GOD'S OTHER SON: The Life and Times of the Rev. Billy Sol Hargus by Don Imus

GOD'S OTHER SON: The Life and Times of the Rev. Billy Sol Hargus

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Starting out as oafish porno-farce and winding up as psycho-melodrama, disc-jockey Imus' crude satire on revival preachers is noisy, repetitive, and just plain not-very-funny. The narrator throughout is megalomaniac Billy Sol Hargus himself--who, though he disappeared 15 years ago (while trying to walk on water in Galilee), has left behind a series of autobiographical tapes: ""For the first time ever, a Son of God is gonna tell His own story in His own words!"" So Billy recalls his supposedly virgin birth in Texas (the recurring joke is that his unwed, deserting mother actually slept with everybody). He recalls his foster-parents: cafe owner Elroy Hargus and wife Edna--Billy's seductive but pseudo-religious instructor in sex and sin (""LORD, HAVE MERCY UPON THE LITTLE CHILD--SHE TOOK MY PRIVATES IN HER MOUTH!""). He remembers his ill-fated job as a forest ranger (bears eat assorted folks), his devotion to salty-wise neighbor Otis and Otis' black chum Tyrone. And, above all, he remembers meeting up with shrewd revivalist Boone Moses, who takes in the young would-be preacher as his protÉgÉ: ""the more stuff you can pull that Jesus did the more people are goin' to come see you do it."" Soon, in fact, 21-year-old Billy is a bigger attraction than his mentor--with a glitzy radio show, swishy Mad. Ave. promoters, a line of Hargus products (Sacred Fried Chicken), his own bank (Billy's First National Bank of Him), etc. And so Billy (married to Boone's daughter but sexually repressed) gradually becomes sure that he really is the son of God--especially when his promoters come up with a scientific process that gives Billy the ability to walk on water; he ends up a psycho, screaming ""HELL, I DON'T NEED EVEN JESUS!"" and demanding to be crucified. An obvious, loudly didactic scenario, then--somewhat enlivened by Imus' good ear for down-home dialect, but bogged down in belabored, Sixties-style comedy and coarsely tiresome running gags (Elroy's speech defect, Billy's masochistic, self-castrating attempts to stifle his lust). So, though an on-target send-up of today's media-wise revivalists would certainly be welcome, this fitfully amusing, mostly sophomoric attempt is too clumsy (and too dated) to be entertaining, instructive, or even effectively offensive.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster