of the taint of officially sanctioned religious prejudice.
PRO-FIRST AMENDMENT VICTORIES
There are some hopeful signals that CAN's tactics and practices are now being called into question by the judicial system. Since the Waco tragedy, many Americans have become more aware of the deadly consequences of CAN's anti-religious rhetoric. At least one CAN practice has been stopped. As mentioned above, in October of 1995, CAN psychologists Margaret Singer and Richard Ofshe lost a major suit against the American Psychological Association (APA). They had sued because the APA had refused to endorse a report on "brainwashing" prepared by Dr. Singer, thus depriving her and Dr. Ofshe of their lucrative employment as "expert witnesses" in legal cases where the existence of "brainwashing" was at issue. The APA concluded that her report lacked scientific rigor, and that there was no empirical evidence to support a belief in "brainwashing." The court concurred, and ruled that their pseudo-scientific "brainwashing" theories were unsubstantiated opinions, rather than the professional consensus, and therefore, were not admissible as testimony under the Frye principle.
In March of 1992, the Emery Wilson Corporation d/b/a Sterling Management Systems, a company associated with the Scientologists, was awarded over a million dollars in a suit against CAN attorney Peter Georgiades for defamation of character and slander. In September of 1995, a jury awarded a member of the Seattle United Pentecostal Church $5 million in damages against CAN. The church member had charged CAN and their deprogrammer Rick Ross with depriving him of his religious freedom, by abducting him, holding him against his will, and trying to coerce him into giving up his religious beliefs. This past December, in another victory against an anti-religious witch hunt, a reverend and his wife from Wenatchee, Washington were found not guilty of leading a child sex ring.
These small victories must be extended to insure religious liberty and freedom for all Americans. The term "cult" and all hate language must be permanently stripped from our judicial system. All Americans have the right to the freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
We must preserve and guarantee our Constitutional rights.
The Barely Legal Empire of Tony Alamo
The nutty evangelist rebuilds his young-girl-lovin' empire-with help from New Yorkers
The Village Vloice/May 13, 2008
By Maria Luisa Tucker
Long before a fundamentalist Mormon compound in El Dorado, Texas, was raided in April, a more familiar figure was spewing polygamist propaganda over the airwaves in New York.
Longtime evangelist Tony Alamo-on the air daily at WVNJ-AM 1160 in New York and New Jersey-has told audiences for years that polygamous unions between older men and little girls are God's will. These days, he can be heard regularly defending the breakaway Mormon sect in Texas: "These people are true polygamists. They take care of their wives and children, and their children and their wives are happy. But you people, you go out and have sex with every woman you can get your hands on, and you impregnate them and then you send them to the murder compounds [abortion clinics]." During an April broadcast, the pastor proclaimed that the government had no right to take 10-year-old wives away from their rightful "husbands": "What I'm doing is fighting for these people that they, the ungodly beast, is throwing into prison for marrying someone 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11-10, if they've reached puberty." In May, his screeds reached a fever pitch as he threatened the media for criticizing the Texas compound: "The Lord is going to take the firstborn of everyone that's involved. . . . I am telling all you people, including Nancy Grace, to back off if you love your twins. Back off if you love your little twins."
Despite decades of legal troubles, a raid on his former compound, an exodus of members, and a stint behind bars, Tony Alamo-convicted tax cheat, accused polygamist, and accused rapist-just keeps going. He's withstood years of accusations of statutory rape and child abuse, lobbed by ex-members who have either witnessed or experienced it firsthand, and continues to preach from his pulpit in Arkansas.
Almost a decade after his release from prison, the 73-year-old (who pronounces his last name with the accent on the second syllable) has managed to rebuild his church-surprisingly, with significant help from supporters in New York and New Jersey. Alamo has a local following that runs at least two of what ex-members describe as profiteering schemes. One is named Arm Full of Help, a charity that former workers say misleads people by taking donated goods that are supposed to go to people in need but are instead sold for profit, which is then sent to Alamo. The other is Action Distributors Inc., a New Jersey salvage business that is accused of participating in a scheme to sell for profit thousands of mattresses that were supposed to be donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.
