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ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY THE LAST ISSUE EVER!*

1 1 0 2 , 1 2 Y A M MAY 20–26, 2011 | BOSTON’S LARGEST WEEKLY | FREE

IS THIS THE END?

ALL ABOARD THE RAPTURE BUS! ATHEISTS WILL EAT YOUR PETS! LEFT BEHIND: A FAQ FOR THE DAMNED! THE ANTICHRIST? LARRY FLYNT SPEAKS!

RYAN LANDRY: NOT GOING ANYWHERE!

AN UNREPENTANT GUIDE TO THE RAPTURE!

*MAY NOT ACTUALLY BE LAST ISSUE EVER


6 MAY 20, 2011 | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | THEPHOENIX.COM

THE

RAPTURE

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THEPHOENIX.COM | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | MAY 20, 2011 7

THERE WERE NINE DAYS LEFT STORMING NEW YORK WITH HAROLD CAMPING’S RAPTURE WARRIORS _BY CH R IS FA R AO N E | P H OTO S BY PAU L Q U I TO R I A

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NEW YORK CITY — I’m riding shotgun through Times Square in a flatbed truck draped with placards, advertising the impending End of Days: HAVE YOU HEARD THE AWESOME NEWS? Behind the wheel is Dan, a Wilford Brimley doppelganger in his early sixties, who recently shuttered his New Jersey construction business to ride the Rapture route full-time. Dan used to enjoy cognac, cigars, and prostitutes. But not anymore. He’s bracing to ascend into Heaven this Saturday. As we idle at a red light, Dan declines a call on his flip phone. “It’s just someone who wants to know about a dump truck I was selling,” he tells me. “But now, there’s really no point anymore.” Dan seems like a genuinely nice guy. His wife and son cut off contact with him weeks ago, when he began pestering them about earthquakes that will shake the planet from May 21 until the Earth implodes five months later. Dan first heard this alarming message while driving in this very truck, three months ago. He says his tuner became stuck on New York’s Family Radio frequency, where the Oakland, CA–based evangelical network’s 89-year-old founder, Harold Camping, was declaring May 21 to be Judgment Day. As evidence, Camping cites the “devastating moral breakdown of society, the re-establishment of National Israel in 1948, the emergence of the ‘Gay Pride Movement,’ and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today.” The preacher claims to have pinpointed his date for this event after a half-century of “intensive biblical study.” In the past few months, Family Radio has placed 1200 billboards across the US claiming that the Bible guarantees Camping’s predictions. More than 100 smilesome folks, including Dan, have congregated in New York this week to spread Camping’s gospel. (Their caravans will be in Boston from May 18 through Judgment Day; for no reason in particular, they’ve decided to wrap it up in Massachusetts.) Dan is an ideal soldier for this mission; in the past, he has proselytized as a Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, and member of the Worldwide Church of Christ. He also knows downtown; before climbing onto the Rapture wagon, Dan spent his Saturdays at Ground Zero, telling strangers that 9/11 was perpetrated by Zionist congressmen. Dan parks the truck on the West Side. He goes into Rambo-like preparation mode: tightening the laces on his clodhoppers and straightening his baseball cap, which has “May 21” embroidered across the front. He uses a nylon rope to affix a mini boombox, blaring Family Radio, to his belt — it bounces off his knee with each step, but he doesn’t mind. Then, he straps a rolling suitcase to his back. He’s jury-rigged it so that the extending handle holds a sign high over his head: FEAR GOD AND GIVE GLORY TO HIM FOR THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT HAS COME. It’s just before noon. Thus armed, Dan joins his posse to

DAY TRIPPERS More than 100 evangelical Christians congregated in New York this past weekend to spread word of the coming Rapture. The caravan arrives in Boston this week to await the End.

Walking among them, I’m wondering if Camping’s legionnaires are indeed bonkers. It’s hard to tell.

march into the apocalypse. Besides older guys like Dan, there are younger cats like Matt, a Brooklyn hipster and former ESL teacher. There’s also Crystal — a cute 21year-old from Queens who’s been estranged from friends and family since broadcasting Camping’s message on Facebook; and Chris, a New Jersey pharmacist who monitors seismic activity via iPhone app. Chris and his brother Bob have tuned into Family Radio for more than 30 years, and were around the first time Camping predicted Armageddon, nearly two decades ago, in the book 1994? “That one had a question mark,” explains Bob. “This one has an exclamation point.” Though they’ve been instructed by group leaders to respect personal space, Dan accosts everyone from junkie bums to Eurotrash window-shoppers. He says he’s armed with tracts in 66 different languages, which he pushes on reluctant pedestrians while shouting “INFORMATION” loudly enough to startle passersby five feet away. Dan is anxious to save the souls of hot-dog vendors, thrusting pamphlets on them in mid-mustard squirt. “GO THE HELL OUT OF HERE,” screams one proprietor, shaking a bottle of French’s classic yellow at him. “YOU FUCKING CRAZY!” Walking among them, I’m wondering if they are indeed bonkers — if Camping’s legionnaires are any nuttier than those who claim Christ will return on a date TBD (i.e., mainstream Christianity). It’s hard to tell; as we head down Broadway, Dan and the others are confronted by a number of rattled folks who aggressively counter with their own strange beliefs. One middle-aged Latino repeatedly yells, “NO ONE KNOWS,” while a Hasid makes angry eyes, muttering as he smacks away a pamphlet. The reaction seems hypocritical — like when Catholics who consume the Lord in wafer form scoff at rednecks who discover Jesus in a Triscuit.

