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The Tangled Roots of Doug Wead

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In the early Eighties, according to a book on Jim Bakker's empire, Wead heard born-again actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. fret on a Florida golf course about rumors that Bakker was having a homosexual affair with a young man named David. A short time later, Wead, a longtime off-and-on associate of Bakker's, was standing in the televangelist's steamy massage room, telling Bakker and David that the rumors were flying. He gave Bakker some advice on how to handle the rumors.

On April Fool's Day in 1986, the beleaguered Jim and Tammy Bakker celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at a dinner party carried live on their PTL television network. Doug Wead, who was one of the speakers, delivered a lengthy joke about TV evangelists in hell. "Jim and Tammy Bakker," he cracked to the crowd, "are raising money to build a water slide and air-condition the place."

Wead has written books with presidents Reagan and Bush and ex-Interior secretary James Watt and a string of biographies of Amway people — for sale to other Amway people-in which the reader discovers Christ, Amway and wealth.

Yes, Wead has been in the black holes of Calcutta and both wings of the White House. Though he never came close to earning a college degree, in 1990 Wead won an honorary degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He told the ORU graduating class: God didn't put you here to watch television! He put you here to be on television!"

During the 1988 presidential campaign, Doug Wead helped prepare his boss, George Bush, by acting out the part of televangelist Pat Robertson in a months-long series of exhaustively researched and well-financed mock presidential debates.

One of Doug Wead's other memorable performances occurred last Thanksgiving weekend at an Amway seminar in Miami, Florida. That Saturday night, Wead explained to the thousands in attendance about the It's Time tax-initiative drive on the other side of the continent, in Arizona.

The real performance occurred the next morning, in front of a large crowd of Amway Christians.

Amway distributor David Selph of Augusta, Georgia, recalls it vividly: "Doug Wead is fantastic! Are you a Christian? Listen, he delivered the Sermon on the Mount-from memory! The whole thing! It was almost like Jesus was up there!"

A few days later, David Selph sent a check for $30 to the It's Time campaign.

That same month, Wead spoke about It's Time at another Amway rally, this one in Nashville, Tennessee. "He's a fabulous speaker," says distributor Louise Longanecker of Gardner, Kansas. "He tugs at everybody's patriotism, motivates people to have an awareness. He creates a spirit of patriotism. He talks about family values, community awareness and responsibility and free enterprise." Wead told the Amwayers in Nashville about the It's Time tax-initiative drive in Arizona. "He talked about some of the things he was hoping to bring about, and he asked for help," she recalls. A few days later, Louise Longanecker and her plumber husband, Curt, sent a check for $30 to It's Time.

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy