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LASHING OUT WITH TAMMY FAYE
Televangelist and Pop Culture Misfit, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner opens up about makeup, the PTL scandal, and receiving comfort from Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice
 

INTERVIEW BY RANDY WAAGE

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner is best known for her love of mascara and for creating the biggest Christian television network, "Praise The Lord" Ministries with her then husband Jim Bakker. In 1987 all of that changed when PTL went bankrupt, Jim went to prison, and Tammy had to find the strength to make it on her own.  

You grew up poor with 8 other siblings?

Iím the oldest. I grew up in International Falls, Minnesota. Right there on the Canadian border. It gets cold up there. Itís the coldest in the nation, but I love it!

Iím a down to Earth Girl country girl. Iíll never forget where I came from.

Are there things that you collect?

I donít collect anything except shoes & purses. I love shoes & purses. My Aunt Virginia use to call me Purse Poor. I spent so much money on purses that I didnít have any money left to put in my purse.

I make cool cigar box purses. I make all kinds of things. I make jewelry. I can make just about anything if you can do it with your hands. Iím very crafty. I love to decorate. Iím good at decorating TV studio sets and I pretty much decorate my home like Iíd do a 
set for television.

Do you have a favorite fast food restaurant?

I like Chiliís a lot and I also like Applebeeís. I love Pizza, but I donít sit in front of the Pizza Hut and eat.

Iíve read youíre into sweets & junk food.

I like Chocolate and Pizza period. Nothing else. I think everybody knows Iím a Chocoholic. I also live on Diet Coke, which isnít good. I drink about 6 a day. Maybe more. I have a diet Coke sitting somewhere all the time. Iíll drink them cold, warm, flat, and fizzy. Iíll drink them a day old. I love Diet Coke!

Why donít they make you a spokesperson for Diet Coke?

Theyíve missed out on something there. I donít know why they donít. Maybe Iím too old? I feel about 25 inside.

Do you eat vegetables?

What is a vegetable? Is Pumpkin Pie considered a vegetable? When I had cancer I changed my eating habits a lot. I began to eat more vegetables and cut out the sweets. Iíve become much more careful about how I eat. I think itís important to keep my immune system healthy so the cancer doesnít come back again.

You have a slim figure.

I do. I work on it. I keep an eye on it. If I get over a certain weight I cut back for a few days. I can easily take 5 pounds off in a week.

Youíre not taking Diuretics?

Heck no. Generally, what I take is Slim-Fast. I love Slim-Fast. I donít eat breakfast. I start everyday with Slim-Fast, which is full of vitamins. It tastes good. Of course I drink the Milk Chocolate flavor.

Maybe I should get in on that.

Itís very satisfying and if you want something really good put it in the freezer. Let it get almost frozen, but not quite. Put a little dab of cool whip on the top. Oh my gosh! Youíd think you died and went to heaven. Iíve tried other drinks and I think Slim-Fast is the best. Itís the only one Iíve been able to stomach so far. Slim-Fast gives you lots of energy and all the vitamins you need.

Whenís the first time you put on makeup?

After I went on Television. That was the first time I ever put on makeup as far as wearing lipstick and all that. My girlfriend put mascara on me when I was 16. That was all the makeup I put on until after I was married.

You were brought up in a strict environment.

I never knew anything different so I didnít think much about it. I was so happy when I found out God didnít give a heck that I wore makeup or not. He looks from the heart not on the outside. Once I finally realized that I was free.

How much do you think is too much makeup?

Thereís no such thing. Everybody ought to have the privilege to put on as much as they want.

Do you think only women should wear it?

I think drag queens have to wear it.

I noticed in the documentary, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" that Rupaul is the narrator.

He and I are good friends. He makes a more beautiful woman than any woman Iíve ever seen.

Which celebrities have a tough time with makeup?

I donít care how they wear their makeup. I donít judge anybody by their makeup. Itís not a big deal to me.

Why do you think America is so fascinated with you?

I have absolutely no idea.

You were on the 2nd season of Surreal Life.

I had fun doing that. I got thousands of e-mails. I have read every single one of them. I had an atheist e-mail me saying I donít believe in God, but Iím going to pray for you just in case. I had every kind of denomination. It was one of the most unbelievable things that has ever happen to me in my life. Every time I do a show the e-mails pour in. To me e-mail is such a delightful thing.