After jousting with Black Israelites in Union Square, the group continues south, to City Hall. There they hope to piggyback on a separate rally of teachers protesting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget. On the way, we encounter spiteful non-believers: a finance chump advises, “Be sure to sell your stocks”; a cop jokes, “I knew I should have retired last year”; a hoodlum sneers, “Fuck Judgment Day. That shit ain’t real. Fuck all you silly niggas!” Still, the group slogs on, despite jeers, heat, and humidity (one woman is using an umbrella to block the sun — presumably so she doesn’t die from skin cancer in the next week). At around 4:30 pm we arrive at Park Row and Broadway, where a reggae band plays as teachers and students hold up signs decrying proposed budget cuts. Hoping to harness some energy, more than a dozen Camping supporters force their way through the crowd, their giant foamboard signs smacking the heads of irritated protesters. Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost track of Dan. But here he is, back in his makeshift RaptureMobile, circling Wall Street, City Hall, and Ground Zero on the tail of three vinyl-wrapped Family Radio buses. Teachers and union organizers are yelling at the Rapturites to butt out of their protest, while Dan just cruises past, honking and pumping his fist out the window. After a few minutes, police round up everybody with a Judgment Day sign and escort them off the premises — but not before one of them responds to a call from the podium about the “future of education.” “THERE IS NO FUTURE,” he bellows. “WE ONLY HAVE NINE MORE DAYS LEFT!” As they’re being forced away, I hear two women complaining that “these kooks” will get more press coverage than than the public-worker picket. The next morning, en route to wish my new friends a final farewell, I see a tabloid hawker brandishing a copy of the free daily, AM New York. I accept the rag and read the headline, scrawled across a fullpage image of Camping’s cadre: “Is the end nigh? Group hits NYC to proclaim May 21 doomsday.” Inside, as predicted, there’s not a mention of the teacher’s rally, or of education cuts. Back with the group, we huddle on the sidewalk of 57th Street. I finally answer the question they’ve all been asking since I first showed up — whether I believe. I tell them, honestly, that I’m still doubtful about the Rapture thing. They nod respectfully. They’d explained it to me before: there’s not enough time left to save everyone. “This has been a lot of work for you guys,” I say. “Walking for days on end, yelling at people, getting yelled at . . .” One of them — just a kid, really — looks at me in dead seriousness. He has a lisp. He says, “Compared to what happened to Jesus — having stakes driven through his hands — this is nothing.” ^

Follow Chris Faraone on Twitter @fara1.


8 MAY 20, 2011 | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | THEPHOENIX.COM

RAPTURE

GOD HATES FAQS EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE RAPTURE, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK _BY DAVI D S. BE R N S T EI N

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Editors’ note: We selected David S. Bernstein to serve as our resident Rapture expert, on account of his having seen all three Kirk Cameron Left Behind series film adaptations.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE RAPTURE? According to dispensationalist theology, all saved Christians born again in Jesus will be removed — “raptured” — from Earth to heaven, as part of the complicated sequence of End Times events. Heaven, by the way, turns out to be a waiting room where the saved hang out until Jesus establishes his Millennial Kingdom on Earth.

WI K I ME DI A COMMONS

IS THIS BASED ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS?

HE’S GOT A DATE Radio evangelist Harold Camping has pinned the Rapture to May 21, 2011.

No. Dispensationalism was invented in the 1820s–’30s by a guy named John Nelson Darby — right around the same time Joseph Smith invented Mormonism and Hans Christian Andersen invented the Little Mermaid.

ARE DISPENSATIONALISTS ALL IN AGREEMENT ABOUT THE RAPTURE COMING THIS SATURDAY? Far from it. The May 21, 2011, date is based on the calculations of Harold Camping, who runs the Family Radio broadcasting network. Mainstream dispensationalists believe the Rapture is imminent, but not necessarily this week.

HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE RAPTURED, AND HOW MANY LEFT BEHIND? Camping says that

HOW WILL IT HAPPEN? DOES RAPTURING TAKE A LONG TIME? It’s instantaneous — one moment

200 million of the world’s 6.7 billion people will be raptured. The more mainstream Left Behind novels, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, estimate “half a billion or more” get raptured. Either way, it’s bad news for toddlers, even though most dispensationalists say that children too young to be held responsible get automatic rapture — there are more than 600 million children age four and under in the world, so clearly some tots are in trouble — they won’t make the cut.

they’re right in front of you, the next moment they’ll be gone. There will be no Star Trek beam-me-up sound-and-light effects.

IF I GET RAPTURED, DO I GET TO TAKE ANYTHING WITH ME? No. Not even the clothes you were wearing, which will be left where you were standing at that moment — considerately, according to Left Behind, Jesus will fold and stack them, leaving them “in a neat pile.”

