As a pair, Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker created an evangelical empire that encompassed a Christian ministry, broadcasting community and theme park. They grew to become two of probably the most well-known televangelists in America, whose religious teachings typically appeared at odds with the extravagant way of life they led. The proven fact that their eventual fall from televised grace got here from a intercourse and monetary scandal solely served to extend the general public’s fascination with them.
The couple linked shortly and shortly bought their first tv present
Tammy Faye LaValley was born in International Falls, Minnesota, in 1942 to Pentecostal preacher mother and father. Jim Bakker was a self-described visionary and dreamer who was born in 1940 and grew up in Muskegon, Michigan. They met in 1960 as college students at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and for his or her first date, Jim invited Tammy Faye to attend church with him. In her memoir Tammy: Telling it My Way, Tammy Faye recalls Jim saying to her at the end of that date: “Tammy LaValley, I have loved you ever since the minute I saw you walk into school…” before asking her to marry him.
A year later, the newlyweds had dropped out of college to follow their shared dream of creating a ministry. As Assemblies of God traveling evangelists, Jim preached while Tammy Faye sang and played the accordion, ministering to churches across the United States. One part of their teachings involved a puppet show ministry for children, which in 1965 became a television show on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Leveraging Robertson’s admiration for the children’s program, Jim convinced him that if the puppet show was successful Jim should be given an opportunity to create a late-night Christian talk show.
Jim wanted to create “a Christian version of The Tonight Show,” John Wigger, author of PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire, told ABC News of the Bakker’s time at CBN, noting the Christian speak present was certainly one of Jim’s first large improvements in televised ministry. That first foray into speak reveals grew to become The 700 Club, nonetheless a flagship program for CBN. “It’s not listed in the bible, but my spiritual gift, my specific calling from God, is to be a television talk-show host,” Jim was quoted as saying in Spy magazine.
Jim and Tammy Faye ultimately started their very own tv community
As Jim and Tammy Faye’s public profile grew, so did their household unit. In 1970 Tammy Faye gave beginning to daughter Tammy Sue “Sissy,” and in 1975 to a son, Jamie “Jay” Charles. During the intervening years the Bakkers moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, the place Jim based the PTL (Praise the Lord) Satellite Network in 1974, adopted by the debut of The PTL Club in 1976 which continued to air till 1987. Formatted like late evening fare, this system hosted outstanding ministers speaking about present affairs, featured friends as various as Ronald Reagan and Eldridge Cleaver, and showcased common Christian recording artists.
As hosts, the Bakkers helped popularize the “prosperity gospel,” the place Christian religion is usually equated with monetary and materials success. To viewers of The PTL Club, Jim and Tammy Faye had been the embodiment of God rewarding sturdy religion with monetary blessings, and the Bakkers’ far-flung flock willingly tithed within the perception that they might obtain the identical blessings in return.
Between friends and musical interludes, a closely made-up and bewigged Tammy Faye and flashily dressed Jim inspired viewers to ship cash in return for prayers, blessings and the opportunity of reaching a life-style akin to their very own. The present’s rankings quickly vaulted greater and better and yielded even higher monetary returns.
The couple confirmed a united entrance on TV however had been privately unravelling
Tammy Faye’s effusiveness and Jim’s calm religion had been endearing, as was her unpredictability which might end in tearful outbursts about life’s struggles and successes, her personal included. Rev. Mel White, a former ghostwriter for preacher Jerry Falwell, described her appeal as mixture Martha Stewart, Dr. Joyce Brothers and Carol Burnett. “She talked about sex, and flirted with Jimmy,” White stated. “She took on the caricature of an obedient wife, and blasted it. You have never seen Pat Robertson’s wife, or Jerry Falwell’s wife. They stay at home, doing what those wives do.”
In non-public, the Bakkers had been starting to develop aside. Jim poured all his energies into constructing the PTL Network, increasing the studios and workplace buildings — which grew to become often called Heritage Village — and growing and showing on new Christian programming. Though she cohosted the community’s hottest present, Tammy Faye typically felt alone at dwelling, taking care of their younger youngsters with little or no assist from Jim.
