With the new film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye now playing in a theater near you, there is renewed interest in one of the most storied televangelists in history, a woman who seemingly never met a sequin she didn’t like, best known for her huge eyelashes, lips and hair.
And while even Jessica Chastain’s heartfelt performance portrays Tammy Faye as somewhat of a two-dimensional cartoon (in our critical opinion), there’s much more to the woman than meets the heavily mascaraed eye.
Not being content with everything we saw in the well-intentioned movie, we decided to dig deeper, consulting Wikipedia and other information sources, as well as friends and colleagues who actually knew her, to come up with some fascinating facts about Tammy Faye Bakker that may surprise you.
Check them out:
5 Fascinating Facts About Tammy Faye Bakker That May Surprise You
1. She was banned from church when she was a child
Shortly after she was born, Tammy Faye’s mother and father underwent an acrimonious divorce, which was considered scandalous in their particular religious community. When Tammy Faye’s mother remarried a local widower, they thought allowing a child of divorce to attend would distract from the spirit of the meetings, so Tammy Faye was forced to stay outside while her mother played the piano for church meetings inside. She was determined, however, and eventually found her way in.
2. She and Jim were college dropouts — for love
Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye met in 1960, when she was an impressionable 18-year-old and he was 20, at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. Their similarity of purpose and ideas helped them fall in love quickly, and they were married on April 1 (not an auspicious date) 1961. Their college had a strict policy against students marrying each other before graduation, and they were forced to dropout before receiving their diplomas.
3. The couple got their start on TV with a puppet show
While Jim and Tammy Faye started their careers as itinerant preachers, with Tammy Faye singing and playing the accordion, they soon added Tammy Faye’s perky puppetry to their program, which became wildly popular with both kids and their parents. Soon they had their own puppet ministry TV show, which aired on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). That eventually lead to the pair becoming founding members of the 700 Club, and later creating the PTL (Praise the Lord) Club, which eventually became their own network.
4. The Bakker’s Christian-Themed Amusement Park was one of the biggest in the whole USA
The PTL Club began generating $120 million annually back in the 1970s, and the Bakkers and partners used more than $200 million of PTL funds to build Heritage USA, a Christian retreat and theme park that, at the time, ranked third behind Disney World and Disneyland as one of the most popular theme parks in the US. It covered 2,300 acres and included a water park, a hotel, shops, eateries, theaters and other Christian-oriented attractions. Scandals, misappropriation of funds, the revoking of its tax-exempt status and even hurricanes lead to the facility’s closure in 1989. Today, most of the park facilities have been torn down, repurposed or are in disrepair.
5. After divorcing Jim, Tammy Faye, married the man who helped bring Jim down
Tammy Faye’s personal life, post Jim, gets complicated. She divorced Jim in 1993 while he was in prison, about the same time Roe Messner divorced his wife…hmmmm. He was the contractor who built a good portion of Tammy and Jim’s Heritage USA compound, and was also instrumental in exposing the Jessica Hawn scandal. Interestingly enough, Messner also served time in federal prison, from 1996 to 1999—for bankruptcy fraud charges. Tammy Faye had her type.
The iconic televangelista was about so much more than mascara and mellodrama. Here are 5 fascinating facts about Tammy Faye Bakker that may come as a shock.