Tamara "Tammy" Faye Messner (born March 7, 1942) is an American Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. She is the former wife of televangelist, and later convicted felon, Jim Bakker, and she co-hosted with him on The PTL Club, from 1976 to 1987. She is known for her tendency to wear heavy makeup, particularly mascara and false eyelashes; for The PTL Club; and her former husband's infidelity (see Jessica Hahn) and financial scandals. More recently, she is well-known for her appearance on the highly rated reality show, The Surreal Life, as a participant in 2004, and more recently is under hospice care for metastatic colon cancer.
The eldest of eight children, Bakker was born Tamara Faye LaValley in International Falls, Minnesota to Pentecostal preachers Carl and Rachel Fairchild LaValley. Tammy Faye's background includes Canadian ancestry, as LaVallee, Ontario is located near her hometown of International Falls on the Canadian side of the Rainy River. Her parents were married in 1941, just one year before Tammy Faye was born. Shortly after she was born, a painful divorce soured her mother against other ministers, alienating her mother from the church. After the divorce, Tammy Faye continued living in a strict atmosphere with her mother and brother. When she was six years old, in 1948, her mother married Fred Grover, who worked in the paper mills. Her stepfather's salary increased their income, but also added four children to the household.
As a child in the 1950s, she helped her mother with household chores and babysat her younger siblings. Despite all this, she was often spoiled by her favorite aunt, Virginia Fairchild, who was a retired department store manager. She attended her aunt's church in 1952.
When she was accompanied by a friend to the Assemblies of God church, at age 10, she said she felt the glow of God's love and wanted to call herself upon the Lord. Her entire family gathered around her for celebrations, particularly Christmas, which is her favorite holiday. In 1956, she started spending summers at Bible camp and was voted "Queen." That same year, she attended Falls High School where she sang in the choir. Also that same year, she got an after-school job working at Woolworth's Department Store, the same store in which her aunt had previously worked. She was not allowed to attend any school dances, baseball games, or even the movies, as her church wouldn't allow it. Before she graduated in 1960, her mother suggested that Tammy Faye would become a minister.
After being dismissed from North Central University along with her then-husband (former high school disc jockey) Jim Bakker in early 1961, Tammy Faye worked in a boutique shop for a time while Jim found work in a restaurant inside a department store in Minneapolis. The following year, they moved to North Carolina, where they began their own ministry.
Jim and Tammy Bakker had been involved with television from their departure from Minneapolis, until they moved to the Charlotte area, via Portsmouth, Virginia, where they were founding members of the 700 Club. While in Portsmouth, they were hosts of the popular childrens's show "Jim and Tammy." They then created a puppet ministry for children on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) from 1964 to 1973, and co-founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network with personal friends Paul and Jan Crouch in California. Jim and Tammy founded the PTL Club in the mid-1970s.
During the PTL shows, she provided a sentimental touch to stories and loved to sing. In a move that sharply distinguished her from other televangelists, she showed a more tolerant attitude when it came to homosexuals, and she featured people living with AIDS on PTL, urging her viewers to follow Christ and show sympathy and pray for the sick.
The PTL empire continued to grow under the Bakkers' leadership, but the concern about their opulent lifestyle grew as media reports of an air-conditioned dog house at their Tega Cay, South Carolina lakefront parsonage as well as gold-plated bathroom fixtures dominated newscasts in the 1980s. The Bakkers' home, owned by the ministry, was actually an older home built in the early 1970s and it was a few miles away from Heritage USA. Jim Bakker stated that the much-talked-about dog house was heated with an old heater to keep the dogs warm in the winter and the reported gold-plated fixtures were actually brass. The home was later sold by the ministry and burned to the ground not long thereafter. Jim Bakker wrote in his book I Was Wrong that he watched the home burn on live television while incarcerated.
Worthy of note is the Epilogue from the publishers of this book is the following:
"On July 22, 1996, shortly after Jim Bakker had completed the writing of this book, a federal jury ruled that PTL was not selling securities by offering Lifetime Partnerships at Heritage USA. The jury's ruling thus affirms what Jim Bakker has contended from the first day he was indicted and throughout this volume."
