HBO Documentary "Call Me Miss Cleo" explores the life of famed television psychic

Originally published at: HBO Documentary "Call Me Miss Cleo" explores the life of famed television psychic | Boing Boing

  1. None of the “psychics” at the PRN were real.

Somewhere Mitch Horowitz is crying.

The whole thing was BS but at least the ads were entertaining BS. Woo-based grifts always need a charismatic front person and the actor who played Miss Cleo filled that spot on the bill. Walter Mercado was another example of this kind of loveable snake-oil salesperson, and it’s interesting how queer affiliation contributed to both their appeal.


Sounds a little like the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a film about another grifter/TV personality who came off as a surprisingly sympathetic figure given how much money she helped con from gullible followers. Tammy Faye turned out to be an unlikely ally of the LGBTQ community too… go figure.

(Just googled it and didn’t even realize they made a biographical drama of the same title in 2021)


Half a billion dollars? That’s one helluva successful scam. The FTC article says the fraudsters had to forgive outstanding bills and return uncashed checks, but the people who already paid seem to have been out of luck. I wondered what happened to the two guys who ran the scam. Turns out I wasn’t the only one:

Sounds like at least one of them is still running the grift, if on a smaller scale. Feder bought a $24 million NYC penthouse six years after the FTC ruling. He sold it in May for $40 million. Justice triumphs again.


this past summer a friend of ours in our camp at burning man handed out tarot cards that were Miss Cleo’s. She bought them at an auction where they were liquidating Miss Cleo’s assets. Kinda fun to have a Miss Cleo tarot card in my collection.


My Mother-in-Law met Tammy Faye in the 1980’s, and despite never saying anything nasty about anyone, she told me she thought Tammy Faye was evil.


She helped enable an awful lot of evil, that’s for sure.

She was still a sweetheart compared to her ex-husband Pat Bakker though; she was one of the few people in the Evangelical movement who had the decency to advocate for LGBTQ people and HIV-positive people during the height of the AIDS pandemic.


I imagine that would have put her offside with the Reagans then.


Indeed it did, along with most of the mainstream Evangelical movement.

The Bakkers’ empire was built on scamming the faithful out of their money, but according to longtime AIDS activist Steve Pieters the outreach to LGBTQ and HIV+ people was a key reason that Jerry Falwell decided that their grift in particular had to go down:

But the interview drew a backlash from conservative hardliners in the church. Pieters continues: “She got a lot of trouble for it. I am told for Jerry Falwell that interview was the straw that broke the camel’s back and that’s when he decided he really had to do something about Jim and Tammy and bring them down, and that’s when he really started plotting on how to do that.

I’m not sad that the Bakkers’ televangelist network was exposed as the criminal enterprise it was but it’s always depressing when someone gets taken down for the good things they did instead of the bad.


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