You became friends with everyone on the show?

Ron Jeremy just called me and I told him I was well. He said God answered my prayers. Itís so cute because Ronís a New York Jew and I told him he was right. God did answer his prayer. A couple of days ago Vanilla Ice called me up. He said Iím just checking on you to see how youíre doing. Heís an awesome young man with a tender heart.

Erik Estrada and I talk. I call and leave messages on Trishelleís machine. I just give her little momma messages you know. I tell her I love you & I hope youíre doing well. Just kind of encourage her.

There arenít certain people you donít want to associate with or talk to?

Thereís no one I wouldnít take out to eat or have in my home.

What if people have different thoughts or beliefs from yours?

I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe that we must be born again. I believe thereís such a thing as salvation. People call it religion. Itís not. Itís salvation. I believe itís something that happens between you & God that becomes a personal thing.

Do you believe in reincarnation?

Absolutely not. My bible says that doesnít happen.

We only have one shot?

After this itís all over. When weíre gone from here itís heaven or hell. Thatís what I believe.

Have you seen visions? Has an Angel talked to you?

No. I know that God guides me and directs me when I need direction & I donít know what to do. I believe God healed me of cancer along with the doctors and their knowledge. I think heís the healer and heís the reason I beat lung cancer in 5 months. The fact that people prayed for me. If I donít know what to do I just ask God. If Iím not supposed to do something he closes the door & doesnít make the opportunity available anymore.

Iíve seen times were I feel in my heart I should be doing something. The feeling wonít go away so I just go ahead and do it. I feel everyone can have God as their friend.



Are you forgiving?

I love people and God loves people. As far as Iím concerned we all have the same hurts, the same wants, the same desires, and the same needs. When Iíve gone to foreign lands theyíre the same as we are. I think the world is basically the same.

Why is it that so many people arenít forgiving?

Thereís a devil and heís alive and well. He does his job really well. I think the devil is what makes people cruel and mean. He causes people to murder and to do horrible acts to each other.

Is there a rhyme or reason to why God is so bad towards certain ministers?

Heís not bad towards anybody. Everybody goes through crap. Itís not just the poor ministers. God allows different people to go through different things to make us strong, to build our character, and to light our path.

I have a verse that I live, work, eat, sleep, and talk. Itís from Thessalonians in the bible: "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

If I know Iím walking with the Lord and trying to live a Christian life that whatever comes in my pathway that he allows it. If he allows it I can take it. Iím not going to complain about it. Who wouldnít you go through something to help a lot of people go through it? I would.


Your family was forced out of the Praise the Lord Ministries.

With all the adversity I went through I understand what itís like to lose everything. I lost my home, my car, my family, all my finances, and my reputation. Everything. I know what itís like and I know you can survive it. I know you can make it if you just stand firm. That itíll all come back.

At first the "Praise the Lord" television ministry was a great success story.

We never dreamed that could happen. We just worked hard, we loved God, we loved people, and thatís what happened. It was more surprising to us than it was to anybody.

You did your TV show for 20 years?

We did the show for almost 30 years.

When you look back on everything are you amazed at your body of work?

Itís almost like it happened to somebody else. Itís as if it didnít even happen to me.

Is it because itís been so long ago?

When I was on television I pictured some people sitting in their house and thatís whom I was talking to. I never dreamed that there were millions and millions of people out there. In fact our ratings went over Johnny Carsonís many times. I could never think that big. I never thought that much about it. We had the largest Satellite Network in the world at the time.

You were honest about the ups & downs of your relationship with Jim.

Sure I was. Jim & I went to a marriage workshop three times. The marriage workshop we created is the one we went to ourselves. We created them because we were having problems. What more can you say about that?

You set up charities to help people out.

We set up charities all over the world. Not just the United States.

You had a huge singing career with more than 40 albums. How does all that get done?

Wind me up and away I go. You get done and you make another one. They still order the albums from me. I put them on CD. I still sell lots & lots of CDís. My favorite song in the whole world is Blessed Assurance. Iíve recorded that two or three times.

You only had your salaries from PTL?

My albums alone and the books we wrote more than covered our salaries. We gave all that money back to the ministry. We never took one dime. I have three Gold records hanging on my wall. We gave all those profits back to the ministry. People donít want to know about the good stuff. If they knew the good stuff then theyíd have to realize that they believed something that was not true and people donít want to be wrong.

