Robert Tiliton's Back
The Brad Files
Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News & The Fort Worth Star Telegram

Robert Tilton returns, and his hand is out again



Special to the Star-Telegram
Saturday February 5, 2005

I was skimming my cable TV for tennis or football late Sunday night and was surprised to see the Rev. Robert Tilton big as life. I thought the get-rich-quick TV evangelist had gone down the drain after his troubles back in the 1990s.

But there he was, with a Bible in his hand, looking out over the Pacific Ocean with million-dollar yachts in the background.

He was imploring viewers to order free copies of his new books, How To Be Rich and Get Anything You Want and How To Pay Your Bills Supernaturally.

"God wants to bless you and make you rich," he declared, quoting Ecclesiastes 5:19: "Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth . . . this is the gift of God."

I found out later that Tilton has been preaching on cable's Black Entertainment Television for some time. I've been out of the loop.

One of the last times I wrote about Tilton was in 1993, when his former attorney, J.C. Joyce of Tulsa, told me the evangelist was going off the air and laying off 150 employees at his church in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch.

"It is a very, very sad day for religious freedom in the United States," Joyce told me back then. "They've all but destroyed him."

Tilton left the air when lawsuits were filed against him after a 1991 investigation by ABC's Prime Time Live questioned his fund-raising practices and claimed prayer requests sent to him were tossed in a Dumpster.

Tilton denied the allegations. He sued his critics, but without success. None of the lawsuits filed against Tilton was successful, either. None resulted in any damages being awarded.

His absence was brief. He began re-broadcasting his old tapes on BET in 1997, said Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, a religious watchdog group in Dallas that helped ABC in its stories about Tilton.

"Now he's trying to reinvent himself" and is taping new programs, says Anthony. "He's grayer, fatter and he's got a new wife. That's about it."

He's doing well financially, according to the Tulsa World. The newspaper quoted records in 2003 showing he had bought a 50-foot yacht and was building a 2-story home on oceanfront property in Miami.

Tilton spends about $50,000 a month on television time across the nation, Anthony says. My efforts to reach Tilton representatives were not successful.

Tilton no longer is on prime time in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. But he's on at 5 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Sundays on BET. Insomniacs can see him at 3 a.m. every day on BET.

Some recent programs have featured his third wife, Maria Rodriguez, a Christian singer, and their three poodles. On Tilton's Success 'N Life Web site, one can order a free Faith Aid Miracle Healing Kit with "anointing oil, prayer cloth and prayer of agreement [suitable for framing]."

When I sleepily got up to watch Tilton at 3 a.m., he was alone on his Roman-themed set in Miami, telling people God would give them spiritual and financial healing if they made a vow to support Tilton's ministry.

Looking straight at me, Tilton said, "There's a person watching me. If you make a $1,000 vow, it is going to break the shackles off your finances."

He held up his hand, tightly closed his eyes and prayed blessings on his viewers, interspersed with short bursts of speaking in tongues.

"It's not God's will for you to live a life of poverty," he said. "The devil doesn't want you to have any money. I'm not talking about greedy. I'm talking about having what is yours."

Acknowledging that some might have doubts, he declared, "This is not crazy. It's the Bible." Later, he said, "Thank God for religious freedom in America. You don't have to believe this."

I'm all for religious freedom. I know many sincere people support Tilton, praying for healing of their bodies, their souls and their bank accounts.

It's their privilege. But they should think seriously about whether their donations are being used to honor God or to benefit Robert Tilton.

Bob's back, and more entertaining than ever

By STEVE BLOW / The Dallas Morning News

 

The new TV season has barely begun, but already I have a new favorite show.

It's Love That Bob.

No, I don't mean the old Bob Cummings Show. I'm talking about the new Bob Tilton show!

Robert Tilton
BET
Robert Tilton, who had been lying low since the near collapse of his ministry in the mid-'90s, is brightening the airwaves again.

Brother Bob is back, and believe it or not, the TV preacher's show is stranger than ever.

Poodles!

Who would have thought that's just what the show needed? Not to mention a singing third wife.

You gotta Love That Bob.

For those new to the fan club, Robert Tilton is a local fellow who roared to fame as an outlandish televangelist in the early '90s. He spoke in tongues, ranted, rebuked and preached prosperity without apology.

At its peak, his Success N Life show was said to bring in $80 million a year.

Then came a bad turn in the mid '90s – prayer requests discovered in trash bins, exposés of his luxurious lifestyle, lawsuits from embittered followers, a couple of divorces and the near collapse of his ministry.

Brother Bob moved to South Florida, taped a batch of new shows and coasted for years as what I called "Robo-Bob." He had a fully automated ministry – rerun shows, a voice-mail prayer line and a postal box to collect the cash.

It was genius but also boring.

Well, hallelujah! Brother Bob is back with fresh shows better than ever.

He now broadcasts primarily on BET – the Black Entertainment Television cable channel. The easiest time to catch him is on Sunday nights at 10, but if you want to set the recorder, he's also on weekdays at 3 a.m.

With that swept-back hairdo and his overtightened face, Brother Bob now looks like he's leaning into a hurricane.

He has been nipped and tucked so much that he now has dimples next to his eyes. No kidding!

Robert and Maria Tilton
BET
Bob and Maria Tilton... and their poodles.

But the real star of the show is his new wife, Maria.

Bob was always a solo act. But in the grand tradition of Tammy Faye Bakker and Jan Crouch, Maria is now the weird wife/sidekick.

I don't mean to be tacky, but the woman is just kind of freaky.

She has these spooky eyes and long black-blond-black hair. (Starts out black, turns blond and winds up black again.)

 

Family moment

Bob and Maria share a little sweet talk to start every show. Recent example ...

Bob: "Thank you, honey, for being on the television program with me and making it such a blessing."

Maria (sultry voiced): "Thank you for being so wonderful to me."

Bob (stammering): "Well, I love being wonderful to her. But anyway, honey, uh, we'll leave the rest of this until we get off the air."

Yes, please.

And then there are the dogs – Paris, Eiffel and Stella – three big poodles introduced on each show.

"This is our little girl, Paris, which was our first," Maria said on a recent show. "She was actually thought of in Paris, France, when we were on our honeymoon. Do you remember that square we were having lunch in – having our French onion soup and our french fries?"

Wow – French soup, french fries and French poodles! All they needed was Mr. French serving French's mustard.

In each show, Maria sings. And oh, can she sing!

(No.)

But this is television so bad it's good.

Bob is still preaching that old-time prosperity gospel. "A prophet of prosperity," an "architect of abundance," an "instructor in increase," he calls himself.

And a "babbler of bullcorn," maybe.

 

Sales pitches

In each 30-minute show, he makes about a dozen pitches for viewers to order his free new book – How To Be Rich & Have Everything You Ever Wanted.

Subtle, huh?

Go ahead, order it if you're curious (1-866-797-5959). You just talk to an automated Brother Bob. And that's kind of a hoot.

Of course, ordering the book will also bring an onslaught of gimmicky "urgent" mail designed to get your donations flowing to Brother Bob.

You're too smart to send money. But poor, gullible, desperate people will. Lots of it.

The Dallas-based Trinity Foundation continues to monitor Brother Bob and other TV evangelists.

President Ole Anthony said Trinity's research indicates that Brother Bob will take in $30 million this year.

He said Brother Bob pays himself an annual salary of $1.5 million and lives in an oceanfront home in Miami worth more than $4 million.

You gotta Love That Bob!

Just don't think too much about where the money comes from.

E-mail sblow@dallasnews.com

 

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