Tony Alamo Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Tony Alamo in 1987

Tony Alamo died in prison on Tuesday night. He was 82 years old.

Arkansas authorities report that Alamo (born Bernie Lazar Hoffman) died while in custody at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. The former cult leader was seven years into serving his 175 year term, where he was convicted as a child sex offender.

Alamo’s greatest claim to fame, however, came in the 1980s, when his designer jackets became a fashion staple in pop culture, and clothed stars like James BrownMadonna, and Michael Jackson. The latter even sported Alamo’s handiwork on the cover of his classic album Bad in 1987. Read on to learn about Alamo, the man Bill Clinton once referred to as “Roy Orbison on speed,” and the other celebrities he quite literally rubbed shoulders with.


1. He Founded the Alamo Christian Foundation In 1969

A Mini-peek of the Inside of the Tony Alamo Christian MinistriesThe central purpose and mission of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is the "Great Commission:" To bring the Gospel to the whole world, as Christ commanded; to feed the hungry, to visit the sick and imprisoned, and to offer help and hope to a lost and dying world. Our doctrine has always been, and still is, the Old and the New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible, with no private interpretations. God's Word means what it says! From its early years in the 1960s in Hollywood, Pastors Tony and Susan Alamo formed the church, and patterned it after the first Christian churches in the Book of Acts. As it did then, our ministry still operates as a co-operative, inter-dependant, body of believers, working together, and supporting each other, in our new-found salvation. All resources brought into the ministry are used to provide for the needs of the members, and everything above is used to spread the Gospel throughout the world. As the ministry quickly grew, we labored in fields, hoeing cotton, and working in vineyards and orchards, to provide food, housing, clothing, transportation, and eventually, TV broadcasts which featured our zealous choir and orchestra, comprised of former hippies, drug addicts, and people from all walks of life, converted to Christianity and completely re-habilitated through our ministry. These programs also featured testimonies of new converts won to the Lord by Pastors Tony and Susan Alamo, and a message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, by Susan Alamo . Our ministry is now worldwide, reaching across the United States and into many nations, through radio, books, and Bibles, and the distribution of powerful Gospel literature; either purchased, or printed at our own facilities, staffed by our own skilled volunteer printers, who are in turn, supported by the ministry. We also distribute audio messages duplicated at our own facilities. Many other needs, including finances, food, water wells and fresh water tanks, clothing, vehicles, and housing to name a few, are regularly provided to ministries and individuals overseas. All material we ship throughout the United States, or overseas, is free, including postage and handling. Our worldwide outreach serves thousands of pastors and evangelists, and they express their thanks in the many letters and emails we receive daily. A sampling of these letters is always printed in our Gospel literature, which is translated into many languages. Our translation department works with United Nations translators, and other professionals, and volunteers, to accomplish this. We maintain the Alamo Ministries website, through which we receive large volumes of requests for free gospel literature, Bibles, and other needs. Our website receives traffic from 55 to 70 countries per week. We also distribute literature, by the millions, Bibles, and audio Gospel messages, in major cities and small towns throughout the United States. On each piece of literature are the addresses of our locations, where worship Services are held every night, and free, nutritious meals are carefully prepared, and always provided at all of our locations. Also on each piece of literature is stated that we provide a place to live, with all things necessary for life, to those in our United States locations, who truly want to serve the LORD, with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. We list our telephone line, answered 7 days a week, around the clock, by ministry members ready to answer questions, to pray with people, and to take their requests for literature, Bibles, and other assistance. It is for these and other ministerial purposes; that we have pooled together to work for, buy, build, renovate, maintain, and pay utilities and taxes on our various properties. These are our homes, our apartments, our places of worship, our cafeterias, our schools, our gyms, and warehouses, to care for our families, and carry out our missionary work. Every member of our ministry knows and understands that we are the owners and beneficiaries of these properties and all the resources and holdings of our ministry. We prepare the meals. We eat in our cafeterias. We worship at our gathering places, whether they be church structures, dining rooms, or in our homes. We work together so that we can reach out more effectively; visiting hospitals and nursing homes, providing food, and other needs and supplies, for needy families, delivering food by the truckload to missions, food kitchens and disaster sites. We are Christian, law-abiding individuals, who of our own free will, have joined together as a church, a corporate body of believers, to do all we can for the Lord by working together to reach out to every soul we possibly can, and share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.2013-10-29T23:27:14.000Z

Alamo founded the Alamo Christian Foundation with his wife Susan in Hollywood, California. It wasn’t long before the church came under heavy scrutiny, however, as it was often cited for its unique brand of evangelization, which included the kidnapping of potential converts.

