I love comeback stories (well, OK, most of them)

A vast majority of comeback stories deserve to be told. Take Gioia Bruno’s story for example.

Bruno was – and, thanks to a miraculous recovery plus a reunion dating back to 2006, still is – a member of the all female trio Exposé. A benign throat tumor sidelined her vocal career. Years of retraining and healing followed – and then came the comeback. She has since released albums as a solo artist and a member of the group Wet – followed by reconnecting with Jeanette Jurado and Ann Curless in Exposé.

Yes, Exposé’s music doesn’t fit the format of RockTrax – but can easily be included in the format of Rock 104’s sister station, KZ94.3. With that plug – and an example of a great comeback story – out of the way, here’s a comeback story that deserves to be told only for the sake of caveat emptor. It’s the story of Rev. Robert Tilton.

If the name rings a bell, you likely remember the then televangelist from being the focus of unflattering, yet fair, exposés (go figure) from the likes of “Inside Edition” and ABC News’ “PrimeTime Live” in the early 1990s.

As viewership of his “Success ‘n’ Life” TV ministry grew, Tilton often preached to the television congregation on making vows of faith – preferably $1000. “Oh, you probably don’t have a thousand dollars,” Tilton said, “but vow it.” He recommended paying off the vow a few dollars at a time “as God provides” – and then, according to his sermons, God will bless you in the form of better housing, new cars or whatever your heart desired at the time.

Well, if many prayers were answered this way, there’s reported proof many others went unanswered. There’s the story of a gentleman who vowed as much as $5000 – and ended up with an empty pocketbook and his wife leaving him. As that marriage ended in divorce, other marriages ended in widowhood. Certain viewers turned to Tilton’s programming, vowed for a miraculous comeback in health (some of whom stopped seeking medical attention in fear that would “breach the vow to God”) and succumbed to their illnesses.

What’s worse? There were follow-up reports Tilton’s ministry was still sending mail to the deceased reminding them of the vows they initially made (in layman’s terms, billing statements). Some mailings were “personalized” – implying God spoke to Tilton and indicated the miracle was in progress. The press and critics alike rightfully asked this question. If God spoke to Tilton, how come He didn’t tell him certain viewers’ funerals have taken place?

And of course, there was the lingering question of how much money did Tilton *really* pocket in the process. There were reports of Tilton owning lavish homes and expensive cars. Tilton responded that he preaches prosperity and lives it.

As you’d expect, lawsuits followed. Attendance at Tilton’s church in the Dallas area dwindled. Viewership of “Success ‘n’ Life” also dwindled. Tilton even went through divorce – twice – and is currently on his third wife. You’d think he’d fade into oblivion, right? Wrong.

Thanks in part to technology he sure didn’t have access to “back in the old days”, Tilton’s “Success ‘n’ Life” show was rebooted a little more than a decade ago – airing on cable networks. You can even watch the some of the newest episodes of “Success ‘n’ Life” on his official YouTube channel. One search of his name should point you in the right direction – assuming you can get passed the unauthorized “Pastor Gas/Farting Preacher” clips. Recent accounts indicate he has a radio version of “Success ‘n’ Life” in Los Angeles and holds monthly worship services in the L.A. area. And trading in 20th Century tactics for 21st Century strategy, his website asks visitors to make vows of faith online.

While Tilton has often shouted out, “IT’S IN THE BIBLE!!!”, critics and former Tilton ministry employees are quick to point out Tilton’s knowledge of scripture is limited to certain verses that “validate” making vows. While a tip of the hat is owed to my fellow journalists’ hard work on the evolving story back then, I genuinely wish they picked up a copy of the Bible and discovered a glaring fallacy in Tilton’s logic at the height of the controversy.

For example, Tilton often preached from Psalms 66:13-14. Here’s how the two verses read in the easy-to-read version…

“So I bring sacrifices to your Temple. When I was in trouble, I asked for help and made promises to you. Now I am giving you what I promised.”

…but – if you read a little further into the 15th verse, you don’t see an account of a monetary vow…

“I bring my best sheep as burnt offerings. I offer the smoke from them up to you. I give you sacrifices of bulls and goats.”

…now – can you imagine someone being on the phone with one of Tilton’s prayer ministers making a vow of faith in sheep, bulls and/or goats in lieu of dollars?

I assure you I am a believer in Christ. I’m also a believer in miracles. But, as I’ve witnessed, miracles come from either being at the right place at the right time – or, in Gioia Bruno’s case, a lot of hard work, belief, determination and, in all likelihood, prayers plus kind thoughts.

And as you’ve probably figured out, I’m also a believer in this old adage: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If critics of Tilton really wanted to team up and bring him down, all they had to do was look in Psalms 66:15 and really demonstrate his Bible knowledge was limited.

After all – “IT’S IN THE BIBLE!!!”

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Idea to improve “Pawnography”

The second season of “Pawnography”, the quiz show spin-off of the long-running reality show “Pawn Stars”, recently debuted on History.  It’s the network’s first game show since the short-lived yet fondly remembered hard quiz “History IQ”.

Long gone are the Eye Q clips, the headlines from The InQuirer and the history haiku segment.  They’ve since paved way for three cast members from “Pawn Stars” to go head-to-head against two civilian contestants – all moderated by the star of “Titus”, Christopher Titus.

Basically, one or two cast members play against the civilians in an effort to avoid having treasured items from the Golden and Silver Pawn Shop in Vegas end up in the players’ hands.  And here is where the monotony begins.

Every question in the main game is a multiple choice question – and the participants (be you civilian or part of the pawn shop staff) must wait for the last of the four choices to appear before someone can buzz in and answer.

It made me think of another short-lived yet well-remembered music quizzer “Triple Threat”.