WHO GETS RAPTURED? HOW CAN I TELL IF I’M GOING TO BE RAPTURED? It’s very simple, and entirely internal: if you’ve given yourself over to Jesus, you’re in. Only you can know if you’ve truly accepted Jesus into your heart.

WHAT IF I’M NOT 100-PERCENT SURE ABOUT JESUS, BUT I GO TO CHURCH AND LIVE A GOOD LIFE? WILL I GET RAPTURED? No. Let me put it this way: it’s not good enough to sing along when Carrie Underwood comes on the car radio; you have to actually let Jesus take the wheel.

BUT WON’T JESUS KNOW THAT I’VE BEEN A GOOD PERSON? You’re confusing him with Santa Claus. The Jesus of dispensationalism (let’s call him Rapture Jesus) is not interested in whether you’ve been naughty or nice — since we are all grievous sinners — only if you’ve been born again. COMIC PANELS FROM HAL LINDSE Y ’S THERE ’S A NEW WORLD COMING, 1974

THE

SO RAPISTS AND MURDERERS WHO ARE BORN AGAIN GO TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, BUT GOOD PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE IN JESUS GO TO HELL? Correct. WHAT ABOUT THE DEAD? They will be resurrected at the End of the World, and form a gigantic queue to be judged by Rapture Jesus. The saved enter the Kingdom of Heaven; the others, not so much. WHAT ABOUT THE ONES WHO LIVED BEFORE JESUS, AND NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO ACCEPT HIM? Out, except for a few select “Pre-Christian Saints” who were lucky enough to unwittingly facilitate the coming of Jesus: guys like Abraham and Moses. Everyone else, out.

ISN’T THIS A PRETTY UNJUST PROCESS FOR DETERMINING WHO RECEIVES THE REWARDS OF


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ETERNAL LIFE? Now you’re confusing Rapture Jesus with Judge Judy.

BLISS OF RAPTURE

WHAT HAPPENS TO ME IF I’M NOT RAPTURED? You will suffer through great tribulations until the End of the World, at which point — whether you’ve lived or died — you will be cast into the eternal fire of Hell.

FAREWELL, CHRISTIANS — DON’T LET THE GATES OF PARADISE HIT YOU ON THE ASS ON YOUR WAY OUT _BY DAV ID S. BER NSTEIN

CAN I AVOID THE ETERNAL FIRE BY ACCEPTING JESUS AND BEING BORN AGAIN DURING THAT TIME BETWEEN RAPTURE AND THE END OF THE WORLD? Camping says no;

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once the Rapture happens, the remaining 6.5 billion or so are shit out of luck. Others say yes, in theory, but strongly suggest that those who haven’t gone to Jesus by now are such jerkoffs they’ll almost all end up rejecting God, even after seeing the Rapture. And most of those who do decide to follow Jesus during the Tribulations will be hunted down and killed by the heathens.

HOW LONG WILL IT BE BETWEEN THE RAPTURE AND THE END OF THE WORLD? Most dispensationalists say that the Rapture kicks off a seven-year period of Tribulations before the establishment of the Kingdom. Camping, who thinks the Tribulations already began some years ago, says five months.

WHY IS THERE DISAGREEMENT OVER WHETHER WE’RE ALREADY IN THE TRIBULATION PERIOD? As best I can tell, it depends on how you feel about the quantity of worldwide butt-fucking. All sides agree that the prevalence of gay sex is a sign of the approaching End Times. They also agree that gay sex will then be even more rampant during the Tribulations — one popular Rapture site notes that “homosexual and lesbian relationships [will be] highly encouraged.” The difference is that Camping believes that there is so much same-sex fucking in the world now, we must already be well into the Tribulations, while mainstreamers believe that this is nothing compared to the amount of gay banging we’ll see later.

CAN HOMOSEXUALS BE RAPTURED? Oh no, no, no. Judgment Day, according to the Rapture movement, is directly analogous to the destruction of the Sodomites for trying to have anal intercourse with Lot. In other words, the End Times is primarily about Jesus punishing buttfuckers. IS TODAY’S RAPTURE MOVEMENT DRIVEN MOSTLY BY THE SUBLIMATED VENGEANCE FANTASIES OF SELF-LOATHING CLOSETED HOMOSEXUALS? I would say on the whole it’s roughly 50 percent that, and 50 percent about punishing the other smart-alecs who look down their noses at true Christian believers. With Camping, maybe more like 80/20 — he’s really eager to see the homos suffer.