The church relocated to Arkansas in 1976, where it grew to encompass a large sect of the surrounding community. This included the construction of printing facilities, schools, and even drug rehabilitation areas for recovering addicts. They also developed a national television ministry around this time, where they became known throughout the country. But due to various tax appeals, legal concerns, and the death of Susan Alamo in 1982, the Alamo Christian Foundation was eventually discontinued.

17 Tony Alamo Christian Ministries presents Tony & Susan Alamo Program-17 (part 1).mp4Tony Alamo Christian Ministries presents Tony and Susan Alamo Television Program. Gospel songs, testimonies, and a Spirit filled message from Pastor Susan Alamo, Nashville, Tennessee. Songs by Piper Cradock, and Ray Allen.2010-11-13T20:44:11.000Z

In 1999, the IRS Commissioner found that the cult group “was so closely operated and controlled by and for the benefit of Tony Alamo that it enjoyed no substantive independent existence; that it was formed and operated by Tony Alamo for the principal purpose of willfully attempting to defeat or evade federal income tax; and that it was inseparable from Tony Alamo, and failed to operate for exclusively charitable purposes.” Still, the church’s website remains active today, and you can check out one of their televised ministries above.


2. He Attempted to ‘Resurrect’ His Wife

Susan and Tony Alamo in the 1970s.

According to The Washington Post, it was the death of Susan Alamo that sent Tony spiraling away from sanity. Once she was gone, he made all of the decisions for the cult, including who should marry who, who was allowed to eat, and who was allowed to wear clothing. The Post also claims that Alamo took up to six different wives during this period, ranging from adult women to a 15 year-old girl in 1994. When asked about his actions in a 2008 interview, Alamo told NY Daily News that “consent is puberty.”

Perhaps the most discomforting of these claims, however, are those regarding what Alamo did with Susan’s body after her passing. While he eventually buried her on his 300-acre compound in Arkansas, there were many years where he preserved her body in a room at the foundation. Alamo would then command his followers to go and pray to her, hoping that she would be resurrected.The Post reports that this went on for several months.


3. He Designed Jackets For Countless Celebrities

Alamo’s other claim to fame is the creation of his popular rhinestone jackets series in the 1980s. The colorfully designed garments clothed stars like Elvis Presley, Mike Tyson, Prince, and Michael Jackson. According to TonyAlamoNews, he actually had these made for relatively little cost, as he forced the children who lived in the Alamo Christian Foundation to apply the rhinestones to each custom jacket.

The site claims that Alamo “realized that their small hands and fingers were perfect for handling the delicate rhinestones. They were to report to the warehouse directly after school and worked until as late as 10 p.m. in the evenings. They were never compensated for their efforts.”In a 1989 article by the Los Angeles Times, the operation was referred to as an operation of “about 500 church followers doubling as employees.” Times also noted that Alamo’s jackets were making him “a small fortune.”

Video Vault: 1992 Footage of Alamo's Jackets at ActionChannel 5 footage of Alamo rhinestone jackets at action For more information on Tony Alamo visit http://www.tonyalamonews.com2008-09-27T23:38:17.000Z


4. His Jackets Are Still Popular Today

In his heyday, Alamo was selling his rhinestone jackets at a whopping $1,000 each. In 1989, local newspaper the Desert News wrote that “Frankly, everybody who’s anybody has worn Alamo’s designs. Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Larry Hagman, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Liberace, Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, and Mr. T— that’s just a small sampling of the big names who’ve relied on his costuming artistry.”

And despite Alamo’s age, his status as a sexual predator, and his imprisonment, the sentiment seems to ring true even today. His rhinestone jackets are still viewed as relatively hot items, and are still sold online for close to their original price. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj have been just a few of the contemporary artists who have been seen with Alamo’s designs. You can purchase these jackets right on eBay, and you can check out the different types of Alamo jackets that exist right here.


5. He Was Arrested In 2009

Though Alamo would have legal problems at various points in the 80s and 90s, his unsavory past finally caught up with him in 2009, when he was charged with taking girls as young as nine years old across state lines to have sex. Alamo’s lawyer Don Ervin claimed that the evidence against his client was “insufficient,” but that clearly proved no matter for the jury, who convicted him on a ten-count federal indictment and sentenced him to serve 175 years in prison. According to NY Daily News, one of the victims who testified told Alamo “You preyed on innocent children. You have the audacity to ask for mercy. What mercy did you show us? What kind of man of God does what you have done?”

District Judge Harry F. Barnes said that Alamo used his status as father figure and pastor and threatened the girls with loss of their salvation. “Mr. Alamo,” he said during the sentencing, “One day you will face a higher judge than me, may he have mercy on your soul.” Alamo’s response? “I’m glad I’m me and not the deceived people in the world.” You can check out a brief special on Alamo, titled, of course, The Tony Alamo Story, below.

The Tony Alamo Story2010-01-09T07:11:36.000Z