Throughout their glory days serving the Lord again within the Eighties, America’s hottest ‘televangelists’ Jim and Tammy Bakker didn’t let old school Christian virtues like modesty and thrift get of their means.
Let others preach that ‘blessed are the poor’. The Bakkers had been chauffeured round in a fleet of black Cadillacs, stored varied luxurious properties and ‘his-and-hers’ Rolls-Royces. For a Christmas occasion they as soon as spent $8,000 flying in truffles from Brussels.
The king and queen of the profitable spiritual broadcasting market had gold-plated fittings of their lavatory and air-conditioning of their canine kennel.
Tammy was at all times immaculately if somewhat closely made-up — her spidery eyelashes had been her ‘trademark’ — and swathed in garish, designer garments.
‘You don’t need to be dowdy to be a Christian,’ she assured the trustworthy.
The look was extra ‘Dynasty than ministry’ — and it was financed by worshippers who tuned into the Bakkers’ worldwide satellite-TV community and answered their teary-eyed appeals for money to assist them do God’s work.
As pioneers of the so-called ‘digital church’ between 1974 and 1987, their programmes had been broadcast into tens of hundreds of thousands of God-fearing properties (Brits can solely be grateful that UK tv regulators spared them that risk).
They even constructed a Christian theme park in South Carolina.
And the shiny couple weren’t remotely ashamed of their extravagant way of life. They preached a controversial variant of Pentecostal theology referred to as the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which promised believers that God would reward their religion — particularly their donations — with plentiful materials blessings.
In the end, nevertheless, it was the Bakkers’ sins of extra that might come to outline them as their empire got here crashing down in a frenzy of headlines about intercourse, medication and fraud.
It was a jaw-dropping scandal on the time, sending shockwaves world wide and embarrassing the evangelist ‘Ethical Majority’ that had introduced Ronald Reagan to energy.
Jim Bakker was first defrocked for paying off a church secretary who claimed he’d raped her and for being uncovered as a closet bisexual, after which jailed for fraud.
Tammy was by no means charged however she didn’t escape public disgrace after admitting being handled on the Betty Ford Centre for drug dependancy. She fled to her desert house in California and a lifetime sentence of being the butt of jokes on late-night TV.
And whereas Jim Bakker — now 81, nonetheless TV preaching and nonetheless making hassle (final yr he was sued for promoting a pretend coronavirus ‘treatment’) — was positively the villain of the saga, a query mark has at all times hung over his aromatic ex-wife.
How a lot did Tammy, who divorced Jim whereas he was in jail, and who died of colon most cancers aged 65 in 2007, actually learn about what was occurring?
Absolutely there was extra to her than the TV picture because the earnest, sweet-natured however finally fluffy and shallow singer and presenter — perpetually weeping tears of Christian compassion however so useless she had her eyebrows, eyeliner and lipliner tattooed on her face?
Now Hollywood is tackling that query in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, a movie with Jessica Chastain as Tammy and Anglo-American actor Andrew Garfield as Jim.
America’s hottest ‘televangelists’ Jim and Tammy Bakker didn’t let old school Christian virtues like modesty and thrift get of their means
The showbusiness world has not too long ago embraced Tammy as a homosexual icon due to her compassion for homosexuals throughout the Aids epidemic — a stance that pitted her towards different evangelicals who cited the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality.
Elton John apparently has plans to show Tammy’s rags-to-riches life right into a musical, whereas Chastain says she needed to rescue Tammy from misogynistic assaults.
Nonetheless, some critics say her portrait is simply as cartoonish and glosses over the salient concern of whether or not Tammy was as much as her pretend eyebrows in fraud.
To be truthful, Tammy hardly inspired the world to take her too significantly. In a 2000 documentary, she revealed a way of life wherein she was surrounded by large wigs, tiny canine and a kitschy assortment of dolls — and nonetheless capable of burst into tears on the slightest provocation.
Tammy was actually a girl of extremes. The star who would sooner or later personal 14 mink coats grew up the eldest of eight kids in Worldwide Falls, Minnesota, in a home with an outside toilet. She by no means wore lipstick till her marriage and would sleep with it on.
The kid of evangelists, she was ten when she discovered God, falling to her knees in a church of the Assemblies of God — a Pentecostal denomination — and talking in tongues the second she took her first sip of communion wine.
In 1960, aged 17, she went to Bible faculty the place she met a younger, charismatic Jim Bakker. They married in 1961 and travelled the U.S. as itinerant preachers, Tammy enjoying the accordion and singing whereas Jim evangelised.
After getting their TV break with a church buildings’ kids’s puppet present, in 1974 the Bakkers struck out on their very own, launching Christian speak present, The PTL (Reward The Lord or Folks That Love) Membership, from an outdated furnishings store in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It proved an enormous success with its mixture of glitzy leisure and healthful household values. Their message that God needed folks to be wealthy was precisely what many prosperous evangelicals needed to listen to.
Contributions flooded in — not simply money however mink coats and diamond rings, even deeds to property.
Whereas the wives of America’s best-known evangelist preachers typically stayed out of the limelight, residing and dressing soberly, in thrall to their husbands, Tammy broke the mould. She dyed her hair, mentioned penile implants and made jokes on air about her intercourse life with Jimmy.
In her leopard-print trouser fits and 4in spike heels, she was a contemporary American Christian lady and viewers adored her.
Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker and Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker within the upcoming movie, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
By the late Nineteen Seventies, The PTL Membership was a satellite tv for pc TV community and making $120 million a yr. Cynics remarked that ‘PTL’ really stood for ‘Move The Loot’.
The Bakkers, who had two kids, rewarded themselves by transferring right into a mansion on a 25-acre property and including a well being membership and large pool. Rolling in God’s munificence, Jim Bakker claimed that if ‘Jesus was alive immediately, he can be on TV’ and have become ever extra bold.
