Tammy Faye Messner

Tammy Faye Messner

Infobox Person
name = Tammy Faye Messner

image_size = 220px
caption = Tammy Faye Messner in August 2005
birth_date = birth date|1942|03|7
birth_place = International Falls, Minnesota, U.S.
death_date = death date and age|2007|7|20|1942|3|7
death_place = Loch Lloyd, Missouri, U.S.
occupation = Singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, actress, and television personality
spouse = Roe Messner, 1993 (widower, 2007) Jim Bakker, 1961 (divorced, 1992)
parents = Carl LaValley and Rachel Fairchild
children = Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman, Jamie Charles Bakker
website = [http://tammyfaye.com/ tammyfaye.com]

Tamara "Tammy" Faye Messner (March 7, 1942July 20, 2007) was an American Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. She was the former wife of televangelist, and later convicted felon, Jim Bakker, and she co-hosted with him on "The PTL Club" from 1976 to 1987. She was known for her tendency to wear heavy makeup—particularly mascara and false eyelashes—and for her eyebrows, which were tattooed on.cite news | author= | title=Tammy Faye Messner dies | url=http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/07/21/tammy.faye/index.html?section=cnn_latest | publisher=CNN | date=21 July 2007 | accessdate=2007-07-25] She was a participant in the 2004 season of the reality show, "The Surreal Life". [ [http://www.tv.com/surreal-life/show/12331/summary.html The Surreal Life] TV.com]

Early life

The eldest of eight children, Tammy Faye was born Tamara Faye LaValley in International Falls, Minnesota to Pentecostal preachers Carl and Rachel Fairchild LaValley. Her parents were married in 1941, just one year before Tammy Faye was born. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers, [ Obituary: (UK) newspaper, the Daily Telegraph Issue number 47,317 Monday 23rd July 2007 p23] alienating her from the church. After the divorce, Tammy Faye continued living in a strict atmosphere with her mother and brother. When she was six years old, in 1948, her mother married Fred Grover, who worked in the paper mills. Her stepfather's salary increased their income, but also added four children to the household.

As a child in the 1950s, she helped her mother with household chores and babysat her younger siblings. Despite all this, she was often spoiled by her favorite aunt, Virginia Fairchild, who was a retired department store manager. She attended her aunt's church in 1952.

When she was accompanied by a friend to the Assemblies of God church, at age 10, she said she felt the glow of God's love and wanted to call herself upon the Lord. Her entire family gathered around her for celebrations, particularly Christmas, which was her favorite holiday. In 1956, she started spending summers at Bible camp and was voted "Queen". That same year, she attended Falls High School where she sang in the choir. Also that same year, she got an after-school job working at Woolworth's Department Store, the same store in which her aunt had previously worked. She was not allowed to attend any school dances, baseball games, or even the movies, as her church would not allow it. Before she graduated in 1960, her mother suggested that Tammy Faye would become a minister.

Marriage to Jim Bakker

In 1960, she met Jim Bakker when they were students at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-07-21-tammy-faye_N.htm Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies] By William M. Welch, USA TODAY] Tammy Faye worked in a boutique for a time while Jim found work in a restaurant inside a department store in Minneapolis. They were married on April 1, 1961. The following year, they moved to North Carolina, where they began their own ministry.

They had two children;

* Daughter, Tammy Sue (Sissy) Bakker Chapman (born March 2 1970, who is mother to James and Jonathan)
* Son Jamie Charles (Jay) Bakker (born December 18 1975; married to Amanda Bakker).

PTL Club

Jim and Tammy Bakker had been involved with television from the time of their departure from Minneapolis, until they moved to the Charlotte area, via Portsmouth, Virginia, where they were founding members of the 700 Club. While in Portsmouth, they were hosts of the popular children's show "Jim and Tammy". They then created a puppet ministry for children on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) from 1964 to 1973, and co-founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network with personal friends Paul and Jan Crouch in California. Jim and Tammy founded the PTL Club in the mid-1970s.

