Tammy Faye Messner

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Tammy Faye Messner
Tammy Faye Messner.jpg
Tammy Faye Messner in April 2004
Born Tamara Faye LaValley
(1942-03-07)March 7, 1942
International Falls, Minnesota, U.S.
Died July 20, 2007(2007-07-20) (aged 65)
Loch Lloyd, Missouri, U.S.
Cause of death Colon cancer
Occupation Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, actress, television personality, co-founder of Heritage USA and PTL-The Inspirational Network
Years active 1962–2007
Children Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman, Jamie Charles Bakker
Parent(s) Carl LaValley and Rachel Fairchild
Website tammyfaye.com

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]

Early life[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. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers,[3] alienating her from the church.

Marriage to Jim Bakker[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). Jay Bakker suffered from alcoholism as a result of his parents' issues in the media, and now has begun a group of churches throughout the United States, including in New York City, where he now resides.[5]

PTL Club[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 The 700 Club.[citation needed] 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. Jim and Tammy founded The PTL Club (Praise The Lord) in the mid-1970s.[citation needed]

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.[6]

PTL collapse[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,[7] who claims Jim Bakker raped her.[8] In his 1997 book, I Was Wrong, Bakker disputed Hahn's account, claiming that he was "set up" and that the sex was consensual.[9]

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 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.[10]

The Charlotte Observer ran exposés of PTL's finances and management practices. PTL went bankrupt after being taken over by Lynchburg, Virginia-based Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell, who offered to step in following the scandals in 1988.[11]

After PTL[edit]

Marriage to Roe Messner[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:

For years I have been pretending that everything is all right, when in fact I hurt all the time...I cannot pretend anymore.[12]

On October 3, 1993, she married property developer Roe Messner in Rancho Mirage, California,[13] 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.[citation needed]

Messner, who had a contracting business, Messner Enterprises, in 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.[citation needed]

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.[7]

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."[citation needed]

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.".[14][15] Falwell denied making any offer.[citation needed]

In the bankruptcy of PTL, Messner was listed as the 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.[16]

Messner filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy in 1990, saying he owed nearly $30 million to more than 300 creditors. He was later 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.[17]

In July 2007, on more solid financial footing, the Messners relocated to Loch Lloyd, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. Jim Bakker had relocated his operations to Branson, Missouri, in 2003. 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.[18]

Back in the public eye[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.[citation needed]

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.[19]

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.[20][21]

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.[22]

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.[citation needed]

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. Unlike many American Christian fundamentalists she "had long refused to denounce homosexuals" and also expressed compassion towards, and urged support for Americans with HIV/AIDS when it was still a much feared and unknown disease.[6] In the 1980s she interviewed an AIDS patient on her program, "making an impassioned plea to Christians to love and accept their gay brethren."[23] She was benevolently referred to as "the ultimate drag queen,"[24]  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."[25]

The Surreal Life[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 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."


Tammy Faye's 11 years with cancer were highly publicized. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in March 1996, and the disease went into remission by the end of that year.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28][29] It was on King's program again that she announced, on July 20, 2005, that her cancer had returned.[30]

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".[31]

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.[32] 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.[33]

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 (29.5 kg) 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.


On July 20, 2007, Messner died after 11 years with cancer.[34] She was 65 years old. 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.[35] The ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Randy McCain, the pastor of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood, Arkansas.[34] 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.[36] Her remains were cremated, and her ashes were returned to Waldron Cemetery where they were subsequently buried.[37]


In June 2006, a stage musical titled The Gospel According to Tammy Faye opened at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and was subsequently developed as 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.[38][39] 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 and Sean McDaniel, a book by Jeffery Self, and direction by Ryan J. Davis.[40] A star-studded concert of songs from the show opened February 18, 2008, at New York's Metropolitan Room.[41]

A play following the final hours of Tammy Faye, Tammy Faye's Final Audition by Merri Biechler, premiered at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival on June 2, 2015. The play takes place in a fevered dream at the end of her life wherein she enlists the men in her life for one final TV talk show audition.[42]


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 ???