As you’ll (eventually) see, players on “Triple Threat” can buzz in after the first of four choices is revealed.  Trick is if you buzzed in just after the first choice is exposed, you’re committed to that answer by default and, statistically, have a 25% chance of being right (that is, unless, you spot the right answer in a flash).

That’s something “Pawnography” should try in its third season to change the format a smidge.

Aside from this quibble, “Pawnography” is a good show – whether or not you’re a fan of “Pawn Stars”. (And I’ve never watched “Pawn Stars”.)

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Rest in peace, James Garner

When word came of James Garner’s passing over the weekend, it was hard not to think of an old friend from Dayton.

He was a big fan of “The Rockford Files”. He was such a big fan that whenever he missed work due to illness, he’d watch reruns on cable or on VHS tapes. He recommended many others, myself included, to do same when any of us were sick.

I’ve long since lost touch with him. I think I can safely assume he has all the episodes of “Rockford” on DVD by now – and he spent part of Sunday watching a bunch of episodes.

Would that he did so in good health.

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Thought of the week

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Matthew 5:9

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Amazing Solutions

As a game show fan, I’m not sure which recent stunning solution moment is more stunning.

If you watch “Wheel of Fortune” with any regularity, you likely saw this a few weeks ago.

This next video requires a bit of a setup. For the last several months, I’ve been watching the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based game show “Sqrambled Scuares” (misspellings are intentional). While all the contestants come from the Myrtle Beach area and all the prizes are provided by merchants in said area, you can easily understand the game from any English-speaking part of the world.

Instead of a wheel, players collect their winnings from a four-by-four grid of squares – most of which also hide letters in the solution to the identity of a person, place, thing or title. Included within the grid are “missers” (squares that hide no letter, no prize or no extra points – forcing the end of the player’s turn) and “placers” (squares that place a certain letter in its proper word and position). If no placer is found, then the letter is simply placed in the proper word in the leftmost empty position on the board.

With me so far? Now, here’s the full and most recent episode below. The stunning solution comes in the first round of the game.

Both players who turned in these amazing performance know their respective games front and back. As I see it, mastering the game is only part of a winning performance.

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Arthur’s Theme (Best That Chu Can Do)

Much has been written and said of the apparently unorthodox game play of Arthur Chu, the defending champion of the long-running quiz show “Jeopardy!”

It’s been the talk of talk radio, social media and the round-the-clock news networks. As CNN reported, “Breaking from the typical game-playing strategy of going through one category from top to bottom, Chu jumps all over the board – throwing his opponents off with his unpredictability – and upping his chances of finding the prized daily doubles early on.”

Some have been critical of Chu’s strategy – going so far as to call him a mad genius and a villainous, perhaps greedy, champion.

My question is this: Where were you people during Chuck Forrest’s reign of terror? A look at his games and you’ll see this is really nothing new.

Back when you had to relinquish your championship crown after five straight wins, Forrest won more than $70,000. He later won the 1986 tournament of champions and racked up an extra $100,000 for his efforts.

Forrest has since played in reunion-style invitational tournaments. He was seen just a few weeks ago in the Battle of the Decades – and – spoiler alert — his bounce-around strategy helped him advance in said tournament.

In page 130 of “The Jeopardy! Book”, published a few years after Forrest won more than $170,000, Forrest said, “I bounced around the board. That throws people off because you know where you’re going, where to look on the board, and the other players can’t move their heads to keep up with you.”

Does this sound familiar when you speak of Chu’s current winning streak? At the end of the day, I would not be surprised if Chu picked up a copy of “The Jeopardy! Book” at his nearest library, read the first-person account of Forrest, put that strategy to work and end up making a fortune.

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Doctor? Doctor. Doctor? Doctor. Doctor? Doctor. Doctor? Doctor. Doctor? Doctor. Doctor? Annnnd Doctor.

On this 50th anniversary weekend of the long running “Doctor Who” franchise, let’s turn the clock back to – well – last weekend.

Greg “Greggo” Wicker, one of the most creative people I’ve ever worked with, recently debuted a “Doctor Who”-themed game show called “Shut the TARDIS!” at the Geek Creation Show, a convention held in New Jersey.

This game combines trivia from “Doctor Who” with the dice game “Shut the Box”. (And if you’re a game show geek like me, “High Rollers”, one of Alex Trebek’s pre-“Jeopardy!” projects, should come to mind.)

Enjoy.

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Pocket ¢hange

One of my favorite former co-workers of all time, Elizabeth Googe, has been back in the Pine Belt for some time. She recently accepted a public relations job with the Hattiesburg chapter of the Salvation Army.

Liz has kept both my TV and radio co-workers updated on various projects – including the recent angel tree and red kettle programs.

Take it from someone who’s heeded advice. Donations of gifts and to red kettles can make a difference.

So – break open that piggy bank or wherever you keep your spare change, grab those coins, keep an ear out for the ringing of the bells – and donate to the Salvation Army.

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Perfect bid

Remember a few years back on “The Price is Right” when a contestant in the fabulous showcases turned in a perfect bid? Recall this happened in Drew Carey’s first season as host and, per the rules, a winning bid that is within $250 of the retail price of the showcase results in a double showcase win.

Regarding that controversy from some time ago, the powers that be at CBS should’ve seen it coming. Here’s why (watch the whole thing, please; the item up for bid and the pricing game, since retired).

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My 9/11/01 memory

I was working the morning shift at WDAM –- where we got a live video feed of the World Trade Center minutes after the first plane crash. We wondered how this could happen. Terrorism didn’t cross my mind at the time –- just a freak accident.

Later, “The Today Show” went live to all time zones; still later, the second plane crashed. Then, all discussions of the accidental turned into discussions of the deliberate.

We all know what happened next. We must never forget.

God Bless America

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