During the PTL shows, she provided a sentimental touch to stories and loved to sing. In a move that sharply distinguished her from other televangelists, she showed a more tolerant attitude when it came to homosexuals, and she featured people living with AIDS on PTL, urging her viewers to follow Christ and show sympathy and pray for the sick.

The PTL empire continued to grow under the Bakkers' leadership.

PTL collapse

The Bakkers' control of PTL collapsed in 1987 after revelations that $287,000 had been paid from the organization to buy the silence of Jessica Hahn who had had a sexual encounter with Jim Bakker.

The revelations invited scrutiny of the Bakkers and charges were made about their opulent lifestyle including media reports of an air-conditioned dog house at their Tega Cay, South Carolina lakefront parsonage as well as gold-plated bathroom fixtures dominated newscasts in the 1980s. The Bakkers' home, owned by the ministry, was actually an older home built in the early 1970s and it was a few miles away from Heritage USA. Jim Bakker stated that the much-talked-about dog house was heated with an old heater to keep the dogs warm in the winter and the reported gold-plated fixtures were actually brass. The home was later sold by the ministry and burned to the ground not long thereafter. Jim Bakker wrote in his book "I Was Wrong" that he watched the home burn on live television while incarcerated.

The epilogue from the publishers of this book contains the following:

: "On July 22, 1996, shortly after Jim Bakker had completed the writing of this book, a federal jury ruled that PTL was not selling securities by offering Lifetime Partnerships at Heritage USA. The jury's ruling thus affirms what Jim Bakker has contended from the first day he was indicted and throughout this volume."

The "Charlotte Observer" ran exposes of PTL's finances and management practices. PTL went bankrupt after being taken over by controversial Lynchburg, Virginia-based Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell, who offered to step in following the scandals in 1988. [cite news | first=Richard | last=Ostling | coauthors= | title=Enterprising Evangelism | date=1987-08-03 | publisher= | url =http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,965155,00.html | work =Time | pages = | accessdate = 2007-01-27 | language = ] Charges surfaced that Falwell's interest in PTL and Heritage USA was solely an attempt to gain control of its profitable cable television network; something which Falwell was unsuccessful in establishing for his own ministry despite numerous requests to the FCC for permission to obtain a satellite license. Tammy Faye later forgave Falwell regarding these tactics before Falwell's death in 2007, two months before Tammy Faye's own death.

After PTL

Marriage to Roe Messner

Tammy stood by Bakker through the scandal including several instances when she cried on camera with mascara pouring down her cheeks. In 1989 Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison on 24 fraud and conspiracy counts.

In 1992 while Bakker was still in prison she filed for divorce saying in a letter to the New Covenant Church in Orlando, Florida:

: For years I have been pretending that everything is all right, when in fact I hurt all the time...I cannot pretend anymore. [ [http://thetrack.bostonherald.com/moreTrack/view.bg?articleid=1012785&format=&page=2 Tammy Faye Messner, ex-wife of disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker, dies at 65 - Associated Press article in Boston Herald - July 22, 2007] ]

On October 3, 1993 she married Roe Messner in Rancho Mirage, California [Bakker marries business friend - North Hills Record - October 5, 1983 ] after Messner divorced his own wife. They moved to the Charlotte suburb of Matthews, North Carolina. Tammy and Roe were neighbors to Christian recording star and friend David L Cook.

Messner, who had a contracting business, Messner Enterprises, in the Wichita, Kansas suburb of Andover, Kansas, had built much of Heritage USA as well as numerous other large churches and had been a family friend to the Bakkers throughout the PTL years.

Messner was the one who produced the money for the $265,000 payment to Hahn later billing PTL for work never completed on the Jerusalem Amphitheater at Heritage USA. [Testimony: Baker knew about Hahn being paid off - Associated Press article via Pacific Stars and Stripes - September 16, 1987]

In the Bakker's fraud trial, Messner testified for Bakker's defense saying that Falwell had sent Messner to the Bakker home in Palm Springs, California to make an offer to "keep quiet".