ASIDE FROM RAMPANT GAY SEX, WHAT ELSE SHOULD I PREPARE FOR IN CASE I AM LEFT BEHIND? It’s considered likely that the social and economic order will collapse, so you might want to stock up on gold, and on “Survival Seeds” to grow a sustenance garden. Both products are conveniently advertised on many Rapture-related Web sites. Also, you’ll definitely want a high-powered automatic rifle, to fend off the Antichrist’s police when they come to carve numbers into your flesh. ^

‘NEW SURVIVAL SEED BANK™ LETS YOU PLANT A FULL ACRE CRISIS GARDEN!’ “Indestructible Survival Seed Bank™ Can Be Buried To Avoid Confiscation.” SOURCE: S U RV I VA L S E E D B A N K . COM

Okay, I’m not happy, exactly, that, as a Jew, I am excluded from Saturday’s date with Heaven’s eternal rewards, and will instead be left to suffer through great tribulations before perishing, with the rest of the Army of the Antichrist, as a dismembered corpse beneath a waste-deep river of blood. But hey, not my call. So, if that’s how it’s gonna be — and since those of you who might be offended won’t be around long to complain — let me say: I’m really looking forward to life after all you Christians are gone. I’ll be honest: you can be pretty annoying. Slowing up the line at Kupel’s with all your questions about bagel toppings. Asking us to explain matzo and dreidel at the holidays. Whining every December if there’s a patch of space not plastered over with your Christmas kitsch. Making Holocaust movies implying that my family could have avoided slaughter by going all Rambo on the Nazis. Everywhere I go, one of you wants to rope me into Bible classes — and worse, the rest of you know I’m heading for eternal hellfire but choose not to warn me. Thanks for caring. No more will we have to listen to you Christians screwing up our Old Testament, telling us it mandates creationism and outlaws gay marriage. Come on, you guys can’t even figure out the right day of the week to have the Sabbath. More important, you’re going to leave so much stuff. I, for one, have day-after plans for Sunday — or, as we heathens call it, moving day — to take up residence in some tastefully appointed, newly vacated South End home. Who knows — I might take a Brahmin Beacon Hill pied-à-terre too. There will be plenty for everyone. I hope you Christians will be considerate enough to tidy before you go. And if you have a Lexus you won’t be needing after Saturday’s upward emigration, leave the keys in the ignition. With all of you gone, traffic will be a breeze and parking spaces plentiful. Also — as I learned from the Rapture handbook, the Left Behind novels — most young children will get taken up. No babies? No toddlers? Air-travel bliss, thank fucking Christ — a phrase, by the way, that I’ll finally be able to say without worrying about taking your Lord’s name is vain. Christ Almighty, you people are sensitive about that.

real plane next week: fast-track promotions! All those undeserving, well-connected, legacy, fratbrother, country-club oafs will be cleared out of the upper levels. There won’t be any openings in my line of work, however. The godless, liberal, New-York-Jew media — apologies for the quintupleredundancy — will remain intact here on Earth. There will be no lamestream media in paradise. I learned that from Left Behind too. One main character, a journalist at a Newsweek-esque magazine, gets the post-Rapture word from one of his New York editors that only a few low-level staffers have gone missing — mostly from the Chicago office, the book specifies, probably to reassure Godly Windy City readers that they are sufficiently distant from Semitic Ground Zero, a/k/a the Upper West Side. But your suspicions about who controls the media are confirmed: “Everybody from the senior staff is accounted for,” the editor says. Got tzu danken! I’m surprised the Left Behind authors didn’t have the editorial staff gather into a circle and start the hora. So I’ll be right here, covering the new administrations of Massachusetts Governor Steve Grossman and Boston Mayor Mike Ross. I’m also planning to spend a lot of time up in New Hampshire,

reporting on the newly wide-open Democratic presidential primary. My early rankings: 1) Al Franken, 2) Chuck Schumer, 3) Bernie Sanders, 4) Joe Lieberman, 5) Natalie Portman. Unless, of course, it turns out Barack Obama really is a secret Muslim. We should actually hope so, because there is currently no nonChristian in any office along the constitutional line of presidential succession. Shouldn’t there always be one, just in case, the same way they make one Cabinet member stay home for the State of the Union?

BATTLE PLANS

will know why they’re still around. The rest of you, we’ll all be wondering. (And don’t try to pass as Jewish — we can tell.) At some point, we Jews all have to take up arms to do battle against one another. (Muslims, lucky bastards, get to skip that unpleasant duty, thanks to the loophole of not existing when Revelation was written.) As I understand it, we Jews will split up, recruited into either the army of God or the army of the Antichrist. Having read Left Behind Part 12: Glorious Appearing, I know that one side fares very poorly, but I don’t want to tip my hand about a preference. I’m hoping to play God and the Antichrist against each other, to bid up the signing bonus for my allegiance. In fact, I’ve got a letter in to Ari Emanuel (the real-life Ari Gold from Entourage), asking if he’ll represent me in the negotiations. Hey, we Jews may be damned to Hell, but we’re not stupid. And if it turns out the Bibleprophecy interpreters are wrong about the Rapture, and you Christians are all still around after Saturday — hey, I’m just kidding: I love the Christians! This article is just a little joke — have a sense of humor, for Christ’s sake. ^

It’s not all going to be fun and games in the post-Rapture era. For one thing, if you think China’s kicking America’s ass now, wait until they outnumber us 100-to-1. And of course, not all Christians are checking out this weekend. Jesus is taking up the good ones, but plenty of you will fail to make the cut. Running into one of you Christ-rejects is going to be a little awkward, frankly, knowing there’s something Biblically wrong with you. Personally, I’m not one to judge — hey, if it does turn out that the homosexuals are no-gos, that’s whose parties I’ll probably be at. But at least with the sodDavid S. Bernstein can be omites, like the Jews, everyone reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