The two local operations are funders of Alamo's bizarre empire: his Arkansas compound where ex-members say he lives with at least eight "wives," most of whom he married when they were still children; a daily radio show that provides a venue for Alamo's unconventional views; and the printing of thousands of anti-Catholic religious tracts that in some parts of the country are ubiquitous-park a car at a shopping center in the Southwest and you're likely to find an Alamo pamphlet on the windshield when you get back.
For his troubles, Alamo's church has been labeled an anti-Catholic hate group, and a number of his former followers have slowly sneaked away, embarrassed and disgusted by their pastor. Some former members take to the Internet to ridicule Alamo; others try to get law enforcement interested in investigating him. But a few locals, gathering in the back room of a pizza parlor in Manhattan, take heart in the words of a nutty old Arkansas man with a thing for very young girls.
What kind of New Yorker is drawn to an Arkansas "prophet" who kept his first wife, Susan, on display at his church compound for six months after she died in 1982, hoping that she'd be resurrected?
"What happened, I went out to Los Angeles, California . . . and there, I received a gospel tract that said, 'Repent or perish-Jesus is coming soon. Services every night at eight o'clock.' I went in there and I got saved, and the Lord changed my life-and that was 38 years ago," said Tommy Scarcello, describing his religious epiphany in a deposition he gave last year. Until very recently, Scarcello was one of Alamo's most important New York-area members.
"I used to light myself on fire when I was in a rock group here in New York," Scarcello testified about his life before Alamo. The deposition was part of a federal lawsuit regarding those thousands of mattresses that ended up for sale in a warehouse owned by Alamo devotees.
Some of Scarcello's testimony sounds like it came straight out of one of Alamo's tracts: "We're living in this one-world structure, the one-world voice, one-world church directed by the Vatican that the Bible says is coming straight from Rome, Italy. The devil-given power unto them to create a one-world voice."
The lawsuit was filed last year by mattress maker Tempur-Pedic. Scarcello's business, Action Distributors, stands accused of participating in the scheme to sell off thousands of high-end mattresses and slippers that Tempur-Pedic had donated in 2005 and 2006. The mattress company is seeking $15 million in damages from Action Distributors and several other defendants.
Action Distributors has been around in different forms since 1977, with offices listed in both New Jersey and Queens. As with other businesses controlled by Alamo, it often had trouble keeping up with its taxes. The state of New Jersey shut it down once in 1981 for a failure to pay taxes, and another three times because it didn't pay a $50 annual fee to the state. But the company's real troubles didn't start until Tempur-Pedic started investigating its dealings a couple of years ago.
Tempur-Pedic had donated approximately 8,000 mattresses and 7,000 slippers to a New Jersey nonprofit called Waste to Charity, which then contracted Action Distributors to give out the goods in storm-ravaged areas. Tempur-Pedic grew suspicious after being tipped off that those specific mattresses and slippers were being sold out of the back of trucks in Tennessee and Kentucky, and later on eBay. The mattress company hired an undercover consultant to pose as a buyer and instigated an FBI sting that found 2,650 of the donated mattresses in an Arkansas warehouse registered to two of Alamo's "wives," whose address was listed as a supermarket owned by Tony Alamo Ministries.
An undercover FBI investigation revealed that Scarcello had been selling the donated mattresses for profit to a number of secondhand retailers. While the connection between Waste to Charity and Alamo remains unclear, Tempur-Pedic's complaint against Waste to Charity and Action Distributors calls Scarcello a "known associate" of the pastor.
Eight ex-members who spoke with the Voice independently described Action Distributors as part of a network of salvage businesses and nonprofits, all owned by Alamo devotees, that funnel their profits to Alamo. (When questioned, Scarcello testified that he never gave Alamo any money, but invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked if he kept the profits himself.)
