Her name sounds like the answers to a multiple-choice question on a catechism quiz, but the Reverend Doctor Lady Bishop swears she's all of the above. She is America's premier voodoo priestess, a messenger of a mélange of disciplines including black magic and Mormonism who's here, she explains, to "work with the sin-sick souls that are oppressed, depressed or just in a mess."
The Reverend's theme song, "I Shall Not Be Moved," refers not to her 380-pound frame, but to her personal ministry, which began in Catholic school in the 1950s, where the other kids called her Madame and gave her lunch money to tell their fortunes. She's recently hauled her special gifts which have taken her from Haiti to Cleveland, and landed her guest spots on Donahue and Larry King Live to the Valley, where she hopes to heal some wasted souls and read a few palms on the side.
We meet, of course, at the Voodoo Lounge inside Scottsdale's Redfish restaurant, where the former Jo Ann Jennings sips cocoa and occasionally recites Scripture. She's wearing a skullcap dressed in dangling seashells that clink interminably as she talks. And talks. And talks. Ask the Reverend Doctor what time it is, and she's likely to begin her answer with a dissertation on the invention of the sundial. During her hours-long, always-fascinating monologue, the 52-year-old Doctor Lady tells me "more about voodoo than anyone has ever revealed before."
New Times: You're the Reverend Doctor Lady Bishop. You appear to be a lady, but how can you be both a reverend and a bishop?
Reverend: I have a ministry, which makes me a reverend. I'm the bishop of my own church, The Universal Chapel of True and Believing Prayer. And I have an honorary doctorate of Divinity from the Salvation Church and Gospel Ministry.
NT: And you got your name from a roadhouse madam.
Reverend: Her name was Lady Bishop, and she ran an after-hours house in Seaside, California. She was anything but a lady, and she wasn't a bishop, but I loved her name and I decided to make it famous.
NT: According to your media kit, you are America's premier voodoo priestess and an internationally known seer.
Reverend: Voodoo was under the table until 1988, so Phil Donahue had me come on his show that year and he introduced me as America's premier voodoo priestess. So he's the one who gave me that title.
NT: If you're a seer, can you tell me things about myself?
Reverend: Yes. Give me your hands. (Peers into my palms.) I see something about Spain. What does Spain mean to you?
NT: Nothing. Never been there.
Reverend: You've been traveling on three different paths. You need to start reading Matthew Chapter 6. You have a very long lifeline there.
NT: No I don't. Look again. My lifeline is so short, I should have died a month ago.
Reverend: It says in your palm that you're in conflict with your religion.
NT: I'm an atheist.
Reverend: So you used to be Catholic. Did those priests do anything funny to you?
NT: No. I read that you're Catholic, yet you promote the Book of Mormon.
Reverend: I'm a devout Vatican One Traditional Latin Roman Catholic, but I go to the Mormon Church every Sunday. My Mormon books are just as worn as my Bibles. The Mormons don't take any foolishness, and they have the most positive and truest church. If I had my druthers, I'd be Mormon.
NT: What is voodoo? Can you teach me how to make little dolls that I can stick pins into?
Reverend: Yes, I can show you that, but I prefer not to. That's witchcraft, Satanism. Sometimes you have to use black magic rituals to help get people out of the situations they're in. It's a thin line between voodoo and black magic, but I don't do unholy combinations. I won't do anything that will make me lose my soul or my military ID card.
NT: Where does one go to learn voodoo?
Reverend: I went to Haiti. I was living in Pontiac, Michigan, at the time, and it was hard to find any voodoo teachers there. In Haiti I'm called a forehead woman, that's F-O-R-E, which means a woman that's got more than one head, who can help bring finances to you with special baths and such.
NT: Maybe you could do a late-night infomercial about that.
Reverend: I could have had a talk show, I could have had those 900 numbers like Miss Cleo had. But I don't like to do anything where I have to exercise my brain. They've been trying to get me to write a book for many years.
NT: Who has?
Reverend: People in the government. The producers from the Larry King show. Everybody! But I'm not ready to write a book yet.
NT: Have you been treated for mental illness?
