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R.I.P. Tammy Faye Messner


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:( Televangelist Tammy Faye Messner dies

Pioneering televangelist, 65, had cancer


The Associated Press

Updated: 10:40 p.m. ET July 21, 2007

RALEIGH , N.C. - Tammy Faye Messner, who as Tammy Faye Bakker helped her husband, Jim, build a multimillion-dollar evangelism empire and then watched it collapse in disgrace, has died. She was 65.

Messner had battled colon cancer since 1996 that more recently spread to her lungs. She died peacefully Friday at her home near Kansas City, Mo., said Joe Spotts, her manager and booking agent.

A family service was held Saturday in a private cemetery, where her ashes were interred, he said.

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.” But she told well-wishers in a note on her Web site in May that the doctors had stopped trying to treat the cancer.

In an interview with CNN’s Larry King two months later, an emaciated Messner — still using her trademark makeup — said, “I believe when I leave this earth, because I love the Lord, I’m going straight to heaven.” Asked if she had any regrets, Messner said: “I don’t think about it, Larry, because it’s a waste of good brain space.”

1980s symbol

For many, the TV image of then-Mrs. Bakker forgiving husband Jim’s infidelities, tears streaking her cheeks with mascara, became a symbol for the wages of greed and hypocrisy in 1980s America.

She divorced her husband of 30 years, with whom she had two children, in 1992 while he was in prison for defrauding millions from followers of their PTL television ministries. The letters stood for “Praise the Lord” or “People that Love.”

Jim Bakker said in a statement that his ex-wife “lived her life like the song she sang, ’If Life Hands You a Lemon, Make Lemonade.”’

“She is now in Heaven with her mother and grandmother and Jesus Christ, the one who she loves and has served from childbirth,” he said. “That is the comfort I can give to all who loved her.”

Messner’s second husband also served time in prison. She married Roe Messner, who had been the chief builder of the Bakkers’ Heritage USA Christian theme park near Fort Mill, S.C., in 1993. In 1995, he was convicted of bankruptcy fraud, and he spent about two years in prison.

Through it all, Messner kept plugging her faith and herself. She did concerts, a short-lived secular TV talk show and an inspirational videotape. In 2004, she cooperated in the making of a documentary about her struggle with cancer, called “Tammy Faye: Death Defying.”

“I wanted to help people ... maybe show the inside (of the experience) and make it a little less frightening,” she said.

More recently, Tammy Faye kept in the public eye via her Web site.

“I cry out to the Lord knowing that many of you are praying for me,” Messner wrote in a July 16 post in which she indicated she weighed 65 pounds. “In spite of it all, I get dressed and go out to eat. ... I crave hamburgers and french fries with LOTS of ketchup! When I can eat that again, it will be a day of victory!”

In 2004, she appeared on the WB reality show “The Surreal Life,” co-starring with rapper Vanilla Ice, ex-porn star Ron Jeremy and others. She told King in 2004 that she didn’t know who Jeremy was when they met and they became friends.

‘I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom’

Messner was never charged with a crime in connection with the Bakker scandal. She said she counted the costs in other ways.

“I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom,” she said in promotional material for her 1996 video “You Can Make It.”

In the mid-1980s, the Bakkers were on top, ruling over a ministry that claimed 500,000 followers. Their “Jim and Tammy Show,” part TV talk show, part evangelism meeting, was seen across the country. Heritage USA boasted a 500-room hotel, shopping mall, convention center, water-amusement park, TV studio and several real-estate developments. PTL employed about 2,000 people.

Then in March 1987, Bakker resigned, admitting he had a tryst with Jessica Hahn, a 32-year-old former church secretary.

Tammy Faye Bakker stuck with her disgraced husband through five stormy years of tabloid headlines as the ministry unraveled.

Prosecutors said the PTL organization sold more than 150,000 “lifetime partnerships” promising lodging at the theme park but did not build enough hotel space with the $158 million in proceeds. At his fraud trial, Jim Bakker was accused of diverting $3.7 million to personal use even though he knew the ministry was financially shaky. Trial testimony showed PTL paid $265,000 to Hahn to cover up the sexual encounter with the minister.

Jim Bakker was convicted in 1989 of 24 fraud and conspiracy counts and sentenced to 45 years. The sentence was later reduced, and he was freed in 1994. He said that his wife’s decision to leave him had been “like a meat hook deep in my heart. I couldn’t eat for days.”

While not charged, his then-wife shared during the 1980s in the public criticism and ridicule over the couple’s extravagance, including the reportedly gold-plated bathroom fixtures and an air-conditioned doghouse.

There was even a popular T-shirt satirizing her image. The shirt read, “I ran into Tammy Faye at the shopping mall,” with the lettering on top of what look like clots of mascara, traces of lipstick and smudges of peach-toned makeup.

‘I cannot pretend anymore’

In a 1992 letter to her New Covenant Church in Orlando, Fla., she explained why she finally was seeking a divorce.

“For years I have been pretending that everything is all right, when in fact I hurt all the time,” she wrote.

“I cannot pretend anymore.”

In the end, there wasn’t any property to divide, her attorney said. The Bakkers lost their luxury homes in North Carolina, California and Tennessee, their fleet of Cadillacs and Mercedeses, and their vintage Rolls-Royce.

Her autobiography, “I Gotta Be Me,” recounts a childhood as Tammy Faye LaValley, one of eight children of a poor family in International Falls, Minn. Her biological father walked out. She was reticent about her age, but a 2000 profile of her in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis said she was born in March 1942.

