Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Tammy Faye Messner dies at home, aged 65

AP , RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA

Tammy Faye Bakker and her then-husband, TV evangelist Jim Bakker, talk to their TV audience at their PTL ministry near Fort Mill, South Carolina, on Aug. 20, 1986.

PHOTO: AP

Tammy Faye Messner, who as Tammy Faye Bakker helped her husband, Jim, build a multimillion-dollar evangelism empire and then watched it collapse in disgrace, has died. She was 65.

Messner had battled colon cancer since 1996 that more recently spread to her lungs. She died peacefully on Friday at her home near Kansas City, Missouri, said Joe Spotts, her manager and booking agent.

A family service was held on Saturday in a private cemetery, where her ashes were interred, he said.

She had frequently spoken about her medical problems, saying she hoped to be an inspiration to others.

"Don't let fear rule your life," she said. "Live one day at a time, and never be afraid."

But she told well-wishers in a note on her Web site in May that the doctors had stopped trying to treat the cancer.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King two months later, an emaciated Messner -- still wearing her trademark makeup -- said: "I believe when I leave this earth, because I love the Lord, I'm going straight to heaven."

Asked if she had any regrets, Messner said: "I don't think about it, Larry, because it's a waste of good brain space."

For many, the TV image of then-Mrs Bakker forgiving husband Jim's infidelities, tears streaking her cheeks with mascara, became a symbol for the wages of greed and hypocrisy in 1980s US.

She divorced her husband of 30 years, with whom she had two children, in 1992 while he was in prison for defrauding millions from followers of their PTL TV ministries. The letters stood for "Praise the Lord" or "People that Love."

Jim Bakker said in a statement that his ex-wife "lived her life like the song she sang, If Life Hands You a Lemon, Make Lemonade."

"She is now in Heaven with her mother and grandmother and Jesus Christ, the one who she loves and has served from childbirth," he said. "That is the comfort I can give to all who loved her."

Messner's second husband also served time in prison. She married Roe Messner, who had been the chief builder of the Bakkers' Heritage USA Christian theme park near Fort Mill, South Carolina, in 1993. In 1995, he was convicted of bankruptcy fraud and he spent about two years in prison.

Through it all, Messner kept plugging her faith and herself. She did concerts, a short-lived secular TV talk show and an inspirational videotape.

In 2004, she cooperated in the making of a documentary about her struggle with cancer, called Tammy Faye: Death Defying.

"I wanted to help people ... maybe show the inside [of the experience] and make it a little less frightening," she said.

More recently, Tammy Faye kept in the public eye via her Web site.

"I cry out to the Lord knowing that many of you are praying for me," Messner wrote in a July 16 post in which she indicated she weighed 30kg. "In spite of it all, I get dressed and go out to eat. ... I crave hamburgers and french fries with LOTS of ketchup! When I can eat that again, it will be a day of victory!"

In 2004, she appeared on the WB reality show The Surreal Life, co-starring with rapper Vanilla Ice, ex-porn star Ron Jeremy and others. She told King in 2004 that she didn't know who Jeremy was when they met and they became friends.

Messner was never charged with a crime in connection with the Bakker scandal. She said she counted the costs in other ways.

"I know what it's like to hit rock bottom," she said in promotional material for her 1996 video You Can Make It.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top