The mattress scandal was of little surprise to those familiar with Alamo's way of doing business. The pastor had been operating his empire this way for decades, ever since his transformation from Bernie Lazar Hoffman, who was born into a Jewish family in Joplin, Missouri, on September 20, 1934, into (or so he claims) 1960s big-band singer Tony Alamo, and later into the controversial evangelist. In the late 1960s, Alamo and his first wife, Susan, offered salvation to the junkies, drunks, and hippies of Hollywood: They provided a place to live and regular meals in return for free labor for one of their many businesses. The most popular business venture was Alamo Designs, where church volunteers created dazzling airbrushed jean jackets that became popular among celebrities, from Mr. T to Brooke Shields, at least for a while. But their system of indentured servitude couldn't last.
In 1976, the Department of Labor determined that the Alamo Foundation was in violation of the Fair Labor Standard Act for failing to pay wages to its many workers. The IRS eventually revoked the church's tax-exempt status in 1985 after determining that it was really a profit-making entity meant to fund Alamo's luxurious lifestyle. However, the pastor continued to ignore his taxes, and the IRS eventually seized millions of dollars in Alamo's church property and business interests and put him behind bars. After Alamo served four years of a six-year sentence, all of his properties, businesses, and nonprofits were registered under the names of his followers. Since his release in 1998, he's been trying to make a comeback and has targeted New York/New Jersey as one of several areas for growth-and for his polygamous radio message.
Arm Full of Help's public image is a young girl-just a few years younger than Alamo's ideal marrying age. She is pictured on the charity's website, holding a stack of groceries under the text: "If children can help why not you?" The charity is registered as a domestic nonprofit in several states, including New York, where it purports to help people in a general way. (Alamo's people are not so good on specifics.) According to its mission statement, the charity was created to "provide hope for the hopeless, living facilities for the homeless, clothing for the naked, food for the hungry," by distributing donated goods to "far away places such as Romania, Africa, etc." There is little indication of where any of this goes on, and no mention on the website of its connection to Alamo. However, the website does contain links to thank-you letters addressed to Tommy Scarcello.
According to former workers for the charity, Arm Full of Help is an Alamo-controlled business that sells donated goods for profit. Ex-workers say the charity is part of the same network of businesses and nonprofits as Action Distributors, keeping Alamo's empire afloat. They estimate that up to 70 percent of the donations-meant to help the needy-are sold for profit.
"We knew it was just a scam," says ex-member Ian Mann, who worked in the printing and administrative offices of the Arkansas compound. He says he's sure because his wife, who left the church with him in 1995, was one of the original founders of the charity in 1989. Her signature appears on the incorporation papers as the secretary treasurer. Like other ex-members, he described the mingling of the nonprofits and business ventures in the New York/New Jersey branch, saying they operated essentially as one entity. Donations of food, clothing, and other products would come to Arm Full of Help, and much of it would be resold and shipped through Action Distributors.
"They're trained to call anybody and everybody to get as many donations as possible. Alamo justifies it saying it's for the good of the ministry," says Danny Ondrisek, an ex-member who worked for a time in the New Jersey branch when he was a teen. "But the main point of that organization is to make money," he insists.
To prepare donated items for resale at flea markets and to correctional facilities, private schools, and nursing homes, Ondrisek says, "they strip the products of any identifiable markings, and they turn around and sell it. We used to get donations from Feed the Children-big boxes. The logo was a kid holding out his arms, so we would cut that off the box and then resell it. For stuff that was out of date, we would rub [the expiration date] off with acetone."
Mann notes that Arm Full of Help does give away some donations, fulfilling its mission at least in part. With food donations or surplus products that couldn't be sold, he says, the organization would actually donate the stuff to food banks and other charities. In the 1990s, Arm Full of Help was, in fact, a semi-regular donor to several food banks in New York City, including City Harvest and New York Rescue Mission. The organization even received a generic thank-you note from Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001 for its "thoughtful and generous gift" after the 9/11 attacks. However, all of those former recipients said they hadn't received a single donation for a number of years.
"I was helped and benefited a lot from the ministry, but over time, I guess it was the 'Absolute power corrupts . . .' kind of thing," says Mann, who was a member of the church from the 1970s until 1995. He got out around the time that Alamo started collecting wives. Discouraged by law enforcement's seeming lack of interest in pursuing the polygamy and child-abuse allegations, Mann decided to take aim at Alamo's empire on his own. When Arm Full of Help inadvertently let its website domain name expire in 2006, he hijacked it. Mann says that "on a lark," he bought the domain, armfullofhelp.com, and publicized the connections between the charity and Alamo.
