Tammy Faye Messner
|Tammy Faye Messner|
Tammy Faye Messner in April 2004
|Born||Tamara Faye LaValley
March 7, 1942
International Falls, Minnesota
|Died||July 20, 2007
Loch Lloyd, Missouri
|Occupation||Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, actress, television personality, co-founder of Heritage USA and PTL-The Inspirational Network|
|Children||Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman, Jamie Charles Bakker|
|Parents||Carl LaValley and Rachel Fairchild|
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.
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, one year before Tammy Faye was born. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers, 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, but the marriage also added six children to the household.
As a child in the 1950s, she helped her mother with household chores and babysat her younger siblings; but 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". 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. 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. 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).
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 (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.
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.
The revelations invited scrutiny of the Bakkers, and charges made about their opulent lifestyle, 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. 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 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. 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 Federal Communications Commission (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.
Marriage to Roe Messner
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:
For years I have been pretending that everything is all right, when in fact I hurt all the time...I cannot pretend anymore.
On October 3, 1993, she married Roe Messner in Rancho Mirage, California, 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.
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.". 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Tammyfaye.com 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.
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 wherein she, Ron Jeremy, Vanilla Ice, Traci Bingham, Erik Estrada and 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."
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. 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. It was on King's program again that she announced, on July 20, 2005, that her cancer had returned.
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".
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. 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.
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 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, Messner died following an 11-year battle with cancer. 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, 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 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 CNN.com, the family requested that King officially report the news of her death on July 21, 2007.
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. 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. 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. A star-studded concert of songs from the show opened February 18, 2008 at New York's Metropolitan Room.
|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|
- The Surreal Life TV.com
- Obituary: (UK) newspaper, the Daily Telegraph Issue number 47,317 Monday July 23, 2007 p23
- Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
- Ostling, Richard (1987-08-03). "Enterprising Evangelism". Time. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- Tammy Faye Messner, ex-wife of disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker, dies at 65 – Associated Press article in Boston Herald – July 22, 2007
- Bakker marries business friend – North Hills Record – October 5, 1983
- Testimony: Baker knew about Hahn being paid off – Associated Press article via Pacific Stars and Stripes – September 16, 1987
- 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
- PTL accuses builder of theft conspiracy – Associated Press article via DAILY INIEILIGENCER/MONTGOMERY COUNTY RECORD – September 10, 1987
- Tammy Faye has surgery for colon cancer – Pacific Stars and Stripes – March 22, 1996
- Aarthun, Sarah. (2007, June 23). Tammy Faye is leaving Charlotte area. The Charlotte Observer
- The Words of Tammy Faye, Metroweekly
- Tammy Faye Messner's Cancer Treatments Stop, Weight Down to Just 65 Pounds Fox News. May 10, 2007
- Former Tammy Faye Bakker tells Larry King she has inoperable lung cancer Associated Press/March 19, 2004
- FoxNews.com: "Evangelist Tammy Faye Messner Dies of Cancer at 65" July 22, 2007
- Tammy Faye: Death Defying at the Internet Movie Database
- Associated Press (2005-07-20). "Tammy Faye Says Lung Cancer Has Returned". Greenwich Time. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- Walter Scott (December 10, 2006). "Personality Parade". Parade. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Tammy Faye Messner (May 10, 2007). "Message to fans". TammyFaye.com. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- "Well Wishes for Tammy Faye's". TammyFaye.com. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Public memorial to be planned for Tammy Faye McClatchy Newspapers – July 22, 2007
- Larry King interview with Roe Messner on August 7, 2007
- "Tammy Faye Messner dies". CNN. July 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- 'Gospel According to Tammy Faye' New Musical Reading", Broadway World News, December 5, 2007.
- Lindsay Wise, "On stage, Tammy Faye lives on: Musical creators say show is a good way to say goodbye", Houston Chronicle, July 22, 2007.
- New Musical 'Big Tent' Covers Life of Tammy Faye Bakker Broadwayworld.com
- Playbill News: Block, Arcelus, Hocking, Stanek and More Set for Tammy Faye Sings Concert
- Tammy Faye's Official Website and blog
- National Public Radio All Things Considered 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)
- Tammy Faye Messner Interview at Archive of American Television
- Tammy Faye Messner (January 15, 2004) (Audio). Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. NPR. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1599635. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Tammy Faye Messner at the Internet Movie Database