Miss Velma and the Tree of Life!

Submitted by Douglas Wood February 27th, 2010
Certifikitsch WinnerClassique d Camembert

It’s not often one clips and saves newspaper ads, but my wife felt this one was a keeper and now years later, I’m so glad she did. This is a full-page color ad from The Los Angeles Times, dated December 17th, 1994. It’s a promotion for “The Tree of Life,” created by Dr. Velma Jaggers (‘Ya think she’s an MD or can one get a PhD in Religious Charlatanism?) , or as her evangelistic followers call her, “Miss Velma.”

This event took place at the Universal World Church near Beverly and Alvarado in Los Angeles. One of my biggest regrets is that I never visited it to see Miss Velma with my own eyes, but I suspect she’s much like the Aimee Semple McPherson character that Geraldine Page so expertly portrayed in one of my favorite movies, DAY OF THE LOCUST.

The Tree of Life is (and I quote) “a 24 carat gold tree and is almost impossible to describe its beauty. 144,000 gold leaves cover its limbs and branches made of 24 carat polyester gold. 144 fruits of 12 manners or varieties adorn its branches and limbs. Each fruit is made of thousands of imported jewels set one at a time, more than 20 years in construction. The River of Life flows through the tree from the Throne of God.” The copy goes on to say that there are 60 main branches built according to “biblical measurements” and that the tree is “beyond any description of beauty by its very excellence of proportion!” I’m including one more close-up photo below so those who want to, can read all the hyperbolic copy.

19 Responses to “Miss Velma and the Tree of Life!”

  1. Allee Willis

    Hold me up to read this one because I almost fainted several times while purusing it! Not only is Dr. (of what??) Velma Jaggers a beauty to behold herself I love that there’s no photo of the actual tree of life this ad bombastically promotes. Or is the tree that dress the Dr. is wearing?
    It looks like it weighs 3 1/2 tons, which the purported arbor rarity weighs as well.

    I’ve never seen this many superlatives used in this small a space in my life – “incredibly”, “magnificent”, “fantastic”, “unlike anything ever seen by anyone anywhere in the world!”, “the most incredible sight anyone has ever looked upon!”, “incomparable”, “indescribable”, “never attempted before in history!”, “splendiferously” (I’m stealing that one), “seen on Earth for the first time since God placed at in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago!”, “20 years in the building of it!”, “one of the wonders of the world!”. Wow, Velma didn’t leave anything out except maybe “Kitschifyingly wonderful in its Gouda likeness of God”.

  2. Mark Milligan

    Woop! Woop! I’m so glad you saved it too! I can’t believe it’s as recent as ’94-have you googled Miss Velma? I think we’ll all want a post script on her recent doings.

  3. MyFunCloset

    When you get a chance, google ” Dr. Velma Jaggers “. There are a series of videos of this gal in motion. She’s a live cartoon!

  4. windupkitty

    you know,I think I may have heard of her…she seems familiar…scary! I wonder if she was permanently planted in LA? I’ve got to look her up now! I love that she’s wearing a wedding cake!

  5. Douglas Wood


    Just realized I hadn’t thanked you for the Classique d’ Camembert award– I’m honored! And, believe me, when my time comes, it will go in my obit.



  6. Derybur

    I Love Miss Velma! Kudos to your wife for keeping this! Awesome piece of ephemera! There is also an “Attraction here in Florida where the young ladies grace the Attraction with their southerly charms wearing the same dress! This is too funny!

  7. BigArv65

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Anything written, spoken, or on video for these “ministries” is practically impossible to find, and I so enjoyed them during my high school years (the early 80’s). After reading the write-up I can say with some confidence that the verbiage was written by non other than the eloquent Rev. Dr. O Lee Jaggers, her husband. I enjoyed his work far more than Miss Velmas, and we would watch in awe at the spectacle presented on our tv. The word “Classic” is reserved to things like this. Again, thanks.

  8. Baltimore_Jim

    I have to say, if anyone ever reads this thread again…

    My girlfriend and I went to the Wed night Miss Velma revival. We were in our early twenties and heard this was the crazy shit. We dressed up in 70’s garb straight out of a movie and went to the WORST part of L.A. Baldwin Park, I think it was, or Echo Park.

    Either way, it was crazy…. CRAZY! The ushers were dressed like cherubs… barefoot, large people, guiding us to the front row. Mostly poor black folks there… but that tree was amazing! Huge, gold, bearing fruit. There was a band and a choir of multi-racial folks, and a BIG treasure chest at the front of the hall.

    So, Miss Velma comes out and preaches all her nonsense… and then the people in the choir start speaking in tongues and collapsing on the stage and Velma goes crazy with her jargon.

    She starts talking about sex and sin and all this. My g/f and I had JUST started having sex and Miss Velma looks right at us and says, “SEX!” and goes on about it all.

    Then the cherubs start passing out envelopes and people start putting their damned life savings into them. Behind us, a very old black woman, in her best church clothes, digs into her purse and pulls out a wad of 20’s and puts them into this envelope and Miss Velma tells us to form a line. All I have is some hard candy, so I put that in the envelope and get in line… and everyone comes up and drops all this cash money into this big treasure chest in front of the tree. Then we sit down and all the kids are allowed to come up and touch the tree to get SAVED.

    Man, it was the weirdest thing I ever saw, and I have been to over 50 Grateful Dead concerts.

    People flopping on the stage… speaking in tongues, money flowing, gold all over the place. Oh yeah… the HUGE gold American Flag at the back of the stage. Totally insane. And why hold this event in the poorest part of L.A. ?

    – Jim

  9. cracker88

    I too came across this ad in the LA TImes and knew I had to go. I attended the “Tree of Life” service and went back every Xmas for several years. There were always a lot of “spectators”. The Cacophony Society used to go. The stage looked like a game show with the giant “Tree of Life” , the jewel encrusted treasure chest and a giant spinning neon sword that symbolized god only knows what (I’m not very religious). Miss Velma seemed pretty cool but her husband Dr. Jaggers was kinda scary. I remember the choir director being pretty flamboyant (his name was Gaylord something) and one of the ushers looked like an Elvis impersonator.
    Sadly, the Jaggers have both passed. I feel “blessed” to have seen this spectacle first hand.
    I have still have the same ad that you have posted and lots of full page color flyers they used to mail out if you were on the mailing list.

    • cracker88

      oh yeah…I got to walk up on stage to get anointed by Miss Velma herself (sorry, don’t mean to rub it in).

  10. ziti

    I went to one service, too, after reading the full page ad in the L.A. Times. Wish I could have surreptitously videotaped it…there was a LOT to take in.

    I found this while looking for an image of the Tree of Life…can’t quite remember what it looked like, but that stage was full of lights & wheels & moving things, like a game show–you’re right.