PASTOR GAS — The legend of the farting Tilton
Sunday August 20th 2006, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Articles

One of the interesting things about the internet is that someone can become a quasi celebrity without even knowing it. Remember that goofy home video footage a couple of years ago of that fat kid pretending to be a Jedi-Kight? That was linked out to everyone and their dog within about a week of first appearing online, and before you knew it, nationwide cable news telecasts were even devoted to taking the piss outta that poor Star Wars nerd dancing around in his room with his imaginary lightsabre.

Yes, the short history of the net is rich with odd video clips being traded amongst hundreds of thousands of people – who then fill forum posts and bestow the powerful-yet-primordial fifteen minutes of fame. But surely the greatest of these insane cyber-celebs must be Robert Tilton, although as I will note later, his video underground street cred dates back FAR further than the widespread use of the internet.

For those of you in the dark, Robert Tilton is a super-sketchy televangelist who preaches the Lord’s word in wild, irreverent, nonsensical style. He did so unhindered until sometime in early 1985 when a 4 minute video clip featuring the spastic snake-oil salesman was passed around amongst friends and weird video traders. On the tape in question, Tilton looks lovingly into the camera and provides his trademark long pauses, deep grimaces, grunts, fucking insane facial contortions and priceless quotes. It was over this quirky telecast that someone – no one is quite sure who – put some of the most brilliant flatulent overdubbing ever created.

Yes, I know it sounds immature and stupid, but the Farting Tilton clip is one of the most fucking hilarious things I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched it hundreds of times, and I’m not the only one. StileProject.com, the online mecca for those enthused by the low brow and tasteless said: “The farting preacher is probably one of the most compelling single pieces of satire in human history.”

The footage speaks for itself. But once you know the history of the man starring in it, even heartier laughs will be bestowed upon ye, brothers and sisters. Behold.

In the mid eighties to early nineties, television pastor Robert Tilton and his World Outreach Center Church truely ‘perfected’ the 30 minute god-heavy infomercial – despite never claiming to stand for any specific faith. At their peak, Tilton’s paid advertisements could be seen in all 263 U.S. and Canadian television markets, an incredible achievement. Scandals came and went, but ol’ Rev. Robert somehow managed to avoid the same media scrutiny responsible for bringing down Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and numerous other evangelical liars and cheats. He took the money and ran – only to come back every night at around 2 am and take the money again.

Apart from his ass-barking, Tilton’s indecipherable speaking-in-tongues is in a class of it’s own. You’ll find his online audio clips of “Mo lata sho bo-lo ko bee baa-to” and “Ohhh bee ma to-ba gee-be ma go” as confusing as they are awesome. But apart from his graying pompadour and dorky shit-eating grin, what really sets Mr. Tilton apart from your average scripture spouter is his abundant shameless enthusiasm for collecting viewers money.

“You send me that money RIGHT now and you WILL be saved! The lord WILL provide! I see you now, ooooohhh yes I do!” hooted a squinting Tilton in one episode of his telecast.

The only thing close to the level of insanity evoked by the series of classic World Outreach infomercials, was their astounding collection of marketing materials – most of which have secured their rightful place in history as the most unusual in the world of faith based brand identity. In the early 90′s, a small collectors market even became centered around the “gifts”, as they were snatched up and coveted by pop-culture obsessed teenagers and mail-art enthusiasts with a taste for the weird and ironic.

No one had ever seen anything quite like what Robert Tilton would send to their house for free – all given in the hope that the recipient would feel an obligation to reciprocate financially. These overstuffed envelopes were self described as “redemption packets”, but mostly they consisted of a dozen back-to-back pages of typed and scribbled notations resembling napkin doodlings of a trained monkey. They also contained “magic pennies”, rubber bands, short bits of yarn, little metal crosses on chains, vegetable seeds, packets of salt, carpet samples, and even lawn clippings in plastic baggies that resembled pot. It was like getting a letter from a criminally insane retard.

“Right now this cloth is plain fabric,” one fold-out poster read. A swiftly scribbled arrow sweeps down the page, pointing to a 2-inch square of nylon-cotton scotch taped to the paper. “But after you send it back with only a $1000 vow, it will be a Miracle Cloth saturated with the presence of God!”

Astonishingly – at it’s peak -Tilton’s mass-market ministry pulled in an estimated $80 million per year, and his church drew as many as 5,000 worshippers to a grand fire and brimstone Sunday service. In exchange for “just a $1,000 vow”, Tilton promised grant miraculous benefits to believers health and finances. “If Jesus Christ were alive today and walking around, he wouldn’t want his people driving Volkswagens and living in apartments,” he said on the air, “Ohh… I know you have cheap cars, burning oil, leaking oil, burning, leaking… -sob-… Oh god.”

But leaky german-made cars were not the most upsetting thing ahead for the Tilton mega-corperation. The Trinity Foundation, an aggressive televangelism watchdog group, took notice of Tilton’s antics (how could they NOT?) and conducted random trash sweeps of the dumpsters behind his ministry headquarters. When they turned over their findings to ABC Television’s PrimeTime Live, mega-bitch Diane Sawyer stomped a media mudhole in Tilton’s ass.

