Tamara Faye LaValley Bakker Messner (March 7, 1942 – July 20, 2007) was an American Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. She was married from 1961 to 1992 to televangelist, and later convicted felon, Jim Bakker. She co-hosted with him on The PTL Club (1976–1987). She was a participant in the 2004 season of the reality show The Surreal Life.[1]

Contents Edit

  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Marriage to Jim Bakker
  • 3 PTL Club
  • 4 PTL collapse
  • 5 After PTL
    • 5.1 Marriage to Roe Messner
    • 5.2 Back in the public eye
    • 5.3 The Surreal Life
    • 5.4 Cancer
    • 5.5 Death
  • 6 Legacy
  • 7 Discography
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Early life[edit] Edit

The eldest of eight children, Tammy Faye was born Tamara Faye LaValley in International Falls, Minnesota, to Pentecostal preachers Rachel Minnie (née Fairchild) and Carl Oliver LaValley.[2] Her parents were married in 1941, one year before Tammy Faye was born. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers,[3] alienating her from the church. After the divorce, Tammy Faye continued living in a strict atmosphere with her mother and brother. In 1948, when she was six, her mother married Fred Grover, who worked in paper mills. His salary increased their income, and the marriage also added six children to the household.[citation needed]

As a child in the 1950s, she helped her mother with household chores and babysat her younger siblings;[citation needed] but she was often spoiled by her favorite aunt, Virginia Fairchild, who was a retired department store manager.[citation needed] 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."[citation needed] 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". Also in 1956, she attended Falls High School, where she sang in the choir, and got an after-school job at Woolworth's. She didn't attend school dances, baseball games, or even movies, as her church did not allow it.[citation needed] Before she graduated in 1960, her mother suggested that Tammy Faye would become a minister.[citation needed]

Marriage to Jim Bakker[edit] Edit

In 1960, she met Jim Bakker when they were students at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[4] 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 South Carolina, where they began their ministry.

Their marriage produced two children, Tammy Sue (Sissy) Bakker Chapman (born 1970) and Jamie Charles (Jay) Bakker (born 1975).

PTL Club[edit] Edit

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 the700 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 (Praise The Lord) 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 regarding homosexuality, and she featured people suffering from AIDS on PTL, urging her viewers to follow Christ and show sympathy and pray for the sick.[citation needed]

PTL collapse[edit] Edit

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 claims a forced sexual encounter with Jim Bakker.[citation needed]

The revelations invited scrutiny of the Bakkers, and charges made about their opulent lives, including media reports of an air-conditioned doghouse 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]The home was later sold by the ministry and burned to the ground not long thereafter.[citation needed] Jim Bakker wrote in his book I Was Wrong that he watched the home burn on live television while incarcerated.[5]

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

[citation needed]

The Charlotte Observer ran exposés 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.[6] 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 failed to establish for his own ministry despite numerous requests to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to obtain a satellite license.[citation needed] Tammy Faye later forgave Falwell regarding these tactics before Falwell's death in 2007, two months before Tammy Faye's own death.[citation needed]

After PTL[edit] Edit

Marriage to Roe Messner[edit] Edit

Tammy stood by Bakker through the scandal, including several instances when she cried on camera. 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:

On October 3, 1993, she married Roe Messner in Rancho Mirage, California,[8] 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 Andover, Kansas, suburb of Wichita, 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.[9]

In the Bakkers' 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, listing a $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 that Bakker wrote on it: "I'm not making any demands on PTL. I'm not asking for anything.".[10][11] Falwell 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.[12]

Messner filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy in 1990, saying he owed nearly $30 million to more than 300 creditors. He wound 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.[13]

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.[14]

Back in the public eye[edit] Edit

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 titled The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show with Jim J. Bullock.

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

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. On her site, she credits green supplements as a helpful part of her initial colon cancer remission.

Despite her background in Christian fundamentalism, Tammy Faye became a gay icon after her parting from PTL, appearing in Gay Pride marches with such figures as Lady Bunny and Bruce Vilanch. She supported the LGBT rights movement, including same-sex marriage.[15] She was benevolently referred to as "the ultimate drag queen,"[16]  and said in her last interview with Larry King that, "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."[17]

The Surreal Life[edit] Edit

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 wherein she, Ron Jeremy, Vanilla Ice, Traci Bingham, Erik Estradaand Trishelle Cannatella 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. 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. She described porn star Jeremy as "a nice man."

Cancer[edit] Edit

Tammy Faye's 11 years with cancer was highly publicized. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 1996, and the disease went into remission by the end of that year.[18]

On March 19, 2004, Tammy Faye made an appearance on Larry King Live and announced that she had inoperable lung cancer and would soon begin chemotherapy.[19] 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. A 2004 television documentary of her struggle with cancer was produced in 2004.[20][21] It was on King's program again that she announced, on July 20, 2005, that her cancer had returned.[22]

On March 13, 2006, 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".[23]

Tammy Faye was a guest by phone on CNN's 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, wherein 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 chemotherapy had stopped, but urging her fans to continue to pray for her.[24] 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.[25]

On July 19, 2007, Tammy Faye made another appearance on CNN's Larry King Live in what turned out to be her final interview (she died the following day, just hours after the broadcast). At the time, 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 fans.

Death[edit] Edit

On July 20, 2007, Messner died after 11 years with cancer.[26] What had started as colon cancer had 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,[27] where her ashes were interred. The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Randy McCain, the pastor of Open Door Community Church inSherwood, Arkansas.[26] 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 website 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, the family requested that King officially report the news of her death on July 21, 2007.[28] She was buried in Waldron Cemetery, Waldron, Kansas.[29]

Legacy[edit] Edit

In June 2006, a stage musical titled The Gospel According to Tammy Faye opened at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and is currently being developed for a larger professional production.[30] 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.[31][32] The musical aired on August 2006 in Portland, Oregon, and Hood River, Oregon, it was presented on stage at Houston's Alley Theatre at the end of July 2007 under the direction of Les R. Wood. Industry readings presented by the Columbia Gorge Repertory Company were held at the Manhattan Theatre Club in December 2007 the cast including 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, titled Big Tent, debuted May 23, 2007 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.[33] A star-studded concert of songs from the show opened February 18, 2008 at New York's Metropolitan Room.[34]

Discography[edit] Edit

Year Album Record Label
1970 Tammy Tammy Tammy Hymntone Records
1977 Tammy Bakker Sings PTL Club Favorites New Pax Records
1978 Love Never Gives Up PAX Musical Productions
1979 We're Blest PTL Club Records & Tapes
1980 Run Toward the Roar PTL Club Records & Tapes
1980 The Lord's On My Side PTL Club Records & Tapes
1982 Tammy Sings... You Can Make It! PTL Club Records & Tapes
1982 Old Hymns PTL Club Records & Tapes
1984 In the Upper Room PTL Club Records & Tapes
1984 Movin' on to Victory PTL Club Records & Tapes
1985 Don't Give Up! PTL Club Records & Tapes
1986 Enough is Enough PTL Club Records & Tapes
1987 The Ballad of Jim & Tammy Sutra Records
19?? Peace in the Midst of the Storm  ???
19?? Love, Tammy  ???

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