Thursday, July 30, 2009

Goodbye, Reverend Ike

The Right Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II died this week. He was 74.

The name probably means little today. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, there was probably no bigger name on the cultural/religious landscape than Eikerenkoetter's--shortened to the better-known "Rev. Ike."

The flamboyant, money-loving and wavy-haired Rev. Ike was heard by more than 2.5 million people on radio and television. He preached the gospel of prosperity, encouraging his faithful to envision themselves rich. In the Big Apple, subway billboards for his NYC based church would read: "Don't wait for pie-in-the-sky, by and by. Get yours now, with ice cream on top!"

Then he'd put the call out for donations and he himself got rich. But credit where credit is due: he didn't hide his riches or apologize for them. "My garages runneth over," he once said.

The New York Times, Fortunate Magazine--even the London Times--wrote about him. Ike was famous enough that his name became a punchline on shows like "Sanford & Son" and "Good Times." And Richard Pryor's cameo in the 1976 movie "Car Wash" as a flamboyant preacher surrounded by riches and honeys was clearly a jab at Rev. Ike. And if it wasn't, Pryor's work here, on his short lived NBC show a year later, was:

Ike's popularity waned in the 1980 and 1990s--and no wonder with so many other prosperity preachers getting in the game. He had a stroke in 2007, according to the New York Times, and had been laid low since.

1 comment:

Max Reddick said...

I remember Rev. Ike from way back in the day. My grandmother had a picture of Rev Ike on the wall right next to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. He was definitely a unique personality.