The Resurrection of Robert Tilton

On the trail of the elusive (yet surprisingly TV- friendly) Pastor Bob, fallen man of God and new South Florida resident

Q. Have you now given me your full list?
A. No. That's a lot right there. Do you want more?
Q. Well, I wanted the lies that you were referring to in your prior testimony.

A. Just the lies about the trips, that they're ministry church trips, when they have nothing to do with God and ministry.

When we went to Israel, he said it was going to be a holy time, we'd get away with God, and all he did was drink the whole time I was with him and lay in bed. And one time he got so sick from the drinking, he was just in bed, we didn't get to see any of the sites.

We never went to Jordan. We never went -- you know, when we did go to Caesarea, he drank most of the time, and wanted to go to a fashion show, and so that's what we did on the church's money.

On Friday, October 10, Robert Tilton checked out of the Hyatt in Jerusalem. Ten days later (and eighteen hours after Leigh Valentine described his disguise kit in Dallas), Tilton arrived from Europe at Miami International Airport looking tanned and fit, rather younger than his 51 years.

The next day at noon, Tilton sat down to lunch with eight friends and associates at Pizza E Via on Lincoln Road mall a few blocks from the studio. Topics of conversation: the weather, the new TV show, and Leigh Valentine's recent DUI arrest. The party sat outside at two pushed-together tables. Tilton wore a pair of late-era Elvis sunglasses, expensive gray slacks, and a white linen shirt with French cuffs.

The party had the look of a modern-day Last Supper, and two of Tilton's favorite apostles were there: J.C. Joyce, fresh from Tulsa, sat near the head of the table. Daniel Moroso, resplendent in a hundred-dollar haircut and electric-blue silk shirt, sat across from Tilton.

Moroso, who worked briefly for evangelist Jim Bakker in the early Eighties, has served Tilton for years as confidant, best buddy, and executive producer of Success-N-Life. He accompanied Tilton on his trip to Israel last month, just as he has followed him to India and South Africa and the Bahamas in recent years.

In the fall of 1989, when Tilton briefly moved his operation to San Diego, Moroso went with him. The following year he and Tilton returned to Dallas. Moroso's first wife stayed behind in California and filed for divorce.

After serving as Word of Faith spokesman through some of Tilton's darkest days, Moroso briefly left Tilton, but not the public eye. In 1993 reporters in Dallas gleefully noted that Moroso had been arrested while sitting in a parking lot with a Dallas prostitute, engaging in "oral deviate sexual intercourse." He later pled guilty to one count of public lewdness. In July of this year, the 41-year-old Moroso and his new wife bought a $295,000 house on Miami's San Marco Island, about a mile from the studio.

Lawyer J.C. Joyce met Tilton around the same time Moroso did. In 1984 he helped Tilton with a tax audit and has since run virtually every aspect of Tilton's daily business operations. At the height of the ministry's success, Joyce's annual retainers from the church ran between $1.3 and $1.7 million, according to court records.

Joyce's other evangelical clients include half a dozen of the nation's wealthiest preachers, including pastors Larry Lea and Don Stewart. They once included Tulsa preacher and virulent anticommunist Billy James Hargis. More than four decades ago, Hargis became the first evangelist to tap into the fund-raising potential of direct mail by purchasing contributor lists from Barry Goldwater and other conservative politicians. Hargis passed on much of what he learned to J.C. Joyce, who went on to briefly represent evangelist Oral Roberts in the late Seventies before signing on with Tilton.

Another lesser-known client of Joyce is the Rev. James Eugene Ewing. Though not present at the Miami Beach lunch table, Ewing was there in spirit. For years, from a stucco mansion in Bel Air, California, the reclusive Ewing has supplied Tilton and other big-name evangelists with computer-driven mass-mail campaigns filled with fractured grammar, homespun homilies, and twisted scriptural interpretations.

One of Ewing's letters, written for evangelist Rex Humbard, reportedly brought in as much as $64 per letter. In 1968 Ewing, an eighth-grade dropout, doubled Oral Roberts' cash flow almost overnight with another mail campaign, sources say. Roberts rewarded him with an airplane, according to former Roberts' aide Wayne Robinson. In a Dallas Morning News interview last summer, Hargis noted that Ewing "has no education, his English is atrocious, but he is absolutely brilliant."

Robinson says Ewing travels in a fleet of black Lincolns and Cadillacs with a crew of "cartoon-character" bodyguards dressed like Secret Service agents. Leigh Valentine claims she and Tilton visited Ewing on five occasions during their marriage, and described Ewing's high-security mansion as "dark and spooky" and containing a stuffed black bear. She refused to discuss Ewing himself.

According to an October 1993 memorandum to Tilton's lawyer, Ewing's latest coup is a computer demographics program that identifies and isolates some of America's poorest ZIP codes and then targets them for Ewing's garish, trinket-driven mailings. "The size of each special area is about two to four city blocks," the memo notes. "And thank God there are 10's of thousands of them across the nation."

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