Where once it read "Here to Help the Poor and Needy Everywhere," Mann wrote "Established to Provide Funds to the Bizarre Cult of Convicted Felon Tony Alamo-Reputed Child Molester, Child Abuser, Rapist, Thief and Religious Huckster." Beneath that, he elaborated: "Arm Full of Help solicits and collects donations from large corporations all across America. These donated materials are then sold and much of the funds are used to support and finance Tony Alamo, his cult and his cultic activities. Knowing that no one in their right mind would fund his nefarious activities, the staff at Arm Full of Help are very careful not to reveal their connection to Alamo."
"I wanted to make sure people knew where their money was really going," Mann says. "They shouldn't solicit money under false pretenses." However, Mann's version of the website was up for only six months or so. The dispute ended up at the World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the United Nations that arbitrates international disputes over patents, trademarks, and domain names. Ultimately, Mann was forced to give up ownership of the website, but apparently his exercise in cyber-sabotage did little to convince Alamo to cover his tracks better.
When the Voice called Alamo's church office in Arkansas, church volunteer Jennifer Kolbeck seemed to think that she'd answered the phone for Arm Full of Help: She identified herself as a volunteer at Arm Full of Help's Arkansas branch and immediately launched into an explanation of how the charity and Alamo's church were, in fact, separate entities. She said that Alamo gave money, food, and clothing donations to Arm Full of Help, as well as many other nonprofits, but that was the extent of the connection. But Kolbeck answers the phones at both the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Arm Full of Help, and she couldn't say who her boss was at Arm Full of Help. "I don't have that information," she said, seeming not to understand the term "executive director." (Many ex-members say they left the church simply because their kids weren't learning anything in the church-run schools.)
The combined income from both Arm Full of Help and Action Distributors-estimated to be around $4 million annually-has been key in rebuilding Alamo's church and funding the pastor's luxurious home in Fouke, Arkansas. There, Alamo has built a kid-friendly mansion complete with a swimming pool, horse stables, and multiple bedrooms for the many girls and women living with him-who numbered about 30, says Ondrisek, when he left the church three years ago. His younger sister is one of those girls.
Ondrisek says his sister began taking "field trips" to Alamo's house with other girls when she was just 10. "She would come back with, like, new clothes," he says. "By the time I was old enough to realize what was happening-it was just disgusting." Now, he says, she is 19 years old and lives full-time at Alamo's house as one of his "wives."
Alamo's local followers are back to recruiting in Manhattan, one of their old haunting grounds. Every evening at Andiamo Pizzeria on Second Avenue, a small group arrives to rearrange the dining room in an attempt to transform it into something that could pass for a church. The polygamist preacher's message is apparently less appealing to New York women; during two Voice visits, there were about 20 mostly middle-aged men and only two or three women.
"The sisters sit in the back," one towering man instructed newcomers-and, sure enough, the two women in attendance quietly took their places in the last row. On an April evening, the group's makeshift band of keyboard, tambourine, and guitar players did their best to be heard above Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" playing on the radio. At the end of their song, the devoted raised their hands, muttering "Jesus! Jesus! Hallelujah, amen!" over a commercial for control-top panty hose.
The scene sounded familiar to ex-members, especially Sarah, a sarcastic 18-year-old who ran away from the Arkansas compound a few years ago. Sarah and her older sister, Phoebe, both agreed to speak to the Voice using pseudonyms, fearing that their outspokenness might result in bad things for their remaining sister, who is one of Alamo's wives. We'll call her "Angie."
The girls were roped in when they were children-when the church's promise of security sounded good to their single mother, who was attempting to raise three daughters on welfare checks and food stamps in Washington Heights. It was 1995, and a good friend invited the family out to one of the church services in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Alamo's East Coast followers previously hosted the daily worship services. (These days, the local followers say that no one will get in a car with them to make the trip across the Hudson, so the Manhattan pizzeria church was born.)
