Two of America’s biggest born-again tabloid sensations are getting together in a stage musical with all the hoopla of a tent revival meeting. One is Kathie Lee Gifford, the public Christian and former morning talk-show matron whose repeated bouts with the unforgiving press finally drove her to resign her spot on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.” The other is Aimee Semple McPherson, the Pentecostal preacher whose mix of theatricality, sex appeal and old-time Christianity blossomed in the 1920s into global fame at the helm of her own Los Angeles megachurch.
Gifford, who told The Washington Post that she’s been fascinated with McPherson for 35 years, has written the book and lyrics to “Saving Aimee,” a musical that premiered recently at the Signature Theater outside Washington to warm reviews.
Once a household name, “Sister Aimee” is enjoying a bit of a comeback lately, including a recent PBS special. And why not? We live in an age that understands her methods–she was among the first to use the media to expand her ministry and to extend her fame through scandal: McPherson was suspected of faking her own kidnapping to drive up her radio numbers (and possibly to cover up an affair with her engineer).
“She was the very first tabloid queen,” says Gifford, who briefly inherited that crown after her husband, former New York Giants star and “Monday Night Football” personality Frank Gifford, was lured into a compromising position by a woman in the employ of a salacious newspaper.