In 1978, they opened Heritage USA, a 2,300-acre Christian-version of Disney World. It will definitely drew 5 million guests a yr, making it the third hottest resort within the U.S. after Disney World and Disneyland.
However as he spent extra time constructing his empire, Bakker spent much less time with Tammy who consoled herself with procuring, consuming and beauty surgical procedure — liposuction and a breast enlargement was coated by PTL’s beneficiant well being plan for its prime folks.
Karen Paxton, an in depth good friend, recalled Tammy displaying off her new cleavage in a clear pink silk shirt at a motor race occasion.
‘She confirmed ’em off,’ she recalled. ‘I touched ’em they usually felt very pure. It was an incredible job.’ However not precisely godly.
Associates say Tammy at all times suffered self-doubt. ‘She mentioned Jim made her really feel ugly,’ mentioned Paxton.
As her singing profession took off, she made a string of information whilst her marriage was disintegrating and he or she was embarking on affairs.
Divorce, although, would have been business suicide on condition that they assured their flock religion and Christian counselling might type out any struggling marriage. Insiders say it turned a wedding of comfort wherein they held fingers for the cameras and drove to the studio in separate limos.
In 1987, after a protracted absence from their present spawned rumours she’d died, Tammy went on air to confess she’d been having remedy for dependancy to an anti-anxiety prescription drug that had made her see ‘demons coming at me’.
Then, days later, Jim resigned from The PTL Membership after surprising newspaper revelations that, seven years earlier, $279,000 had come out of the ministry’s coffers to repay Jessica Hahn, a church secretary who claimed Bakker and one other PTL evangelist, John Wesley Fletcher, had drugged and raped her when she was 21.
Bakker admitted they’d had a one-night stand in a Florida motel room however claimed she instigated the 15-minute encounter and he’d been ‘arrange’ by rival televangelists. She then instructed her aspect of the story to a grand jury and Playboy (additionally posing topless for the journal).
Stunning newspaper studies revealed that $279,000 had come out of the ministry’s coffers to repay Jessica Hahn (pictured), a church secretary who claimed Bakker and one other evangelist, John Wesley Fletcher, had drugged and raped her when she was 21
Ms Hahn claimed she’d idolised Bakker and he’d instructed her, a virgin, he was sexually unhappy with Tammy. Earlier than Bakker raped her, she mentioned Fletcher had reassured her: ‘You’re going to do one thing large for God.’
Bakker and Fletcher had later sniggeringly referred to her ordeal on TV, Ms Hahn claimed. ‘Jim, God actually ministered to us immediately, didn’t He?’ she quoted Fletcher as telling Bakker throughout a televised fundraiser.
‘Yeah, he actually did,’ Bakker was mentioned to have replied.
Bakker turned The PTL Membership —then making $129million a yr in donations alone — over to televangelist Jerry Falwell. Bakker supposed to step again for just a few weeks till the furore died down however Falwell had different concepts.
The founding father of the Ethical Majority that had helped propel Reagan to the White Home in 1981 was appalled by the allegations of monetary and sexual misconduct leaking from the Bakker ministry. He additionally discovered that, having borrowed closely, it was deeply in debt.
Asking Tammy for an inventory of the lavish advantages they had been accustomed to — $300,000 annual wage for Jim, guards, maids, vehicles — so he might guarantee they continued, Falwell as a substitute learn out her record on air.
‘Jim, as a lot as I really like you and pray for you, I’d be doing a disservice to God and the church at massive to mean you can come again right here now or for ever,’ he added in a tone of deep remorse. The Bakkers had been had.
PTL quickly folded beneath the burden of one other scandal. Two male PTL executives accused Jim Bakker of constructing passes at them and one other mentioned they’d had intercourse.
Austin Miles, a circus ringmaster-turned-preacher, claimed Bakker as soon as invited him to affix him in his steam room. ‘I walked in and there was Jim frolicking within the nude with three different males,’ he mentioned. ‘They had been dancing round and taking turns laying on a desk, massaging one another.’
Bakker denied all of it.
Insiders claimed wife-swapping was rife and that Bakker would go to feminine prostitutes. Once more, Bakker denied this.
It was Ms Hahn’s hush cash revelations that drew the eye of federal investigators who began wanting into whether or not Bakker and his prime aides had been fraudulently elevating and spending cash.
They made gorgeous discoveries about what the Bakkers had been claiming as tax deductions — $592,000 for a beachfront flat in Palm Seashore, $67,000 for girls’s garments and $8,000 for a single banquet.
In 1989, Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in jail on 24 fraud and conspiracy counts, after a courtroom heard he had offered twice as many timeshares at their Christian theme park resort as had been wanted to construct it (and excess of it really had capability for) and pocketed $3.4 million.
He was set free on parole after 5 years.
Many anticipated Tammy Bakker to be charged, too.
‘That was the large speak: how might she haven’t recognized? She was sporting fur coats, she was sporting rings,’ says U.S. TV journalist Suzanne Stevens.
In 1992 Tammy filed for divorce, saying: ‘For years I’ve been pretending every part is all proper, when in truth I damage on a regular basis… I can not fake any extra.’
She by no means returned to televangelism, however she nonetheless sang and preached — and confirmed she might make the identical mistake twice with males. Second husband, property developer Roe Messner, was additionally jailed for fraud.
When she might not afford mink furs and costly vehicles any extra, Tammy considerably ghoulishly began gathering the spectacles of lifeless pals and kin, typically sporting them. She actually believed, that ‘the eyes are the guts of a soul’.
What she selected to see along with her personal eyes — or extra possible selected to not see — is one other matter.