The media sometimes only tells one side of a story.

The media makes up their own way the story should be written and that has been very sad to me.

It must have felt at one point that PTL was getting so big that it was spinning out of your control.

It did. It got bigger than Jim & I. We were just two kids from Michigan and Minnesota. We didnít even have a year of Bible College under our belt. We didnít know how to do television. No one taught us. We just went on and did it.

PTL was eventually taken from you.

We just got an apology from one of the main men who destroyed it. I just got a long e-mail and he apologized profusely. I have gotten so many apologies itís absolutely unbelievable. This is one of the leaders of PTL that we trusted and found out later he couldnít be trusted. We didnít know that. He wrote and apologized. That meant so much to me. He asked that weíd keep it confidential, but Iím grateful that he said Iím sorry. He needed to do it for himself not me or not for us.

Jerry Falwell played a big role in the downfall of PTL.

Yea. Jerry has never said anything to me. Iíve wanted to speak to him, but he wonít speak to me.

Were your friends around when you were in need?

Very few people were around. Hardly anybody. It was an interesting study of human nature. We persevered in God. It was all God. He said Tammy you donít need people Iíll help you. Thatís what I felt God was saying to us. He made some unbelievable things happen for us during that time when I didnít know where the next house payment was going to come from. I didnít know where the next meal was coming from.

Your ex-husband Jim Bakker was sentenced to prison.

It was very sad. It was the saddest time in my life. My children too. We were all hurting more than anybody will ever know. There no way to talk about hurt like that because thereís no way to talk about the depth of hurt. Thereís no way to put it in words. The depth of hurt canít be put in words. Hurt is a feeling. Itís not something you can talk easily about. Itís an emotion. 

Was PTLís Heritage USA an amusement park?

It was more of a campground with a big waterslide in it. It was more of a ministry place. Itís still there and somebody just bought it. Theyíre opening all the buildings back up again. Their first service was last Sunday. Christians have bought it again. They reopened up the Heritage grand, which is a huge, gorgeous hotel. Theyíve opened up the upper room again which is copied from the upper room in Israel.

They do fabulous plays at our big Amphitheater. My children still love Heritage and talk about the place. Weíre all glad itís reopening again and is going to be used for the gospelís sake. Itís like a small city. Itís tons of acres. It was huge and went for miles & miles.

Youíve said Jim was a quiet, shy person.

He is a shy person. I have a high respect for him. I still think he did the best talk show that ever was. I still think he was the best one in the Christian world. Everybody has tried to copy him ever since. I donít care what they say thereís nobody that can come up to what Jim did. I have great respect for him. I wish heíd do it again. Heíd kick everybody in the butt. He still has the ability to do it. Nothing really has changed.



You still talk with your ex husband?

Yea, whenever the grandkids have something going on in school. Jim & his new wife Lori will come down. Of course my new husband Roe Messner & I will go and have lots of fun together.

What's it like to see parodies of yourself being done on TV shows like Saturday Night Live?

I laugh harder than they do. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone. I had to learn to do that. It hurt badly at first because I was hurting horrible. My little heart was broken in pieces. I prayed to die and I prayed that our whole family would die, but thank God he did not answer that prayer. Iím awful glad he didnít.


What about the "The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show" you did back in 1996?

I love Jm Bullock. He and I are like brother and sister. I had 11 different people I could have chosen for the show. Jm and I have the same wild personality. We say what we think and think what we say. We are very easy going people, but yet weíre very over the top in our own ways.

Are there celebrities youíve met or found interesting?

Iíve been on Drew Careyís show. I love Drew. I love the lady on the Golden Girls Estelle Getty who played the Grandma. She came on the show totally prepared not to like me. She said by the time the show was over, "I fell in love with you."

Now sheís very ill and I feel sad. I wish there was some way I could go and see her, but sheís too sick. Betty White went to visit her and she didnít even know Betty. Estelle is going through a hard crisis in her life right now. I love her. She was on our show three different times and I told her I thought she was the cutest little lady I ever saw in my life & how much I loved her work. I met Phyllis Diller who is an awesome woman.

Phyllis is interesting, but I wouldnít want to meet her without her makeup.

