Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner dies at 65.
Tamara "Tammy" Faye Messner (March 7, 1942 -- July 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. She was a participant in the 2004 season of the reality show, The Surreal Life.
The eldest of eight children, Bakker was born Tamara Faye LaValley in International Falls, Minnesota to Pentecostal preachers Carl and Rachel Fairchild LaValley. Tammy Faye's background includes Canadian ancestry, as La Vallee, Ontario is located near her hometown of International Falls on the Canadian side of the Rainy River. 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, alienating her mother 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 is 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 wouldn't allow it. Before she graduated in 1960, her mother suggested that Tammy Faye would become a minister.
After being dismissed from North Central University along with her then-husband (former high school disc jockey) Jim Bakker in early 1961, Tammy Faye worked in a boutique shop for a time while Jim found work in a restaurant inside a department store in Minneapolis. The following year, they moved to North Carolina, where they began their own ministry.
PTL Club and scandal
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 childrens'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, but the concern about their opulent lifestyle grew as 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.
Worthy of note is the Epilogue from the publishers of this book is 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."
However, due to Jim Bakker's resignation from the ministry after an affair with Jessica Hahn became public, as well as investigative reporters from the Charlotte Observer reporting on PTL's finances and management, 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. It was widely reported 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.
In 1993, Tammy Faye married former Heritage USA contractor and church builder Roe Messner. She used the name Tammy Faye Messner and resided in the Matthews, North Carolina, a Charlotte suburb. Her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer years ago, but has chosen not to seek traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments in favor of a "watchful waiting" approach. In 1996, she co-hosted a TV talk show entitled The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show, with Jim J. Bullock. Tammy chose to leave the show after being diagnosed with colon cancer, and was replaced.
In recent years, she was the subject of a documentary film entitled The Eyes of Tammy Faye (1999) and a follow up film entitled Tammy Faye: Death Defying (2004) from Lions Gate Films. She has also appeared on The Drew Carey Show, playing the mother of character Mimi Bobek (Kathy Kinney), who was also known for wearing excessive amounts of makeup. In 2005, she appeared in an infomercial for alternative medicine promoter Kevin Trudeau, an appearance she later admitted that she regretted.
In late June 2007, Tammy Faye told Entertainment Tonight Roe was building her a "dream house" in Kansas City, Missouri, and the couple would move from North Carolina to Missouri to be closer to Roe's children and grandchildren, who live in Wichita.
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 when 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, visited a nudist resort (without her), managed a restaurant for a day, and got readings from a psychic (also without her). 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.
She also attended a book signing for her best-seller, I Will Survive... And You Will Too.
She made a plea for all people to grant themselves permission to cast off the things that are holding them back, to forgive themselves and others, to be happy with themselves whoever they are, to persevere in the face of opposition, and to show each other unconditional love. Her speech moved the four roommates who were present (Jeremy stayed home) to tears; Bingham later confessed that it had been a life-altering moment for her.
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 had similar feelings and problems when she had been their age.
Involvement with the IRS
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Internal Revenue Service still holds Bakker and Roe Messner, her husband since 1993, liable for personal income taxes owed from the 1980s when they were building the PTL ministry, taxes assessed after the IRS revoked the PTL's nonprofit status.
Messner said Jim Bakker and his former wife didn't want to talk about the tax issues: "We don't want to stir the pot." He also said that the original tax amount was about $500,000, with penalties and interest accounting for the rest. The notices reinstating the liens list "James O. and Tamara F. Bakker" as owing $3 million, which liens the Bakkers must still pay.
Tammy Faye first battled cancer in March of 1996, when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She successfully treated the cancer and it went into remission by the end of that year.
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. She continued chemotherapy throughout mid-2004. On November 30, 2004, also on Larry King Live, she announced that she was cancer free once again. She described 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.
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 was continuing treatment for it. She also mentioned having difficulty swallowing food, suffering panic attacks, and 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 her son Jay was "at a North Carolina hospice with his mom, [who is] gravely ill with colon cancer".
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. 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 have been received.