However, due to Jim Bakker's resignation from the ministry after an affair with Jessica Hahn became public, as well as investigative reporters from the Charlotte Observer reporting on PTL's finances and management, PTL went bankrupt after being taken over by controversial Lynchburg, Virginia-based Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell, who offered to step in following the scandals in 1988. It was widely reported that Falwell's interest in PTL and Heritage USA was solely an attempt to gain control of its profitable cable television network; something which Falwell was unsuccessful in establishing for his own ministry despite numerous requests to the FCC for permission to obtain a satellite license.
Long before Falwell's death in 2007, Tammy Faye forgave him for the way he behaved.
In 1993, Tammy Faye married former Heritage USA contractor and church builder Roe Messner. She now uses the name Tammy Faye Messner and resides in the Charlotte, North Carolina suburb of Matthews. Her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer years ago, but has chosen not to seek traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments in favor of a "watchful waiting" approach. In 1996, she co-hosted another TV talk show entitled The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show, with Jim J. Bullock, an HIV-positive and openly gay actor. The syndicated show ended when Tammy chose to leave after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
In recent years, she was the subject of a documentary film entitled The Eyes of Tammy Faye (1999) and a follow up film entitled Tammy Faye: Death Defying (2004) from Lions Gate Films. She has also appeared on The Drew Carey Show, playing the mother of character Mimi Bobek (Kathy Kinney), who was also known for wearing excessive amounts of makeup. In 2005, she appeared in an infomercial for controversial medicinal advice author Kevin Trudeau, an appearance she later admitted that she regretted.
In late June 2007, Tammy Faye told Entertainment Tonight Roe was building her a "dream house" in Kansas City, Missouri, and the couple would move from North Carolina to Missouri to be closer to Roe's children and grandchildren, who live in Wichita.
In early 2004, she appeared on the second season of the VH1 reality television series, The Surreal Life. The show chronicled a twelve-day period when she, porn star Ron Jeremy, rapper Vanilla Ice, Baywatch actress Traci Bingham, CHiPs actor Erik Estrada and Trishelle Cannatella from The Real World: Las Vegas all lived together in a Los Angeles house and were assigned various bizarre tasks and activities.
Together, the six put on a children's play, visited a nudist resort (without her), managed a restaurant for a day, and got readings from a psychic (also without her). During the taping, she forged close bonds with all of the other six house mates, many of whom came to look up to her as a mother figure and a spiritual inspiration.
She also attended a book signing for her recent best-seller, I Will Survive... And You Will Too.
She made an impassioned plea for all people to grant themselves permission to cast off the things that are holding them back, to forgive themselves and others, to be happy with themselves whoever they are, to persevere in the face of opposition, and to show each other unconditional love. Her speech moved the four roommates who were present (Jeremy stayed home) to tears; Bingham later confessed that it had been a life-altering moment for her.
At the end of the show, Messner said she thought of Vanilla Ice and Trishelle Cannatella as children and could relate to them deeply because she had had similar feelings and problems when she had been their age.
Tammy Faye first battled with cancer in March of 1996, when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She successfully treated the cancer and it went into remission by the end of that year.
On March 19, 2004, just 2 weeks after her 62nd birthday, Tammy Faye made an emotional appearance on Larry King Live and announced that she had inoperable lung cancer and would soon begin chemotherapy. She continued chemotherapy throughout mid-2004. Then, on November 30, 2004, also on Larry King Live, she announced that she was cancer free once again. She described details of her chemotherapy and continued to appear regularly on King's show. It was on his program again that she announced, on July 20, 2005, that her cancer had returned.
On March 13, 2006, just six days after her 64th birthday, she appeared again on Larry King Live and stated that she was continuing to suffer from lung cancer, which had reached stage 4, and was continuing treatment for it. She also mentioned having difficulty swallowing food, suffering panic attacks, and substantial weight loss. As Messner's health continued to worsen, a "Talk of the Town" article in the October 2, 2006 issue of The New Yorker stated that she was dying in hospice care, and a December 10, 2006 article in Walter Scott's column in Parade reported her son Jay was "at a North Carolina hospice with his mom, [who is] gravely ill with colon cancer".