Once they arrived at the New Jersey church, the family was greeted by a close-knit, friendly group of people, eager to welcome the newcomers into their fold. "They showed us pictures-a whole booklet they had-of the way it was many years ago, and they made it sound like it was still that way," says Phoebe. "They painted a pretty picture." The family friend was rejoining the church, moving to its Arkansas compound, and urged the girls' mother to do the same. She took the bait, and a week later, the family was in Arkansas with a new home, a cafeteria job for mom, and a ready-made community.
Sarah, the youngest, was only six years old when she says she first realized that something strange was going on between Pastor Alamo and some of the girls in the church. "It was just totally obvious. I went to go visit Tony in prison, and he kissed all the women," she says. It was her first indication that Alamo had multiple wives, many of whom, ex-members say, he married when they were still children. A naturally rebellious and skeptical kid, she says she was beaten and confined for her many infractions, which included talking back to a teacher and listening to music not approved by Alamo. The pastor fancies himself a singer, but Sarah wasn't keen on his country-gospel crooning and would sneak in her own CDs.
Sarah remembers that even the kids were put to work for Arm Full of Help's Arkansas branch, preparing donated food for resale. "They called it 'volunteer work' " she says. "The kids would get nail-polish remover and take off the dates, then they repack it really nicely in these boxes. I did it, and the little treat for the kids is to go get an ice cone."
Alamo eventually ordered Sarah and Angie, the two youngest, to live at his house for months at a time while their mother remained in another of the church compounds five hours away-Sarah because she needed to be watched, and Angie because she was being groomed to be Alamo's next wife. Phoebe and Sarah say that Angie went to live at Alamo's house permanently when she was 12. By 13, she was wearing a wedding ring, and, at 14, she was spending the night in Alamo's bedroom. Eventually, Sarah was kicked out at age 15 for kissing a young man that Alamo didn't approve of; she says she's glad to have been ejected from the church.
These days, Sarah takes jabs at Alamo every chance she gets, making fun of his ridiculous rules: When babysitting, the girls needed permission to hold the male infants and were outright banned from changing their diapers, lest they be sexually tempted. "He says everything is about the temptation of the devil," she says, "which is crazy, because they're little kids!"
In recent radio broadcasts, Alamo waxed poetic about menstruation: "The Bible is filled with stories where God commanded young women to get married. When they start their periods, they are women, according to God's word. They should be able to be married at 13, 14, 15 years old, and in cases if they've menstruated already, 12 years old." He also contends that Mary was as young as six at the time she conceived Jesus, and sarcastically asks if God could be considered a pedophile: "You want to take the Almighty God to jail, because He wanted the Son of God to be born of a young virgin? But you, Satan, you wicked people in the Vatican, and all the rest of you want people-men-to be married to old bags! You want [girls] to wait until they're 18 years old, and them having had sex with possibly up to 100 men!"
While Alamo publicly says he's not a polygamist, and challenges outsiders to "find marriage licenses about me being married to anybody," ex-members say he has unofficially "married" at least eight girls as young as eight years old, and many others live in his house.
Alamo seems to think that all the ex-members upset with him are just unhappy that they didn't get more of his affection: "You get a young girl and you get them mad at you, they'll lie that you've had sex, that you've raped them or something. This is just the nature of women, especially if you don't continue to have relationships with them. They will leave, and they will tear you to ribbons with their lying tongues."
Alamo doesn't seem likely to get additional young female friends from New York. At a recent meeting, the few locals who seemed to be recent recruits were down-and-out men, including a former Nation of Islam member and two immigrant workers speaking Spanish. When one newcomer was too shy to go up to the "altar" to be reborn, the pushy followers eventually relented. "You can be saved over the phone if you want," one woman suggested, giving out the 1-800 prayer line for the ministry.
Later, the group shared a meal of rubbery turkey burgers and salty fries after the service-red meat and dairy have been forbidden by the aging pastor-and another woman explained that the church provides them with food, jobs, and housing. "The church takes care of us," she said.