  1. ^ The Surreal Life TV.com
  2. ^ Messner, Tammy Faye (September 15, 2003). "I Will Survive and You Will Too!". Penguin – via Google Books. 
  3. ^ Obituary: (UK) newspaper, the Daily Telegraph Issue number 47,317 Monday July 23, 2007 p23
  4. ^ Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
  5. ^ 2013, readthespirit.com, "Read The Spirit," "Jay Bakker, Son of Jim and Tammy Faye, Preaches Inclusion."
  6. ^ a b Michelle Tsai. Tammy Faye Messner, Gay Icon, Slate.com July 23, 2007; accessed 03 Jan 2018
  7. ^ a b Testimony: Baker knew about Hahn being paid off – Associated Press article via Pacific Stars and Stripes – September 16, 1987.
  8. ^ "Larry King Live Interview with Jessica Hahn (rush transcript)". CNN. July 14, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2007. 
  9. ^ Jim Bakker (1997). I Was Wrong: The Untold Story of the Shocking Journey from PTL Power to Prison and Beyond. Thomas Nelson. p. 512. ISBN 978-0-7852-7136-9. 
  10. ^ Bakker, Jim (September 21, 1996). I Was Wrong. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0785274251. 
  11. ^ Ostling, Richard (August 3, 1987). "Enterprising Evangelism". Time. Retrieved January 27, 2007. 
  12. ^ "Tammy Faye Messner, ex-wife of disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker, dies at 65 – Associated Press article in Boston Herald – July 22, 2007". [permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Bakker marries business friend – North Hills Record – October 5, 1983
  14. ^ 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)
  15. ^ Bakker witness says Falwell offered hush money – Associated Press article via The Capital – September 26, 1989.
  16. ^ PTL accuses builder of theft conspiracy – Associated Press article via Daily Intelligence/Montgomery County Record – September 10, 1987.
  17. ^ Tammy Faye has surgery for colon cancer – Pacific Stars and Stripes – March 22, 1996.
  18. ^ Aarthun, Sarah. (June 23, 2007). Tammy Faye is leaving Charlotte area. The Charlotte Observer Archived June 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  20. ^ "The Eyes of Tammy Faye". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Tammy Faye: Death Defying". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  22. ^ Ron Dicker (2000). The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, HartfordCourant.com, Aug 24, 2000; accessed 03 Jan 2018
  23. ^ Ann Hornaday, Tammy's `Eyes' have it, Baltimore Sun, accessed 03 July 2018
  24. ^ Wilson-Smith, Anthony (May 22, 2000). "Tammy Faye's Fab Fan Club". Maclean's. p. 7. 
  25. ^ Rabey, Steve (October 2, 2000). "Tammy Faye, gay icon". Christianity Today. pp. 85–86. 
  26. ^ Tammy Faye Messner's Cancer Treatments Stop, Weight Down to Just 65 Pounds Fox News. May 10, 2007
  27. ^ Former Tammy Faye Bakker tells Larry King she has inoperable lung cancer Associated Press/March 19, 2004
  28. ^ FoxNews.com: "Evangelist Tammy Faye Messner Dies of Cancer at 65" July 22, 2007
  29. ^ Tammy Faye: Death Defying on IMDb
  30. ^ Associated Press (July 20, 2005). "Tammy Faye Says Lung Cancer Has Returned". Greenwich Time. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved May 10, 2007. 
  31. ^ Walter Scott (December 10, 2006). "Personality Parade". Parade. Retrieved July 25, 2007. 
  32. ^ Tammy Faye Messner (May 10, 2007). "Message to fans". TammyFaye.com. Retrieved July 25, 2007. 
  33. ^ "Well Wishes for Tammy Faye's". TammyFaye.com. Retrieved July 25, 2007. 
  34. ^ a b Public memorial to be planned for Tammy Faye McClatchy Newspapers – July 22, 2007
  35. ^ "CNN.com - Transcripts". 
  36. ^ "Tammy Faye Messner dies". CNN. July 21, 2007. Retrieved July 25, 2007. 
  37. ^ Tammy Faye LaValley Bakker Messner at Find a Grave
  38. ^ 'Gospel According to Tammy Faye' New Musical Reading", Broadway World News, December 5, 2007.
  39. ^ Lindsay Wise, "On stage, Tammy Faye lives on: Musical creators say show is a good way to say goodbye", Houston Chronicle, July 22, 2007.
  40. ^ New Musical 'Big Tent' Covers Life of Tammy Faye Bakker Broadwayworld.com
  41. ^ Playbill News: Block, Arcelus, Hocking, Stanek and More Set for Tammy Faye Sings Concert Archived January 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  42. ^ Epple, Aaron. "Cincinnati Fringe Festival returns for its 12th year". Journal-News. Liberty Township, Butler County, Ohio. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 

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