This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, August 10, 1996
This column is in response to the thousands of letters you readers no doubt intended to write asking: "Dave, what ever happened to Rev. Al, the direct-mail Christian? Also, who won the competition for Dog Hero of the Year?" I have followed up on these two important stories, and hereby present a full report:
Rev. Al, as some of you may recall, is "America's Minister by Mail, " which means that once you get on his computerized mailing list, he bombards you with personalized letters stating that the Lord is just dying to give you many financial blessings, but only if you send in some proof of your faith in the Lord in the form of checks made out to Rev. Al, who has several convenient monthly payment plans.
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I am happy to report that Rev. Al is still out there handling the Lord's Accounts Receivable. In fact, he recently sent me the exciting news that he was going to be appearing near me, in person, and that if I went to see him, he'd give me a "beautifully designed gift" consisting of a "prayer blessed wallet" with a picture of Jesus on it. So, of course, I went to the service. At first glance, you get the impression Rev. Al's just another slick, expensively dressed, fast-talking religious huckster lowlife bacterial parasite scumball sleazebucket slimebag, but when you see him up close, when you hear what he has to say, when you look him right in the eye, you realize he is also quite short.
To start the service, Rev. Al called us followers forward to receive our blessed wallets, made in Hong Kong. In fact, I received two of them, because they tended to stick together, being made of that thin floppy plastic that always seems to be in the process of melting. "I thought there was going to be money in it, " one woman said.
Then Rev. Al healed some people, which was a very moving experience, especially the part where he ordered one man to stand up and -- I swear this happened -- grasp himself right on his ailing prostate gland. Next Rev. Al got out a bottle of Anointing Oil, which he said he got in the Holy Land and which could heal you still further. "It's an attractive bottle, and it's big, " said Rev. Al, holding it up. "You don't smear the Anointing Oil all over. You just dab yourself, so you won't get your sheets all greasy." Rev. Al also held up a Prayer Bracelet that could do many financial miracles for you. He said we would get the bracelet PLUS the oil, the whole sacred package, for a Love Offering of only $100.
"Write out a check right now." Rev. Al suggested. "Make it out to Reverend Al. Right now!" A few people came up. "If you want to give cash, you can give cash, " Rev. Al added, generously. A few more people came up, but not enough to satisfy Rev. Al. "I want you to reach down to that secret place, where you got some money hidden to pay your bills, " he advised. He was getting testy. "Why can't you trust God?" he yelled. You got the impression that any second he was going to start giving people back their prostate problems.
At that point I left, believing I had already been sufficiently blessed, what with the two wallets. But those of you who feel you can benefit from what Rev. Al has to offer should write him out in Fresno, Calif., 93761, and see if you can't get on his computerized mailing list and receive lots and lots of personalized mail that he has to pay the postage on. And while you're writing letters, you might also send your congratulations to the new . . .
DOG HERO OF THE YEAR
I am extremely pleased to announce that, thanks in large part to the interest and concern and general lack of judgment shown by readers of this column, this coveted award, presented each year, out of the goodness of their hearts, by the folks who make Ken-L Ration brand dog food, which by the way is for sale, has gone to . . . TA DAHHHHH . . . Tango!
Tango, as you may remember, is the aging, arthritic mixed- breed dog who saved her master, a very nice man named Al Choate of Port Townsend, Wash., from an enraged cow. This is the truth. A while back, I urged you readers to vote for Tango, and apparently many of you did, and on behalf of Tango, I just want to say: Thank you, and don't forget to take your medication.
Tango is a celebrity now. She was on Good Morning America. Maybe you saw it. She had a large comical medal around her neck, and she sat next to Al Choate on one of those chairs that news makers sit in, as if they were going to discuss the Middle East. I spoke to Al later that day, and I asked him if fame had changed Tango, and he said no, she was still the same dog. He said the cow was also still the same cow.
Which, by the way, serves as yet another reminder of the urgent need to pass federal legislation mandating the registration of cows. New York City has had a very strict law on the books for two years now and has seen a dramatic reduction in cow-related violence, disregarding that one tragic incident on the subway. So I am urging you readers to send one more letter, this one to your congresspersons, reminding them: Guns Don't Kill People. Cows Kill People. Thank you.