There are people I wouldíve liked to have met, but maybe Iím glad I didnít. I wish Iíd met Lucy and Liberace. Liberace and I were at the same hospital at the same time. He was dying of AIDS at the time and I had Pneumonia. I wanted to go see him, but my doctors felt that in my delicate condition it would be best that I didnít go into a sick room with anyone.

Liberace told the people who worked for him to make sure Jim and Tammy get to see my house. They called us up after I got out of the hospital and Liberace had died and they invited us over to see his house. We then went through his home. I cried because I loved Liberace. I thought he was a great, great man. He was a good human being.

I wish Iíd met Elvis too. They said he watched PTL all the time. I would have loved to have met Elvis. He was one of the neatest people. Theyíll never let him die. Elvis will never die. Heíll always be around in people's minds which is good.



What projects are you working on?

Womenís Entertainment has just bought 90 minutes of a new documentary about me. The people who did "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" did a new documentary on me. They were with me during my first Chemotherapy treatment clear on through to when I found out the great news that I was cancer free. Randy and Fenton of Worlds of Wonder produced it. Theyíve been kind people and theyíve changed my life.

These are two gay friends of yours?

Most of my friends are gay. Iím not kidding you.

Youíre a fag hag?

Most of my good buddies are gay. I like a lot of them. Many of them have stayed at the house. They come through to see me. Iíve got so many gay friends that I write to and who Iíve adopted. Iíve got one young man who Iíve unofficially adopted. He calls me mom. I try to help him through some of the things heís going through in his life right now. Iíve kind of unofficially adopted several young gay men. Iím just there for them as mom. They all call me mom. I answer to that name happily and with great humility. I preach to a lot of gay people.

Does your love of gay people alienate certain Christians?

There are a lot of Christians in the gay community too. Some of the nicest people Iíve met in my life ever are gay and my husband agrees with me.

Being gay can be tough.

I know it is and that makes me sad. Your life shouldnít be any tougher than anyone elseís. I have a special love in my heart for the gay and lesbian community. I have these two lesbian ministers that I go preach for all the time.

They have a wonderful church. Iím happy because for a long time the guys would fill my one-woman shows. Weíd have a ball together, but very seldom would the girls come. Now theyíve opened up their hearts towards me too. To me people are just people. I donít care what they do in their bedrooms. That doesnít make any difference to me.

Many Christians state homosexuality goes against their beliefs.

Thatís their beliefs, but the church is suppose to love everyone. I think itís terrible what the church has done to the gay community. We should at least agree to disagree and live in harmony. I want to be part of the church that helps bring us all together. I want to welcome the gay and lesbian community into the church. 

Didnít you meet the Senior President Bush at one time?

I met dad and mom Bush. I met president Reagan. Jim flew on Air Force One with two of presidents. He flew with Jimmy Carter and he flew with Ronald Reagan.

That is a privilege.

He felt it to be that. He felt honored to be a part of that. I met Nancy Reagan like everybody else. You line up and shake hands. With mom and dad Bush we were at some place where they live with a lot of other people. Mrs. Barbara Bush was kind to us and took a couple of us girls upstairs and showed us a rug she was making. She was very, very kind. She was very down to Earth and homey. She is a wonderful person.

Are there people that you're surprised were fans of PTL?

Rosie O Donnell said she could sing the whole PTL theme. She said I bet you canít. I said no I canít. She sang the whole theme. I couldnít sing it. She watched our show and told me I taught her how to do TV. Iíve heard a lot of people say that. Kathie Lee came and was on our television show.

Is there anybody that you donít like?

Why would I not like anybody? There are people Iíd rather not be around. Itís not that I dislike them. Itís just I donít want to be around them. Itís not because you donít like them itís because thereís certain people we enjoy more than others.

You donít have a mean bone in your body?

Iím sure I do somewhere. I can get riled up just like anybody else.

Would you like to do a variety show again?

I would like to do a show like Tammyís House Party again. It was really, really fun. There wasnít anything we didnít conquer. We went for the gusto.

I would like to do a television show. I think a lot of people think Iím too old. They give people with a lot less experience than Iíve had TV shows. I think I could do a show that would be fun. Maybe it would be too clean. I donít know. I donít know if itís because I have high morals. I wonít swear or talk about sex. I wonít do all that stuff on TV. We were a reality show before their was a reality show. We had no scripts. We were live. 