Reverend: They treated me in 1969 after my husband died in Vietnam. There was nothing wrong with me. In those days, they thought you were mentally ill if you were too religious. My father left me all of his money, a plantation, oil rights, and so my mother had me committed so she could have it all. She wanted control of my finances.
NT: Your own mother had you committed?
Reverend: They would just snatch you off the streets in those days. Like if you were dating a white man. They had little white coats and they'd come and get you.
NT: Now, tell me about this ritual to attract a lover. You wrap Dole pineapple in underwear, then you bury it in a cemetery?
Reverend: You have to get Dole; it has everything in it you need. You open the can, you drain it, you set aside the pineapple, then fill up the can with different oils, like Do As I Say Oil, and Love Me Oil, and you make it into a candle. Then you take a slice of pineapple and you wrap it in the seat of the man's underwear, and then you go look in a cemetery and you find a couple who were married for more than 10 years, and you bury the pineapple wrapped in the underwear near their grave. We don't let people know about this because it's against the law to desecrate people's graves, you know. You can get into a lot of trouble.
NT: So why isn't everyone in the world using this stuff constantly?
Reverend: Think about your movie stars, your sports people. It be working for them! It works for Oprah. Black people, when they come in and want you to do a spell to get them a man or make them famous, they reach right in their pocket, even if you're charging them $3,000. White people, you have to sit with them for three years, and then they don't want to pay. They say, "Can you give it to me a little bit cheaper?"
NT: Wait. You mean famous people are famous because they're using voodoo?
Reverend: Most of your bigger stars are into what you call Satanism. Most of the people in higher places are Satanists. They have practices that get them things.
NT: So Shirley Jones is a Satanist?
Reverend: Now, who is Shirley Jones?
NT: She's an actress. A singer. Oklahoma!? She won an Oscar for Elmer Gantry? She was the mother on The Partridge Family.
Reverend: All I can say, sir, is you'd be surprised at who my clients are.
NT: Diahann Carroll? Is Diahann Carroll a voodooist?
Reverend: I'm not saying. Most of our football and basketball players, most of our singers, they swear by voodoo to make them famous. When I was in New Orleans, the Saints were losing every game. They sent their mascot, a man in a chicken suit, to me to get a ritual to make them win. They won every game after that.
NT: I read that you can turn someone into a zombie.
Reverend: I have this powder that you get in Haiti, and with this powder, and a certain ritual, you can stay underground in a casket for up to 14 days.
NT: Why would I want to do that?
Reverend: Let's say you did something that's against the law, so they would mark you as being dead, have a funeral, bury you, and then you could be dug up and change identities and live free. Most people don't have the money to pay for that one, though.
NT: I understand that you used to channel J. Edgar Hoover?
Reverend: I still do! And most of what he tells me is given to someone in the government. I have a certain person I send that information to.
NT: What does Hoover think about the September 11 terrorist attacks?
Reverend: I haven't asked him about that. That happened in 2001, and he's right now telling me things that will happen in 2010. Most of the people in higher government are Satanists. They do rituals. That's how they got to be there. Look at President Bush.
NT: The President of the United States?
Reverend: The Satanists already know who's going to be president, and they start grooming you. They have to make big offerings, like human beings.
NT: What are some things that J. Edgar Hoover has told you lately?
Reverend: The last thing I had channeled to me was about that girl, what was her name? She was with that congressman, and they found her body the other day?
NT: Chandra Levy.
Reverend: Yes, that revelation came to me on May 8, that they would soon find her. And it was also revealed to me that everything they need to know about her murder is in that book, that old book that's about a whale.
Reverend: Yes. . . . I gave that information to the government, but I haven't heard back from them yet.
NT: Here's a photo of you on your ritual altar. What's with the olive oil and the bottle of Bacardi?
Reverend: We have a lot of voodoo rituals that involve rum. And the Catholic Church often anoints its people with olive oil. So I learned that from my Catholicism.
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NT: How are you different from Miss Cleo?
Reverend: Sister Cleo! I could have had those 900 lines, but that's not me. I could have more money than Oprah, but that's not my purpose. I'm not Reverend Ike or Billy Graham. I'm not crazy.
NT: But you were institutionalized.
Reverend: Yes. And I was diagnosed as a habitual truth teller.