Tammy Faye was a guest by phone on Larry King Live on December 15, 2006 and stated that she was receiving hospice care in her home.  Tammy Faye appeared in her son Jay's documentary series, One Punk Under God, where she and Jay talked about her cancer treatments. In one episode, Tammy Faye required the use of oxygen in order to talk.
On May 8, 2007, she issued a statement on her website saying that all treatments to cure her cancer had stopped, but urged her fans to continue to pray for her.  The story was reported on NBC's The Today Show on May 11, and a feature in which fans and well-wishers could post get-well messages to Tammy was added to her website. As of July 2007, over 228 pages of wishes have been received.
On July 19, 2007 she was the interview subject on CNN's Larry King Live where she looked dramatically thinner, weighing only a mere 65 pounds.
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Internal Revenue Service still holds Bakker and Roe Messner, her husband since 1993, liable for personal income taxes owed from the 1980s when they were building the Praise The Lord empire, taxes assessed after the IRS revoked the PTL ministry's nonprofit status.
Messner said Jim Bakker and his former wife didn't want to talk about the tax issues: "We don't want to stir the pot." He also said that the original tax amount was about $500,000, with penalties and interest accounting for the rest. The notices reinstating the liens list "James O. and Tamara F. Bakker" as owing $3 million, which liens the Bakkers must still pay.
Tammy Faye has developed a devoted fan base in the gay and specifically drag queen communities. A drag entertainer dubbed Tammy Faye Sinclair performs in the West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky areas. Canadian writer Margaret Atwood allegedly based her character 'Serena Joy' in her 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale loosely on Tammy Faye. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker are referred to in Frank Zappa's song, Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk, from the Broadway the Hard Way tour of 1988, and released post-PTL scandal in 1989. Zappa's song lampoons and castigates evangelical television ministries of that era, and The PTL Club was a prime target.
Likewise, the cover of the original 500 homemade copies of "The P.M.R.C. Can Suck on This!", a 1986 anti-censorship (see Parents Music Resource Center and Tipper Gore) commentary by punk band NOFX, had a black and white photo of Tammy and Jim Bakker superimposed into a sexual position. This picture was eventually changed to a picture of band member Eric Melvin, when the EP was later repressed on Fat Wreck Chords.
In 2005 she was honored by Lancaster, South Carolina with a Tammy Faye Day on April 21, 2005. In June 2006, a stage musical entitled The Gospel According to Tammy Faye opened at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, and is currently being developed for a larger professional production. The show features songs by J.T. Buck and a book by Fernando Dovalina. The musical is described as a fantasia which takes a balanced and fair look at its subject. The impetus for the show was provided by a lengthy interview Messner gave the authors in March 2005. The musical appeared in August 2006 Portland, Oregon, and Hood River, Oregon. "Gospel" is currently being prepared for a full staging at Houston's Alley Theatre at the end of July, 2007, under the direction of Les R. Wood.
Another musical following the life of Tammy Faye, entitled Big Tent, is currently being developed for a debut in the summer of 2007 in New York City. The show features music and lyrics by Ben Cohn Sean McDaniel, a book by Jeffery Self, and direction by Ryan J. Davis. A concert production occurred on May 23rd at NYC's New World Stages.
In the movie Saved!, the character Hillary Faye (played by Mandy Moore) is partly named after Tammy Faye.
Tammy and Roe lived in a suburb of Charlotte, but have relocated in July 2007 to a suburb of Roe's hometown of Kansas City, the Village of Loch Lloyd, Missouri. One of their Matthews neighbors was Christian recording star David L Cook. Jim and Tammy Bakker were married from 1961 until 1992. They met as students at North Central University in Minneapolis. She was featured on Larry King July 19th 2007, to tell everyone what she is going through. She is 63 years old and weighs 65 pounds. She asked for prayers for her to be healthy, stable, to keep her food down, and to be able to eat a nice hamburger, french fries and ketchup again. They have two children:
* daughter, Tammy Sue (Sissy) Bakker Chapman (b. March 2, 1970, who is mother to James and Jonathan)
* son Jamie Charles (Jay) Bakker (b. December 18, 1975; married to Amanda Bakker).