love nest with an altar

Aimee Semple McPherson was, in the words of one reporter,  the “evangelist with pulchritude.”

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At 17, she married a fiery Pentecostal preacher, Robert Semple, and went on the revival circuit bringing people across Canada and the U.S. to Jesus. In 1910, the couple went to China as missionaries; while serving there her husband died of malaria just one month before the birth of their daughter, Roberta.

Robert Semple found here

Aimee returned to the United States where she married Harold McPherson, a grocery clerk. Shortly after the birth of their son, Aimee, with her new husband in tow, resumed her career on the revival circuit. In 1918 she became a media superstar. She wore Paris gowns, dyed her hair blond, wore jewelry, makeup, and put on performances that can only be described as spectacles. For one, billed as Sister Aimee preaching on the consequences of breaking God’s law, she entered the church on a motorcycle in a police man’s uniform, driving down the center aisle to the pulpit.

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Her services became known for divine healing, where repentants would walk without crutches, regain lost eyesight, heal broken bones, and leave their wheelchairs to walk. Although her first manifestation of divine healing occurred in Corona, New York in 1917, it was not until she had the attention of major city newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, that many people nationally learned of such phenomena occurring in her services. The critics had a field day but thousands flocked to her services.

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Sister Aimee’s main weakness was men. Since her own church’s rules prohibited divorce, Aimee found herself in a quandary. What to do with her husband and what to do for romance?

On May 18, 1926, Sister Aimee was reported missing while swimming in the ocean off Venice beach in Los Angeles. Members of her congregation went into the waters where she disappeared, with one person drowning and another dying of exposure. Not a trace of her body could be found. Police investigated hundreds of leads, including a ransom note, signed by “The Avengers” and demanding $500,000 for Sister Aimee’s safe return.

the most beautiful Avenger found here

Five weeks later she turned up in Mexico, telling a fantastic story of having been kidnapped and held captive. The shack where she claimed that she was held could not be found. There was also no satisfactory explanation for the fact that she disappeared in broad daylight in a swimming suit, but showed up fully clothed, right down to her corset. Her story stretched credulity and an investigation found that instead of being kidnapped Aimee had spent an idyllic month with Kenneth Ormiston, a married, agnostic radio engineer for her church station. 

Mexican shack found here

The scandal was national news. Yet, amazingly, Sister Aimee survived, in part by positioning herself as a repentant sinner. In fact, as repentant Sister Aimee she achieved even greater success. In 1931, 40-year-old Aimee eloped with 30-year-old David Hutton, Jr., a singer who met her while playing the role of Pharoah in one of Aimee’s biblical spectacles. However, the happy couple was married only a few days when Hutton was named as defendant in a breach of promise suit. The court eventually ordered him to pay $5,000. On hearing the decision, a shocked Aimee fainted and fell, fracturing her skull.

most beautiful pharaoh found here

She bobbed her hair and started drinking, dancing, and wearing short skirts. In her early years she had preached against such things. Her choir director, Gladwyn Nichols, and the entire 300-member choir resigned because of her lifestyle. Sister Aimee indulged in a series of somewhat more discrete affairs in an out-of-the-way apartment. Among her lovers was a ghostwriter she hired to do her autobiography and a young comic named Milton Berle. He later described her apartment as a love nest with a homemade altar in front of which she engaged in sex with him.

Milton Berle and RuPaul found here

Aimee was still in the bedroom. “You’re not a very religious man, are you, Milton?”

I didn’t know how to answer her. “Well, not the way you are.”

“I know what you mean,” she said, “I work in the area of religion, but I think of myself more as a scientist and a crusader.”

“Why did you ask about me?”

“I was just thinking,” she said, and the light went out in the bedroom, “that unless you were really interested, perhaps a visit to my Temple could wait for a cooler day.”

The door opened, and there was Sister Aimee in a pale blue negligee, her braid undone and her blond hair hanging down around her shoulders. There was a soft flickering light, candles perhaps, somewhere behind her in the bedroom, enough to show me that she wasn’t wearing anything underneath. “Come in” she said.

It was candles all right. Two of them on the night table by the bed, which she had already turned down. They were burning in front of a silver crucifix that stood before a triptych panel of the scene on Calvary. That started my nerves going again, but I solved the problem. I decided not to face that way when we got into bed.

We never got to the Four Square Gospel Temple.

And we didn’t get there two days later, when she called again. This time, she just sent the chauffeur to bring me straight to the apartment. We didn’t even bother with lunch.

When I was dressing to leave, she stuck out her hand. “Good luck with your show, Milton.”

What the hell. I couldn’t resist it. “Good luck with yours, Aimee.”

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