According to Messner's testimony Tammy wrote the offer on her stationery which listed $300,000 a-year lifetime salary for Jim, $100,000 a year for Tammy, a house and a year's worth of free phone calls and health insurance. However Messner said Bakker wrote on it "I'm not making any demands on PTL I'm not asking for anything." [PTL link puts church builder Roe Messner in public eye - Kansas City Star via The News-Post Leader - Frederick, Maryland - June 17, 1987 (available of newspaperarchive.com)] [Bakker witness says Falwell offered hush money - Associated Press article via The Capital - September 26, 1989 ] . Falwell has denied making any offer.

In the messy bankruptcy of PTL, Messner was listed as the single biggest creditor of PTL with an outstanding claim of $14 million. In court papers the new operators accused Messner of $5.3 million in inflated or phony billings to PTL. [PTL accuses builder of theft conspiracy - Associated Press article via DAILY INIEILIGENCER/MONTGOMERY COUNTY RECORD - September 10, 1987]

Messner filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy in 1990, saying he owed nearly $30 million to more than 300 creditors. He was to wind up being convicted of bankruptcy fraud. As he faced sentencing in 1996 he said that he could not afford to treat his prostate cancer because he lacked health insurance. [Tammy Faye has surgery for colon cancer - Pacific Stars and Stripes - March 22, 1996]

In July 2007 on more solid financial footing, the Messners relocated to a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, the Village of Loch Lloyd, Missouri. Coincidentally, Jim Bakker had also moved to Missouri (in 2003) 200 miles southeast of Loch Lloyd in Branson, Missouri. Tammy Faye told "Entertainment Tonight" they had moved to the "dream house" to be closer to Roe's children and grandchildren from his first marriage. The children still live in the Wichita area. [ [http://www.charlotte.com/115/story/170349.html Aarthun, Sarah. (2007, June 23). "Tammy Faye is leaving Charlotte area". The Charlotte Observer] ]

Back in the public eye

As her second husband was jailed and she was first diagnosed with colon cancer, she re-entered the public eye in a series of books, movies and television appearances.

In 1996 she wrote her autobiography "Tammy: Telling It My Way" ISBN 0679445153 and she co-hosted a TV talk show entitled "The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show", with Jim J. Bullock.

She was the subject of a documentary entitled "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" (1999) and a follow up film entitled "Tammy Faye: Death Defying" (2004) from Lions Gate Films.

She appeared twice on "The Drew Carey Show" in 1996 and 1999, playing the mother of character "Mimi Bobeck" (Kathy Kinney), who was also known for wearing excessive amounts of makeup.

On September 11, 2003, she published a new autobiography "I Will Survive... and You Will, Too!" ISBN 1585422428 in which she described her battles with cancer and her life with Messner.

In 2005, she appeared in an infomercial for alternative medicine promoter Kevin Trudeau, an appearance she later admitted that she regretted.Fact|date=July 2007

Tammy Faye has become a gay icon since her parting from PTL, even appearing in Gay Pride marches with such figures as Lady Bunny and Bruce Vilanch. [ [http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=11 The Words of Tammy Faye, "Metroweekly"] ]

"The Surreal Life"

In early 2004, she appeared on the second season of the VH1 reality television series, "The Surreal Life". The show chronicled a twelve-day period where she, Ron Jeremy, Vanilla Ice, Traci Bingham, Erik Estrada and Trishelle Cannatella all lived together in a Los Angeles house and were assigned various tasks and activities.

Together, the six put on a children's play and managed a restaurant for a day. During the taping, she forged close bonds with all of the other six house mates, many of whom came to look up to her as a mother figure and a spiritual inspiration.Fact|date=January 2008

She also attended a book signing for her best-seller, "I Will Survive... And You Will Too".

At the end of the show, Messner said she thought of Vanilla Ice and Trishelle Cannatella as children and could relate to them deeply because she had similar feelings and problems when she was their age.


Tammy Faye's 11-year battle with cancer was highly publicized and she was very frank in what she revealed.