FAILURE _BY K AR L STEVENS

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WORK GOES ON More good news for the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others remaining on this corpo-

©2011 K ARL STE VENS. WHATEVER, T H E F I R S T VOLU M E O F CO L L EC T E D S T R I P S BY K A R L S T E V E N S , A N D H I S G R A P H I C N OV E L , GUILT Y, ARE AVAIL ABLE AT FINER BOOK AND COMIC SHOPS. VISIT K ARLSTEVENSART.COM


10 MAY 20, 2011 | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | THEPHOENIX.COM

Fiction

MY FAVORITE THINGS ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END _BY JOE KEO HA N E

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“I appreciate what you’re attempting to say, Gayle, but what you need to understand is that they are my favorite things.” Gayle looked up at Oprah from the cool stone floor. This idea struck her as . . . mostly bad. There had been other mostly bad ideas over the years. A number of them, in fact. Oprah was undeniably a woman of great enthusiasms, and she was always eager to share them with her audience. Some of these attempts went over fine. Cars, cruises, electronics. Others did not. Others cost millions to fix and took months for Gayle to clean up. Gayle fretted. Sensing Oprah’s displeasure, she offered to her best friend forever a single grape, which Oprah accepted but pointedly declined to eat. Gayle hated it when they fought. It wasn’t discord, after all, that got her that former doge’s palace in Venice, the Volkswagen Beetle carved from a single blood diamond, the family of sugar babies so rare and delicate that she had to wear them in a special pouch belted to her midsection. Yes, the power dynamic had shifted significantly since they were kids in Chicago, but Gayle still felt some vestigial obligation to steer her best friend away from her more, well, eccentric notions. “It’s just that, O,” stammered Gayle, “I mean . . .” “You mean what?” Oprah snapped. She relaxed and sighed and let the grape fall to the floor. It rolled for a foot, gathering a surprising amount of hair as it did, and came to rest by Gayle’s hand. Gayle snatched it up and placed it in the pocket of her teal O magazine tracksuit. There was a man in Delaware, some kind of strange colonel, who paid quite well for those sorts of things. Oprah knew about Gayle’s sideline, but elected to say nothing. She was staring out the window. Gayle squinted against the light. Thirty or so feet away, there was an old maple tree with an ax head buried deep in its trunk. The tree was chewed to hell. It wouldn’t take much more before it fell. All around it were ax handles and splintered branches. Oprah had not been sleeping well. “It’s just that, O: they get so excited.” “Well, of course they get excited! They’re excited because I’m excited. My favorite things are their favorite things.” Oprah stretched her arms. Then she yawned. Then she began to laugh. It was a flat, halting laughter, a new sound, and Gayle didn’t know what to make of it. “Huh. Look at your face,” Oprah said. “Huh. Huh. You’re an imbecile.” She sniffed. “An imbecile and a bore. Now get on that fucking plane or I take away your sugar babies.”

Oprah told the world she wanted to do her last episode at the Los Angeles Coliseum as a show of gratitude to her fans for all the happy and productive times they shared. She thought it would be wonderfully cathartic to do live TV, four hours of it, in front of 92,000 fans, good people, people who had grown because of her. It would be a fitting end to the Farewell Season. Oprah never deviated from this line. Not even with Gayle, her best friend forever. Two days after the Sweden trip, which had not gone as smoothly as she’d hoped, Gayle stood across the street from Gate 5 of the Coliseum and eyed the winners. There were

K BON AMI

Three hours later, Gayle was 32,000 feet over the North Atlantic, staring out the window of a private Bombardier Global Express XRS bound for Sweden. She wouldn’t be staying long, and she packed accordingly. A coat, a hat, gloves, and a magenta O magazine duffle bag stuffed full of $272,500 in non-sequential American bills. About six hours from now, she would hand it off to a man named Gor. There was a discreet airstrip they could use outside of Bergsjö. When the drop was made, Gor would signal his men to wheel 10 large shipping cases containing double-bit Swedish throwing axes onto the plane. Gayle would never learn Gor’s last name, nor would she ever see him again. Gayle hated this part of her job.


