Friday, January 4, 2019

Gary Puckett & The Union Gap – "Young Girl" (1968)

Better run, girl 
You’re much too young, girl

[Note: This is the second in a series of four 2 or 3 lines posts about noteworthy natives of Joplin, Missouri – my hometown.]

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Televangelist Jim Bakker was called “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history” by The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who took over Bakker’s PTL (“Praise the Lord”) empire when Bakker was accused of financial fraud and sexual irregularities.

Tony Alamo in 1993
But Pentecostal preacher Tony Alamo’s scandalous behavior – which included embezzlement, failure to pay income taxes, and the sexual abuse of young girls – made Bakker look like an amateur.

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Tony Alamo was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman in Joplin, Missouri in 1934.  His father was a Jewish immigrant from Romania who was once Rudolf Valentino’s dance instructor.  At least that’s what Alamo later claimed.  

Alamo moved from Joplin to Los Angeles when he was a teenager in hopes of becoming a recording star.  He changed his name to Tony Alamo because Italian-American singers were quite popular in the sixties.  

After going to jail on a weapons charge, Tony married Edith Opal Horn – who then changed her name to Susan – in 1966.

Tony and Susan Alamo
Susan – who was also Jewish – was a divorcée who had moved from Alma, Arkansas to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a movie star, but she ended up supporting herself by scamming churches.

According to Tony, he and Susan converted to Christianity after Jesus came to him during a meeting at a Beverly Hills investment firm and told him to preach the second coming of Christ.  

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The Alamos started out as Hollywood street preachers, then established the Music Square Church.  Their followers lived communally and turned over the paychecks they received from outside jobs to the Alamos, who used the money to build a church and buy a number of businesses – including a grocery store, restaurant, and Western-wear store – in Dyer, Arkansas.

Alamo ran into trouble with the U.S. Department of Labor in 1976 because he didn’t pay his followers for their work in those businesses.  Later he ran into trouble with the IRS, which revoked Alamo Ministries’ tax-exempt status and prosecuted him for failure to pay taxes.  Alamo eventually spent four years in a federal prison for tax evasion.

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Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982.  Tony insisted that she would be resurrected, so he kept her embalmed body on display at his church’s headquarters for six months after her death.  When the feds raided those headquarters, Alamo and his followers skedaddled with the body.  Years later, Susan’s daughter from a previous marriage went to court and was granted custody of her mother’s body.

Tony Alamo with Mr. T
It seems that Tony never got over the death of Susan.  In 1984, he married Brigitta Gyllenhammar who later claimed that he insisted she have plastic surgery so she would resemble Susan.

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Some believe that Tony was married four times prior to marrying Susan, so Brigitta may have his sixth wife instead of his second.

I’m not counting the two 15-year-old girls he reportedly married after Susan’s death because those marriages were presumably not legal.  (Although we are talking Arkansas here – so anything is possible.)

Later Alamo had “wives” who were even younger.  He preached that girls should marry once they start menstruating. “God impregnated Mary when she was about 11 years old.  So the government idiots, the people that don't know the Bible, what you're going to have to do is get a hold of God now, you're going to have to get up there and cuff him and send him to prison for statutory rape,” he said.

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In 2009, Tony was convicted of TEN COUNTS of taking underage girls across state lines in order to have sex with them.  He was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

Tony Alamo leaving his sentencing hearing
A few years later, an Arkansas judge awarded seven former Tony Alamo Christian Ministries $525 million – the largest personal-injury judgment in Arkansas history.  (I assume that little, if any of that judgment was ever collected.)

Alamo was 82 when he died in a federal prison in 2017.

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I don’t think that a record company would touch our featured song with a ten-foot pole if someone brought in a demo of that song today.

But it appears that no one was bothered by the creepiness of “Young Girl” in 1968, when it was a #2 hit single for Gary Puckett & The Union Gap in 1968.

Click here to listen to “Young Girl.”

And click on the link below if you’d like to buy the song from Amazon:

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