She recalled trying eye makeup for the first time, then wiping it off for fear it was the devil’s work. Then she thought again.

“Why can’t I do this?” she asked. “If it makes me look prettier, why can’t I do this?”

She married Bakker in 1961, after they met at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. Beginning with a children’s puppet act, they created a religious show that brought a fundamentalist Protestant message to millions.

A secular TV talk program, the “Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show” with co-host Jim J. Bullock, lasted just six weeks in early 1996. Shortly after it went off the air, she underwent surgery for colon cancer.

She said afterward that she endured bleeding for a year because she was embarrassed to go to a male doctor. And she wore her makeup even in surgery.

“They didn’t make me take it off,” she said. “I had wonderful doctors and understanding nurses. I went in fully made up and came out fully made up.”

Survivors include her husband and her two children, Jamie Charles Bakker of New York City and Tammy Sue Chapman of Charlotte.

Spotts said that the family is considering a public memorial service for the coming weeks, but that nothing had been finalized Saturday.

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Come on guys, to her defense, It was mainly her husband Jim who did most of the swindling. Yeah she was involved, but wasn't aware of alot of things going on behind closed doors.

When she left him, she did some really good things for people and was from what I have seen and read repentant of her past sins. Since she wasn't an evil person, I can't say I am glad to see her go. I reserve that comment for people of true evil who no longer deserve to live truely!

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I met her within the past 5 years when she was in Los Angeles. She seemed to really care about each person, regardless of whatever they were there for. I can't remember what she preached on. Since it was a small gathering, she gave everyone a hug which was weird.

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found out last year that TFB hid out, after her husbands fallout, for for years in a house on a lake in ocalla fl down the street for a property that I own. I'm interested in seeing what our resident born agains think about the passing of one of their founders

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Good riddance.
I have a hard time mourning the loss of televangelists.
I have a hard time mourning the loss of televangelists that STEAL from their ministry. In fact, thats about the lowest form of life i can think of outside of Dallas fans.

Actually I have met her a few times since I moved here 3 years ago. Randomly at malls and restaurants.

She was a very sweet and personably lady. Unassuming, and very open.

Don't be so quick to judge based on things you read and hear. She barely knew any of the goings on inside the ministry. She was just a firm believer in her faith, and a supporter of her husband.

Sorry to hear that she has passed. And on a side note, if you saw/met her son you wouldnt believe for a second that this person came from Tammy Faye and Jim. He looks like a rockstar, yet acts like a gentleman.

Show some respect for those that have passed.

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found out last year that TFB hid out, after her husbands fallout, for for years in a house on a lake in ocalla fl down the street for a property that I own. I'm interested in seeing what our resident born agains think about the passing of one of their founders

As a "born again" my founders are the Triune Godhead,not some televangelist.

I hope she was saved and understand too well her family's loss of a loved one.

IF you want more on my thoughts about televangelists start a thread specific to that. ;)

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Sorry for her family's loss. She looked like she really suffered toward the end. And as a "born again"..Tammy Faye was far from a founder. Jesus is the head of my life..not some flesh & blood person. She'll answer for what she did some day...I just hope she's no longer suffering. RIP Tammy Faye. Let's not even talk about Jim:doh: .

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Never been one who likes her, and I think she was the poster child for what is wrong with organized religion, but I will leave any other comments free because it is not the time or the place for them. . .but next week, well, that is a different story ;)

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I'm interested in seeing what our resident born agains think about the passing of one of their founders

I reject the notion that anyone from this century could be considered a "founder".

I won't give you the "Church Answer" that the founder is Jesus, but when I think of founders, I think of people like the early Church Fathers, Luther, Aquinas, people like that.

Not Baker, Robertson, Roberts, or even people I like such as Sproul, Hannegraff, Plantinga, Craig.

Now, perhaps you were referring to a founder of the "Religious Right", which as it exists today, is very much a phenomenon of the last 30 or so years, and I guess she was involved with that.

That is, however, not the same thing as "born again". AsburySkinsFan, for instance, is about as far from the right as you can get without bending back around. :)

As to my reaction to her, I didn't know her, and don't judge her. The fact that she became friends with Ron Jeremy speaks well of her in my mind, though, as it is following the example of Christ.

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Wow. Kind of pathetic really a few of the reactions here. She may not have been the most popular person around, but death is death. Cancer is damned horrible way to go. Watch it take someone little by little sometime. A wonderful experience. :rolleyes: May she rest in peace. Finally.

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Really? Johnnie Cochran and Jerry Falwell death thread comes to mind.

One was making a living doing what he did best. The other was expressing his faith in the best way he knew how.

Neither affected my life personally. Both made mistakes surely and that is on them, not me.

I give a R.I.P. to both men.

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They were certainly the epitome of the hypocritical televangelists, but both Jim and Tammy seemed to really learn from their mistakes and come out as good people. May she rest in peace.

I actually know someone who worked at the Federal pen in Rochester, MN when Jim was serving time there, and he said that Jim was a model of decency when he was there, and really worked to help other inmates.

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Really? Johnnie Cochran and Jerry Falwell death thread comes to mind.

We have a tradition of trying to encourage those inclined towards the 'glad he/she's dead!' comments to pick another time to express that.

Just because we can't get some bonehead members to play along doesn't mean we don't try.

But I didn't realize anyone was keeping score either.

My brother was the attorney for a complaintant against the Bakers during their heydey. He thought they were a 'pretty interesting couple'. See, thats how you make an editorial comment without making an editorial comment :)

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