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about a thousand of them vibrating out there in the sun. They had won an essay contest in which each was asked to explain the extent of the positive impact Oprah had had on their lives in 500 words or less, and then to name a single item that would “Make Your Life Complete.” That last part was trademarked. Gayle took a long drag of her cigarette, dropped it, and let it burn on the sidewalk. Her nerves were shot. Of course the essay contest was bullshit. Oprah had far more sophisticated ways of finding out what she needed to find out. The gate opened, and the clang it made animated the winners. Mostly women, with a few shapeless alabaster eunuchs in sweater vests thrown in for good measure, they practically hopped inside and then down into a tunnel leading to the floor. Several could not stop clapping. One woman in a shiny green O magazine tracksuit kissed a security guard right on the mouth and then raised her arms and shimmied for the benefit of her husband, who dutifully took a photo with her phone. Gayle wished for sleep. Gayle followed them inside, nodding to the guards, who stiffened when they saw her. She took a right and walked over to the private elevator that would take her up to her box. There would be a lavish buffet up there, as well as her sugar babies, kept warm in a special incubator. As she waited for the elevator doors to close, she heard them. Ninety-one thousand people, pre-seated in the boxes and balconies encircling the floor, cheering for the winners as they took their seats in a large enclosure by the stage. What the people up in the cheap seats wouldn’t give to be down there with them. They were happy for the winners, perhaps, but also very angry with themselves for coming up short, or maybe even angry with Oprah, though they’d be loath to admit it. Like Oprah stressed, it was important to forgive if one was to live one’s Best Life. It was important to let go. Gayle was four vodka tonics in when the red lights went on. The show was one of Oprah’s best. Four straight hours of gold without commercial interruptions, featuring some of her most memorable guests. Tom Cruise jumped on the sofa for old times’ sake. Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz made appearances to discuss trust issues and colon health. Jonathan Franzen and James Frey stopped by to laugh at long-forgotten misunderstandings. They seemed so insignificant now. The show had laughter, it had tears, it had videos of Michael Jackson and Liberace. It was Lady O at her finest. The sheer pleasure of the show nearly made Gayle forget she had spent the last year trying to stop Dr. Phil from drowning birds on camera and putting the videos on YouTube. He had a mania, he told her, and it was unstoppable. As for the crowd, they were with Oprah all the way, but none so much as the winners on the floor. Those people were hyper coming in, but they could barely contain themselves now. They were fidgeting like a box of rats, laughing hard at jokes they hadn’t even heard, reacting solely to visual stimuli by hour two. In the media campaign running up to the final episode, there had been hints of one last big giveaway, and through the show Oprah had been giving gifts of increasing value to the

non-winners. That’s what got the winners so excited. They weren’t dummies. They knew what that essay question was really about. The one thing that would make their lives complete, the form said. Of course they fudged their answers a bit, but what’s one teensy lie? God, it was hot down there. And the seats, they were so close together. With 15 minutes left in the show, Oprah lowered the lights. “Thank you so much ladies and gentlemen! Summer’s almost here. Can you feel it? Can you feel it?” The crowd cheered. “Well, let me just say that my producers pleaded with me today not to do this. But I said, what’s the name of this show? It’s the Oprah show!” The crowd howled. Oprah paused for effect. She could feel the heat of their breath on her face. She could smell it. “It’s my last favorite thing!” Whatever sense of decorum governed the behavior of the winners up until then dissolved into a great and terrifying collective shriek. They were jumping up and down on chairs, high-fiving and grabbing at one another. “Okay, okay,” said Oprah. “That guy over there in the orange shirt — who came with his wife? He has no idea what’s going on. He’s like, ‘Uhhh, what is going on?’ ” She grinned. “Okay, okay,” she said. “Calm down. Caaaalm down.” But they wouldn’t have it. Oprah had given out all those cars once, and that was just a regular show. This was the last show ever. The winners struggled to comprehend the scale of the favorite thing that was coming their way. The screams grew louder, frightening Gayle’s sugar baby, frightening even Gayle, and Gayle had seen it all. She wanted to leave that place at that moment, to get a ticket somewhere, Borneo, Costa Rica. Fuck, anywhere but LA. But at the same time, she was riveted. And as she looked down at the stage she noticed something. Oprah was growing larger, she was swelling, but at the same time, she seemed to be achieving a sort of lightness. Her feet were barely touching the floor. “Now those seats you’re sitting on right there,” Oprah told the people on the floor. “They’re sort of special.” What could it be? The chairs weren’t big, so it could be a check, or a pile of money, or a deed to an island! “When I give the signal,” Oprah grinned, scanning the humanity before her, “my producer is going to hit a button, and it’s going to unlock those special seats. So when I give the sign, I want you to stand up and lift up the cushions. Are you ready?” They were. More than ready. They were tearing at each other. One woman’s side was pinched so hard she fainted. Others just sobbed. Gayle looked on, expressionless. “Everyone!” Oprah cried. Her feet were off the ground. Her eyes had rolled back. Her scalp was glowing an ineffably beautiful shade of red. Light shone from beneath her tangerine suit. She rose higher. Gayle gripped her trembling sugar babies with lethal force. “Gets!” Her hair was gone now. Bald. Oprah hung there in midair for a few agonizing seconds and absorbed the energy of her followers. “Aaaaaaaan!” She wanted to savor this. She looked down and noticed how wide their eyes were, and, for a moment, she grinned. ^

The winners struggled to comprehend the scale of the favorite thing that was coming their way. The screams grew louder...

After a 25-year run, the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show airs on May 25, 2011.