In their ratings-hungry report in November of 1991 (including an interview with a woman who spent two days opening mail for Tilton) it was revealed by ABC that World Outreach Center Church employees were instructed to remove any cash, checks, or jewelry from the returned mailers, and throw the prayer requests into the shit-can. To add insult to network-aided injury, Tilton and his ministry were then sued successfully by a jilted sucker named Vivian Elliott to the tune of $1.5 million. Soon after that – citing massive damage to his credibility by the PrimeTime Live telecast, Tilton went off the air. His Word of Faith church was sold for $6.1 million, and Tilton used most of the money to settle a million dollar fraud lawsuit filed by his first wife.

Before you could say “be-ba so la-ka foo ba bay” Tilton married again – this time to former beauty queen Leigh Valentine. But Miss Valentine quickly divorced him two years later, citing constant physical abuse. According to Leigh, (who had photos of ugly bruises to back up her claims) Robert would slam her face against walls, hurl telephones and plates at her head, throw her down stairs, drink himself into blind rages (often declaring he was the Pope) and wake up in the night screaming that “rats were eating his brain”.

And to make matters worse – while all this was happening, Tilton was constantly farting.

Not (as far as I know) in real life, but in the VCRS and computers of hundreds of thousands of video traders and internet junkies. The 4 minute clip has been been called, “Heaven Only Knows”, “The Farting Tilton” and even the “Joyful Noise” video, but the name that seems to have stuck since its inception in 1985 is PASTOR GAS. Anyone who has seen it, will be instantly awestruck by the flawless comic timing involved in the sound editing of Tilton’s farts. My friends, this is ass humor of the highest caliber.

By 1988 countless bootleg copies were making their way all over the world. People were making VHS copies and sending them to their friends, and this underground network of distribution resulted in THE FARTING TILTON turning up in Europe, Australia, and Japan. In 1989, a new less-scrambled looking version was making the rounds, complete with a title at the beginning and end that read, “Heaven Only Knows”.  Again, copies of the new version quickly spread simply by word of mouth and people continued to make copies for their friends. I discovered it myself for the first time when I watched a 2 hour comp tape called “Religious Quacks” mailed to me by a trade pal in 1997. Around that time, the Revrand’s farting fame hit it’s apex when an episode of THE DREW CAREY SHOW did a direct homage to it – placing fake fart sounds over top of the titular sitcom star.

With a mainstream nod in place, the stage was set for someone to cash in. A company out of Portland claimed that they were the orginal source of the clip, and began to sell 4 minute tapes of the infamous fart footage for $15 each. (www.pastorgas.com) This spread the clip even faster, and in early 1998, Mark and Brian, the hosts of a nationally syndicated radio show got their hands on a copy, referred to it as “that tape that’s going around”, and gave it 30 minutes of free advertising along with resounding hysterical approval. Rock band Sebadoh began projecting the Tilton fart footage on a giant screen between acts, 2 seperate Metal bands put Tilton footage in their videos, and word has it that Berkeley University in California dedicated an entire course based around the low-brow graces of JOYFUL NOISE.

George Ratliff (Director of HELLHOUSE) recently told an interviewer, “I think there should be a documentary just tracking the history of the farting Tilton video. I saw a version of that in, like, 1986. And since then I’ve seen probably six versions — they’ve been evolving. I want to know who’s been putting them out. They’re constantly being recut with new sound effects. It’s too much!”

Ratliff was right. Fans of PASTOR GAS began making their own versions using new Tilton telecasts, and were now posting them online or adding them to the existing footage and sending it along to the next person. New comp collections appeared for sale, the best known being a 2 hour collection of Tilton-isms called MONDO TILTON. It was like a flatulent god based cult revolution taking over the planet, and tracking it’s history became one of my mini-obsessions.

In late 2000, after the internet had saturated the clip even further, a rumor began to circulate that FARTING TILTON had been created by two disgruntled guys on Tilton’s staff, and when good ol’ Bob ‘caught wind’, (sorry, I couldn’t resist) he had fired them. Now here’s where it gets scary: Turns out that the mysterious Portland company that’s sold thousands of copies of PASTOR GAS normally makes infomercials. Um, infomercials? Could it be that Tilton himself has found a way to profit off the people laughing at his noisy bunghole? No one knows for sure, but take this into account: Tilton never gave up. He’s back doing today what he’s always done, and is again reaching millions of loyal TV viewers. He’s formed multiple companies, bought a 50-foot yacht, and scored a chunk of oceanfront property in Miami Beach valued at $1.3 million.

Tilton’s probably even speaking in tongues and farting to emphasize his rapturous joy as we speak. If we’ve learned anything from the Pastor of gas, it’s to Praise the lord and to Be-ba me-fa fo-lo be da-day!

Check out some Farting Tilton action at:

http://www.fartingpreacher.org/index.php?action=showgal&cat=25

By: Robin Bougie. 2005.