She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 1996 and the disease went into remission by the end of that year. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,271136,00.html Tammy Faye Messner's Cancer Treatments Stop, Weight Down to Just 65 Pounds] Fox News. May 10, 2007]

On March 19, 2004, two weeks after her 62nd birthday, Tammy Faye made an appearance on "Larry King Live" and announced that she had inoperable lung cancer and would soon begin chemotherapy. [ [http://www.rickross.com/reference/bakker/bakker14.html Former Tammy Faye Bakker tells Larry King she has inoperable lung cancer] Associated Press/March 19, 2004] She continued receiving chemotherapy throughout mid-2004. On November 30 2004, also on "Larry King Live", she announced that she was cancer free once again. She described the details of her chemotherapy and continued to appear regularly on King's show. It was on his program again that she announced, on July 20 2005, that her cancer had returned. [cite news |author=Associated Press |title = Tammy Faye Says Lung Cancer Has Returned |publisher = Greenwich Time |date = 2005-07-20 |url = http://www.greenwichtime.com/entertainment/tv/sns-ap-people-tammy-faye,0,1472145.story?coll=sns-ap-tv-headlines |accessdate = 2007-05-10]

On March 13, 2006, six days after her 64th birthday, she appeared again on Larry King Live and stated that she was continuing to suffer from lung cancer, which had reached stage 4, and that she was continuing to receive treatment for it. She also mentioned having difficulty swallowing food, suffering from panic attacks, and enduring substantial weight loss. As her health continued to worsen, a "Talk of the Town" article in the October 2, 2006 issue of "The New Yorker" stated that she was dying in hospice care, and a December 10, 2006 article in Walter Scott's column in "Parade" reported that her son Jay was "at a North Carolina hospice with his mom, [who is] gravely ill with colon cancer". [cite news | author=Walter Scott | title=Personality Parade | url=http://parade.com/articles/editions/2006/edition_12-10-2006/Personality_Parade | publisher=Parade | date=10 Dec 2006 | accessdate=2007-07-25]

Tammy Faye was a guest by phone on "Larry King Live" on December 15, 2006 and stated that she was receiving hospice care in her home. Tammy Faye appeared in her son Jay's documentary series, "One Punk Under God", where she and Jay talked about her cancer treatments. In one episode, Tammy Faye required the use of oxygen in order to talk.

On May 8, 2007, she issued a statement on her website saying that all treatments to cure her cancer had stopped, but urged her fans to continue to pray for her. [cite web | author=Tammy Faye Messner | title=Message to fans | url=http://www.tammyfaye.com/note20070508.htm | publisher=TammyFaye.com | date=10 May 2007 | accessdate=2007-07-25] The story was reported on NBC's "The Today Show" on May 11, and a feature in which fans and well-wishers could post get-well messages to Tammy was added to her website. As of July 2007, over 228 pages of wishes had been received. [cite web | title= Well Wishes for Tammy Faye's | url=http://www.tammyfaye.com/wellwishes.asp | publisher=TammyFaye.com | accessdate=2007-07-25]

On July 19 2007 Tammy Faye made another appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live", in what turned out to be her final-ever interview. Extremely gaunt, she said she weighed 65 pounds and was unable to eat solid food. Messner's husband would later say that he believed that she chose to do the interview to say a final goodbye to her followers. During the interview, Messner had this message:

"I'd like to say that I genuinely love you, and I genuinely care, and I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace. I want you to find joy."


On July 20, 2007 at 4 AM, [http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation/story/200711.html Public memorial to be planned for Tammy Faye] McClatchy Newspapers - July 22, 2007] Tammy Faye Messner died following her 11-year long illness. She was 65 years old. What had started as colon cancer, spread to her lungs. She died in her home, said her publicist, Joe Spotts. A family service was held on the morning of July 21, 2007 in the Messner family plot in Waldron, Kansas [ [http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0708/07/lkl.01.html Larry King interview with Roe Messner on August 7, 2007] ] , where her ashes were interred. The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Randy McCain, the pastor of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood, Arkansas. She had frequently spoken about her medical problems, saying she hoped to be an inspiration to others. "Don't let fear rule your life," she said. "Live one day at a time, and never be afraid." She had written on her web site in May that the doctors had stopped trying to treat the cancer. She died the day after the airing of her interview on "Larry King Live" on CNN. According to CNN.com, the family requested that King officially report the news on his show July 21, 2007.