12 MAY 20, 2011 | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | THEPHOENIX.COM

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RAPTURE

MEET THE RAPTURE PETS! THE ADORABLE ADVENTURES OF THE LIL’EST LEFT-BEHINDERS _WORDS BY S HAUL A CL AR K + E U G E N I A WILLIAM S O N | A RT BY AL L I S O N BA M C AT

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After the Rapture, God will reward the suffering of the righteous with infinite, indescribable joy. But what of their beloved companions? Pets — no matter how cuddly — lack souls. While their pious masters are frolicking with Jesus, loyal puppies, adorable kitties, and stalwart goldfish will find themselves alone in a terrifying hell on Earth. These little cuties will be forever condemned to spend the rest of their tiny, miserable lives with homosexuals, Catholics, and the liberal elite. Two years ago, a New Hampshire retiree named Bart Centre decided to do something about it. Centre, more commonly known by his nom-de-blog, “The Atheist Camel,” cobbled together a nationwide network of 44 pet-loving nonbelievers to come to the rescue if and when the big day comes. For a nominal fee, he and his Rapture Rescuers will take in pets whose Christian masters have evaporated. Their enterprise, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, has more than 250 customers willing to pay $135 to give their fuzzy charges a chance of surviving the coming tribulations. But Centre and the Rapture Rescuers can only do so much. Someday soon, millions of soulless, helpless animals will be left to fend for themselves on Judgment Day. These are their stories.

FROM OUR Q&A WITH BART CENTRE, FOUNDER OF ETERNAL EARTH-BOUND PETS “We had someone with a chimpanzee, but we had to turn it down. Not everybody wants to have a chimpanzee in their home, especially [since] that woman had her face torn off.” “I remind them that All Dogs Go To Heaven is the name of animated film from 1989 and is not part of the Bible.” “The pets will be happy, and happy to see Jesus, but I don’t know for sure.” READ MORE AT THEPHOENIX.COM


THEPHOENIX.COM | THE BOSTON PHOENIX | MAY 20, 2011 13

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RAPTURE

GREAT HUSTLE LARRY FLYNT ON THE END OF DAYS, AND WHY POLITICIANS CAN’T KEEP IT IN THEIR PANTS _BY SCOT T FAYN E R

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Larry Flynt is no stranger to religious freaks. He’s been one himself — converted aboard his private jet, back in 1977 by Jimmy Carter’s sister. Flynt spent that year as a born-again Christian, loading Hustler with new religion-themed content. Then came 1978 and Christian Identity follower Joseph Paul Franklin, who shot Flynt in the back for publishing photos of an interracial couple fucking in the pages of Hustler. After the shooting, Flynt renounced his newfound religious beliefs and became an atheist. Hustler stopped talking about religion, except, of course, to make fun of it. With his brain unbound from religious rhetoric, Flynt was free to pursue other passion in life (besides pussy): exposing political charlatans. He’s offered millions of dollars in rewards for information on misbehaving pols, and is credited for pressuring at least one resignation when he obtained proof of an affair. His new book, One Nation Under Sex, takes it one step further and many steps back in time, to uncover the numerous US presidents throughout our nation’s history who just couldn’t keep it in their pants. We jumped at a chance to talk to him — our last chance, if some of his religious critics are to be believed.

WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT OPINION ON RELIGION? SPECIFICALLY, THE SO-CALLED RAPTURE THAT THE CHRISTIANS SAY IS COMING ON MAY 21? Religion is for people who don’t get enough sex. These people should get on medication and get their “rapture” another way.

WHAT BRINGS SOMEONE TO THE POINT WHERE THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEY’RE GOING TO FLOAT UP INTO THE SKY AND MEET WITH JESUS? Most probably too much lithium. Or, maybe an LSD flashback.

YOU’VE MADE IT CLEAR THAT YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN A GOD. BUT LET’S SAY GOD DID EXIST: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO HIM? “Would you like a subscription to Hustler magazine?”

WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENS AFTER YOU DIE? You are in a perpetual state of sexual fulfillment, and none of the politicians are hypocrites.

YOUR NEW BOOK, ONE NATION UNDER SEX, FOCUSES ON PRESIDENTIAL SEXCAPADES. WHAT DRIVES YOUR NEED TO UNCOVER SEX SCANDALS? WHAT PURPOSE DOES IT SERVE? It’s important to know that there’s nothing new about today’s sex scandals. These have been going on since the beginning of time and since our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution. Our sexual behavior and the way we conduct our lives, our jobs, our ideas, are separate, and when they converge the result can be fascinating, like with many of the people we discuss in our book. It’s time to level the playing field and take down all the hypocrites. It’s also time to start seeing sex and sexuality as a basic human need and not a perversion.

WHAT SORT OF JUICY MORSELS ARE DIVULGED IN THE BOOK? We have great juicy morsels on Abraham Lincoln (he liked to sleep with men); interesting and unknown information on FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt — they each allowed one another their sexual freedoms, he with his girlfriend and she with her girlfriend . . . Dolly Madison ran the White House like a brothel; President Kennedy wasn’t the only one fooling around — Jackie had a good time, too.

WHICH PRESIDENT IS THE BIGGEST STUD? Probably

R EUTERS

President Clinton — he was a lovable rogue.

PORN AGAIN Hustler mogul and one-time religious zealot Larry Flynt says people would be better off seeking rapture through sex, not religion.

THINK YOU’LL EVER CATCH OBAMA WITH HIS PANTS DOWN? IF SO, WHAT’S HE PACKING? A warning from Michelle, that he better not ever got caught with his pants down. ^

Scott Fayner can be reached at fayneralmighty@gmail.com.