Soon different individuals “began to notice rising tension between Jim and me,” Tammy Faye wrote in Telling it My Way. “You could feel it on the set, you could feel it when visiting our home. Jim became so preoccupied with the development of Heritage Village that there was little energy left over for deepening our relationship. While I encouraged his efforts, I began to feel more distant from him than ever.” Intimacy between the couple had turn into uncommon, in line with Tammy Faye.
Their world got here crashing down when Jim was concerned in a sexual assault scandal
In 1978, the Bakkers used $200 million of PTL funds to finance the constructing of Heritage USA, a 2,300-acre Christian-themed expertise park and residential complicated in Fort Mill, South Carolina. At the peak of its reputation Heritage USA billed itself because the nation’s third-largest theme park in attendance with an estimated 4.9 million guests a 12 months. By the mid-1980s, the couple was on the helm of a multi-million greenback evangelical empire, however their lavish way of life was drawing detractors within the mainstream media. Tammy Faye’s look and love of procuring had turn into a punchline for comics. Shopping, Tammy Faye typically publicly declared, was cheaper than a psychiatrist, and she or he said she hoped heaven would come with a shopping mall “where there’s no limit on your charge card.”
But no quantity of procuring eased the ache of the 1987 revelation that her husband had used $279,00zero of PTL cash in an try to purchase the silence of 21-year-old church secretary Jessica Hahn, who claimed Jim had sexually assaulted her in a Florida lodge room in 1980. Though Jim insisted the intercourse was consensual, his — and by affiliation Tammy Faye’s — fall from televised grace was swift.
Jim reluctantly stepped down from his place at PTL, handing management to fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell. Worse for the Bakkers was the revelation by a Charlotte Observer investigation that Jim had mismanaged funds and that PTL was leveraged to the purpose of economic collapse. According to Time, within the closing months of the Bakker period at PTL, the group was taking in $4.2 million a month and spending $7.2 million. All of the Bakkers’ luxurious properties and extreme spending was now underneath a far harsher highlight than the couple was used to, and a legal investigation into PTL’s funds was launched in June 1987.
Tammy Faye initially stood by her husband’s facet however ultimately divorced him
Publicly Tammy Faye stood by her man, even showing alongside Jim in a now notorious 1987 interview with Ted Koppel for Nightline, defending their actions. She was current as he was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one rely of conspiracy, then sentenced to 45 years in federal jail, with the sentence ultimately diminished to eight years. When Jim was discovered responsible, Tammy Faye — who was by no means indicted — appeared at a information convention and tearfully sang, “On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand.”
Three years later they divorced. Criticized for initiating the divorce whereas her husband was behind bars, Tammy Faye acknowledged in her memoir: “How cruel would it have been for me to have waited until he walked through those prison doors, happy and filled with dreams and plans for Jim and Tammy.” In a 1992 letter to her Florida church, she defined her causes behind the 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.”
A 12 months after the divorce, Tammy Faye married property developer and former household buddy Roe Messner, who had helped construct a lot of Heritage USA. Messner was convicted of chapter fraud in 1994 and served 27 months in jail. Tammy Faye remaining married to Messner till her loss of life in 2007 at age 65, following an 11-year battle with colon most cancers. Asked in 2002 if she nonetheless had a relationship together with her ex-husband, Tammy Faye replied, “Oh yes. We have a very nice relationship. I say I like being Jim Bakker’s friend and I love being Roe Messner’s wife.”
Paroled in 1994, Jim returned Christian broadcasting in 2003 with The Jim Bakker Show, co-hosting alongside his second spouse Lori, whom he married in 1998. In a statement on the time of Tammy Faye’s loss of life, Jim stated that his ex-wife “lived her life like the song she sang, ‘If Life Hands You a Lemon, Make Lemonade.’”
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