Trinity Foundation     |     The Wittenburg Door

Bob's back, and more entertaining than ever

03:47 PM CDT on Saturday, September 25, 2004

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, exposÚs 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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