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“I think it’s actually very important to realize, maybe what has you really pissed off has Jesus really pissed off.” Q&A WITH ROB BELL

SAVED BY THE BELL ROB BELL FREAKS OUT EVANGELICALS _BY S. I. ROSENBAU M

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Rob Bell is an Evangelical Christian YOU DON’T.” THIS IS JUST THAT IDEA WITH A preacher. He has his own megachurch in DEADLINE. Which makes that impulse into a Michigan, 10,000 strong. And he doesn’t think summer blockbuster. . . . Our experience of you’re going to Hell. Weird, right? That’s why the world can be deeply dark and traumatic other Evangelicals are shitting themselves and abusive. So the idea that there might over his new book, Love Wins (HarperOne), in be some relief from that — that’s a very which the former indie-rocker asks his cocompelling idea. That human impulse, I religionists to cool it with their obsession with get that. But when it becomes “the few of damnation. “Why would an infinitely loving us who are leaving” — my fundamental God torture people for eternity?” he asks. It problem with it is, my understanding of doesn’t seem like that radical a question, espe- the Biblical narrative is that it’s about the cially for a guy whose other books have titles goodness of this world, and about the dilike Velvet Elvis and Sex God. But for vine reclaiming and restoring the right’s culture warriors — the of this world: “This place is folks who think SpongeBob good. Wine is good. Having a SquarePants is pushing the gay long meal with your friends is agenda — Bell’s ideas make him a good. Proper cultivation and bomb thrower. He talked with me creativity and song are good.” about the doctrine of Hell, which So any narrative that’s basically he has called “evacuation theollike, “Hey, we’re out of here,” ROB BELL SPEAKS AT ogy,” as well as why God would isn’t a very compelling story. TRINITY beat Eminem in a rap battle.

!

IT’S A GREAT COINCIDENCE THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN TOWN ON THE 25TH, BECAUSE, AS YOU KNOW, THERE WILL BE NO MORE ACTUAL CHRISTIANS LEFT ON THAT DAY. THEY’LL BE GONE. HA! Because of the end of the world?

CHURCH IN BOSTON ON MAY 25 AT 7 PM | FOR MORE OF OUR INTERVIEW, GO TO THEPHOENIX. COM/BELL

BECAUSE OF THE RAPTURE — IT’S ON THE 21st. Is it the 21st this year?

AP/ WID E WOR LD

It’s almost like Mother’s Day: “Which weekend is it, the 15th or the 17th?”

WHEN YOU WROTE THIS BOOK, LOVE WINS, DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO FREAK PEOPLE OUT? My wife knew. This is a long pattern we have. I guess, to be honest, I don’t live in a world where that book would be that offensive or dangerous. . . . My assumption about faith is that I’m taking part in a discussion that’s been going on for several thousand years. That’s the beauty of it. And even at a deeper level, the Bible itself contains discussion. I mean, Job’s friends sit in the ashes, and they can’t agree on anything. The storyteller almost says that God can’t even wait to get in on the discussion. I mean, the God character shows up with this sort of rant — like, “Oh, I am so tired of listening to you all discuss it, here’s what I have to say.”

DON’T YOU FEEL LIKE, AT THE END OF THAT RANT, THERE SHOULD BE SOMEBODY THERE GOING, “DAMN, JOB, YOU GOT TOLD.” I’ve done that exact same thing in sermons! “Ohhhh, he didn’t just do that!” It’s like the last scene in 8 Mile.

I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THE RAPTURE, IT’S LIKE THE ULTIMATE IN-CLUB, RIGHT? IT’S LIKE THE IDEA “WE GET INTO HEAVEN AND

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL BELEAGUERED NON-CHRISTIANS, THOSE OF US WHO ARE SICK OF CHRISTIANS TELLING US WE’RE GOING TO HELL? Well, first and fore-

most, I would begin with the assumption that, often, Jesus shares your critique. [Laughs] Actually, the first Christians took great pains to point out Jesus’s critique of his own people. In fact, as long as you’re having a Rapture theme, look at Revelation — it begins with Jesus having words for some of his churches: “You are not being true to this message of compassion and grace and generosity. You are not being true, and I might have to turn the lights off. I might have to cut off the electricity.” You know? “I’M GOING TO TURN THIS CAR AROUND.” Yeah. And I think it’s actually very important to realize, maybe what has you really pissed off has Jesus really pissed off.

THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE WRITTEN CRITIQUES OF YOU WHERE THEY’RE VERY, VERY UPSET THAT YOU SUGGEST THAT GOD DOESN’T HAVE IT OUT FOR THEM. To be honest with you — I don’t know how to put this — Jesus was killed by some very religious people. So at the center of this faith is somebody is who came along and said, “Tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners and lepers — they’re all part of what God’s doing. I’m going to love ’em all, I’m going to dine with them and hug them and let them wipe my feet.” And this got him killed. The religious spirit that wants to draw hard and fast boundaries about what God is up to in the world has been around for a long time. So that’s nothing new. ^

The Rapture Issue  

Is this the end? (Apparently not.)

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