Tammy Faye in popular culture

Tammy Faye has developed a devoted fan base in the gay and specifically drag queen communities. A drag entertainer dubbed "Tammy Faye Sinclair" performs in the West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky areas. According to CNN's obituary, "Tammy Faye Messner has also been known as one of the few evangelical Christians who had the support of the gay community. She was one of the first televangelists to reach out to those with AIDS when it was a little-known and much-feared disease. In return, she told King in July 2007, "When I went - when we lost everything, it was the gay people that came to my rescue, and I will always love them for that."

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood allegedly based her character 'Serena Joy' in her 1985 novel "The Handmaid's Tale" loosely on Tammy Faye.Fact|date=July 2007

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker are referred to in Frank Zappa's song, "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", from the "Broadway the Hard Way" tour of 1988, and released post-PTL scandal in 1989. Zappa's song lampoons and castigates evangelical television ministries of that era, and "The PTL Club" was a prime target.

Likewise, the cover of the original 500 homemade copies of "The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This!", a 1986 anti-censorship (see Parents Music Resource Center and Tipper Gore) commentary by punk band NOFX, had a black and white photo of Tammy and Jim Bakker superimposed into a sexual position. This picture was eventually changed to a picture of band member Eric Melvin, when the EP was pressed on "Fat Wreck Chords".

On The Golden Girls episode "Strange Bedfellows," airing on November 7, 1987, Blanche, accused of having an affair with city council candidate Gil Kessler, takes a reporter's phone call:
"Hello. Yes, this is Blanche Devereaux. Yes, that Blanche Devereaux, and no, I did not! Absolutely not! I will tell it to a judge! I will yell it from the highest mountaintops! I will swear to it on a stack of Bibles! [hangs up telephone] Now did that sound like a liar?"
Dorothy: "No. It sounded like Jim and Tammy Faye on Nightline!"

In 2005 she was honored by Lancaster, South Carolina with a "Tammy Faye Day" on April 21 2005.

Fact|date=July 2007 In June 2006, a stage musical entitled "The Gospel According to Tammy Faye" opened at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, and is currently being developed for a larger professional production. [ [http://www.fdovalina.com Fdovalina.com] ] The show features songs by J. T. Buck and a book by Fernando Dovalina. The musical is described as a fantasia which takes a balanced and fair look at its subject. The impetus for the show was provided by a lengthy interview that Messner gave the authors in March 2005.Fact|date=July 2007 The musical aired on August 2006 in Portland, Oregon, and Hood River, Oregon. "Gospel" was most recently presented on stage at Houston's Alley Theatre at the end of July, 2007, under the direction of Les R. Wood, where it played to sold out houses and audience acclaim. Fact|date=July 2007 Industry readings were held at the Manhattan Theatre Club creative center on Dec. 17, 18, and 19, 2007. Presented by the Columbia Gorge Repertory Company, the cast included Tony-nominee Sally Mayes, and veteran Broadway performers William Youmans, Ken Land, Julie Foldesi, James T. Lane and Heather Parcells. The readings were directed by Mindy Cooper. Seth Farber provided musical direction.

Another musical following the life of Tammy Faye, entitled "Big Tent", debuted May 23rd, at Off-Broadway's New World Stages, in New York City. The show features music and lyrics by Ben Cohn, Sean McDaniel, a book by Jeffery Self, and direction by Ryan J. Davis. [ [http://www.broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=13810 New Musical 'Big Tent' Covers Life of Tammy Faye Bakker] Broadwayworld.com] A star-studded concert of songs from the show is scheduled for February 18th at New York's Metropolitan Room. [ [http://www.playbill.com/news/article/114554.html Playbill News: Block, Arcelus, Hocking, Stanek and More Set for Tammy Faye Sings Concert ] ]




External links

* [http://www.tammyfaye.com/ Tammy Faye's Official Website and blog]
* National Public Radio "All Things Considered" [http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2002/june/tammyfaye/ The Re-Invention of Tammy Faye: Former Christian Broadcasting Queen Has New Gay Following] June 20, 2002 (Online article with audio of ATC story and video clip of film, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye")


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