Controversial television preacher Gene Scott has agreed to donate his Glendale studios and his cable TV network for a 24-hour telethon this weekend to help the $10-million “Save the Books” campaign for the fire-ravaged Los Angeles Central Library, it was announced Monday.
Campaign organizers hope that the telethon, which begins Friday at noon, will net $2 million, adding to the $5.6 million already garnered since the campaign began last May.
The telecast, hosted by Scott, will be carried locally on KAGL Channel 30 and KDOC Channel 56. The broadcast potentially could reach as many as 40 million cable viewers nationwide in cities that include Dallas, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Reno, Nev., Scott said.
“This library’s importance reaches beyond Los Angeles,” Scott said.
In fact, the central library’s staff has fielded many out-of-town calls at night from people who discovered that their libraries were already closed for the day, said campaign co-chairman Lodwrick Cook, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlantic Richfield Co.
Scott is on a 43-member blue-ribbon committee in charge of the fund-raising effort and he agreed to donate his studios and his University (TV) Network for the telethon, Cook said.
The flamboyant Scott broadcasts from the Glendale studios of his Wescott Christian Center Church. The church is located next door to the burned-out library on Flower Street downtown.
The telethon will feature appearances by such celebrities as comedian-composer Steve Allen, actors Charlton Heston, Gary Collins, Mary Ann Mobley, Angie Dickinson and Eddie Albert, Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.
In a taped appearance, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will read a selection from the memoirs of former French President Charles de Gaulle.
Scott told a news conference called to publicize the telethon that he would donate his services beyond the Saturday noon deadline if the $2 million is not pledged.
“If we don’t, we will just donate one night a week to solicit donations until we do raise the $2 million,” he said. “No sleep, no eat until we get it. . . . “
Scott, who holds a doctorate in education from Stanford University, gained notoriety in recent years for his refusal to turn over Channel 30’s financial records to Federal Communications Commission investigators. He publicly fumed over charges, never proved, of irregularities in the station’s management.
His church lost the license to the station because of his refusal to turn over the records. But he has continued on the air locally, buying time on other stations.
Despite that controversy, and despite his sometimes outlandish on-camera demeanor, Cook, Bradley, and other campaign officials said they have no misgivings about Scott’s role in the Save the Books campaign.
“Not at all,” Cook said. “His problems with the FCC are largely behind him. He is a neighbor of the library and an active member of the blue-ribbon committee.”
The telethon is one of at least two major events planned this year in the attempt to reach the goal of $10 million to replace the books, magazines and valuable documents destroyed in two arson fires that hit the central library last year, Cook said.
The specifics of the second event have not been decided yet. But Cook said he has personally asked about 200 people, many of them philanthropists, to contribute to the effort.
He said Arco, which has spent close to $300,000 to cover the campaign’s incidental costs, will give 50 cents for each $1 promised by these individuals, whom he declined to identify. The campaign also has about 300 applications for funds pending before numerous corporations and foundations.
To date, about $760,000 of the $5.6 million raised has come from individuals, ranging from schoolchildren’s nickels and dimes to $50,000 contributions by Los Angeles businessman Marvin Davis and MCA Chairman Lew Wasserman.
The $10-million goal should be reached by the end of 1987, Cook said.