“There’s no delicate way to say this, so I’ll just come out with it: What brings you to Vegas?”
He took his time with that question. The man is no fool. He goes out of his way to look dumb on TV, but that’s just country-dumb – aw-shucks, just-folks, a simple creed for a simple man, y’all.
His show is “Trey Coyle’s Redemption,” if you haven’t seen it. He’s a third generation revivalist – tent-show Carneys made good – but his theology, to the extent there is any, amounts to a sort of confectionery Calvinism: If god doesn’t love you, why did he make you so rich?
And he might seem to be the worst possible messenger for that notion – but instead he’s the best.
Trey Coyle is a first class nerd, which should disqualify him entirely as a TV evangelist. He’s tall and thin with a long, lean face, and he has the nervous mannerisms nerds bring to everything – the sort of ground state habituated fear that suggests that gravity itself might fail were it not for their constant oversight.
His grandpappy was Cornelius Tecumseh Coyle, this because his real name – Charlie Coyle – was too well known in the taprooms of Philadelphia. Standing on the roof of his old Ford Woody with an amplifier plugged into the cigar lighter, the O.G. Pastor Coyle thundered his way down to Harris County, Texas – that’s Houston to you.
And say what you want about revival preachers, Coyle the eldest was a hard-working dog. He worked his way up through tent-shows and ‘special-guest’ church appearances, eventually setting himself up with a small church and a burgeoning televangelical mission.
It was this that his son – the legendary C.T. Coyle – inherited and grew massively. I never saw his father, except in photos, but I used to watch “C.T. Coyle’s Resurrection” every day on TV.
No fake, I promise. I was a young guy on the loose in New York and I had an old TV that someone had abandoned in the dump I was living in. I’ve always been a night owl, and I would watch old sitcoms late, late at night until the televangelists would come up with the dawning sun. Then I would watch Jimmy Swaggart and Robert Schuller and all those guys.
My favorite was C.T. Coyle, because the man always seemed to be just seconds away from a self-initiated spontaneous combustion. He would work himself up into a lather, then start weeping, then bark his words through his weeping, like the Janis Joplin of Jesus-TV. Sacred? Profane? Or just big and loud? C.T. Coyle was good television, that’s for sure.
And nerdy, solitary Trey Coyle was his only son, and I cannot imagine how disappointing that must have been – for both of them.
Flip around the TV dial. Early morning, Sunday morning, your local religious-broadcasting affiliate, cable channels. Try to find another nerd televangelist. There are nerd Baptists and nerd Catholics, sitting behind desks and reading from books. But a nerd bible-thumper is a contradiction in terms.
And yet Pastor Trey Coyle pulls it off. Grandpappy Coyle left a proud legacy, and C.T. Coyle built on that handsomely. But Cornelius Tecumseh Coyle III, called Trey since the cradle, has managed to erect the world’s richest, farthest-reaching televangelical mission. By now – in his mid-forties – he’s at the top of his game. It’s a niche market of a niche market, but he owns it: Huge ratings, best-selling author – and his church is a converted pro-basketball stadium.
“Las Vegas Redemption” is a frolicking Vegas farce with no gambling. No liquor or women, for that matter, either.
What gives? It’s a Willie story. Nothing gives – until everything shatters…
Buy the book – one buck for a Vegas movie-of-the-mind. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – but you’ll never believe what a TV evangelist and a Strip vagrant can get themselves into!