Iíd still like to work with young people today in a kidís show. I want to know what makes kids tick. I want to know whatís the difference between todayís generation and yesterdayís generation.

Is there anything about Tammy Faye weíd be surprised to know?

I love baby dolls. I love dogs & cats. I love animals more than anything. If I could I would rescue every dog from every dog pound. My ex-husband would tease me that I loved animals more than people. Thatís not true. Iíve got two dogs and two fish right now. Iíd have birds if my husband would let me. He thinks theyíre too noisy.

Is there a particular designer that you go for in your clothing style?

I love Target. I love TJ Max and I love Marshallís. Anything that says resale on it Iím heading there. I like anything thatís baggy & sags & drags. Iím kind of a gypsy at heart. 

http://www.redparty.net/pg2.htmlYou had your own line of wigs for a while?

It worked out good because I got free wigs. I have a makeup line called, "Heaven". Itís a neat makeup line that they sell in boutiques and beauty parlors. Itís got my face on it.

We worked hard to make good makeup. I wasnít going to put something out there I wouldnít use myself. Iíve got good colors and fun things. I didnít want it tested on animals.

We got our makeup line altogether and youíre not going to believe this. Someone asked about Mascara. I was in shock. It was the first time I forgot about the mascara. I didnít even think about my makeup line carrying mascara.

Mascara is your bread and butter.

Right now weíre looking for good mascara. I want something waterproof because thatís all I wear.

Is there a particular color you like?

I stick with black. I stick with LíOreal Lash out. I think black mascara looks good on everybody. I think everybody could look better accentuating their eyes a little bit. I believe the eyes are windows to the soul. I think you can tell a lot about a person from their eyes and by the way they look or donít look at you.

If you have a little bit of eye makeup and lipstick youíre ready to go. I didnít say false eyelashes. Itís important to care about yourself. I look at women who donít wear makeup and think who do they think they are that they can get by without it. Itís the insecure ones that wear it.

Would you ever leave the house without makeup?

No, never. I do it for myself. I donít do it for somebody else. I do it because I care about myself. I want to look the best I can in any situation.

It has become your trademark.

I am the queen of makeup & mascara and not one big Makeup Company has asked me to be their spokesperson. Even if they did it to make fun of me it would sell their makeup for them.

Youíd be okay with that if they made fun of you?

Oh sureÖheck yes. I make fun of myself more than anybody makes fun of me.

Is there a particular way women should apply makeup?

Lots of it! I honestly donít wear as much as I claim to. I really donít.

You want it to look natural?

I donít like anything natural. I donít like natural. No, I donít!

You want people to know youíre wearing makeup?

I think if youíre going to wear makeup people ought to know youíre wearing it.

You have a couple of different styles.

I get bored easily. When I get bored I change. Iím a blonde again. Iíve been a redhead for years.

Do blondes have more fun?

Definitely. Iíll tell you redheads have lots of fun too.


When you were growing up was there someone you had a retroCRUSH on?

I loved John Wayne. He has always been a hero to me as far as a man. He was a Marlboro man.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want people to know that I lived what I ministered. I walked my talk. I look up to Billy Graham because he walked his talk.

He was the one guy who visited Jim in Prison?

He was there when Jim got out of Prison. Billy invited Jim up to his house and was kind to him. They gave him a wallet because he didnít even have a wallet out of prison. He didnít have anything and Graham helped him up. Billy Graham is my hero. I think he is a modern day hero of believing what you preach.

If that can be on my tombstone, "She walked her talk" then I will be a happy person.

-Randy Waage
randy@retrocrush.com


Find out more about Tammy check out her website at www.tammyfaye.com

If you get the chance rent or buy the great documentary about her life & the PTL ministries called, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye

You can also watch for Tammy in repeats of the 2nd season of The Surreal Life. 

For the die hard fans of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner you can listen to the entire interview in 4 sections: Tammy1, Tammy2, Tammy3, Tammy4

Thanks again Tammy for the interview. Quite a few of Tammy's songs are catchy and I would love to hear a few of them remixed into dance mixes. Come on homo DJ's help us out!

CLICK HERE for a special retroCRUSH Greeting from Tammy Faye

 

 

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