Frank Zappa on the Universal World Church
While I was working at the store, a black guy named Welton Featherstone came in, shopping for singles. We got to talking and he asked me if I'd ever been to church. I told him I'd been raised a Catholic, and he said , "No, I mean have you ever been to a real church?"
He told me about a place called the World Church, which happened to be right around the corner from where I lived. It was run by O. L. and Velma Jaggers, a husband-and-wife evangelical team. He said, "You won't believe it. Tonight's 'Baptism Night'--you gotta go down there and check it out."
I had actually seen O. L. Jaggers on TV once--he had a local 'religious' program that ran for a short time. During the show I saw, he stood by a blackboard and drew diagrams as part of the 'answer' to a letter he claimed to have received from a deeply troubled viewer. The letter requested a theological explanation of UFOs, and the reverend obliged with this answer:
- "Flying saucers are nothing more than cherubim and seraphim. Because of the great, speed at which they travel, their tiny bodies begin to glow when they come in contact with our atmosphere. "
So, I went to the World Church. It was a large Quonset hut near Temple and Alvarado. Instead of an altar it had a stage with flowers and fake gold knickknacks, displayed between an all white piano and an all-white organ.
Over the stage was an enormous cardboard cutout of Jesus, posed like Superman in the takeoff position, projecting out, over the audience.
It was illuminated on either side by small clusters of red and blue lights--like the ones they use in the driveways of apartment houses called 'Kon-Tiki.'
The congregation was poor--black, Filipino, Japanese and Mexican. They were subjected to three collections during the hour I was there.
The 'baptism tank' stretched across the rear of the stage. It was a waist-high sort of aquarium-thing, filled with green water. The baptismal contestants wore white robes. Jaggers dunked each victim into the tank, dragging him (sort of by the scruff of the neck), with his head under water, the length of it. One guy couldn't hold his breath and came up gagging. It was pretty disgusting.
As I was about to leave, I heard him announce (into a handheld Neumann U-87), during the third collection, ''Jesus just told me that you have another thousand dollars in your pockets." A bunch of people got out of their seats and marched down the aisle, like zombies, dishing up wads of cash. As their reward, he said, " I'm now going to rain down the fire of the Holy Ghost on you!" They put their fingertips up and started wiggling them, while Dr. Jaggers shouted: "Fire! Fire! Fire!" (into a crowded room).
The people responded by going, "Ooooo! Woooooo," as if it was really getting all over them. The organist played scary music and the red and blue lights flashed on the cardboard Jesus.
Frank Zappa himself in The real Frank Zappa book.