Vol. 2, Issue #14 August 3rd - August 16th, 2007

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Tammy Faye in Perspective

With the recent death of Tammy Faye Baker, and the “Don’t Cry for Me, Heritage Village U.S.A.” swan song sang on “Larry King Live” by her mummified skeleton, there has been this outpouring of emotion toward one of the most controversial figures in our nation’s recent history. As a modern recording artist who received gold records – although god only knows who bought them – Tammy Faye is fair game for the Tiger Beat From Hell treatment.

In the mid-1980s televangelism got intense. The explosion of cable, satellite, and UHF stations created a logjam of preachers needing money, and each one got more out of hand in their strong-arm techniques than the last one. The rock crowd was definitely behind the late Dr. Gene Scott, a bearded, black leather jacketed cowboy, complete with Stetson and cigar, who was more of a performance artist than a minister. Scott had been involved with Oral Roberts University and obviously figured out how the game worked, so he started his own ministry in Los Angeles. While the concept was to have a ministry of love, and he only wanted money if you learned something from his show, Scott would blow his cool every time bills were due and would cuss out his TV audience.

Oklahoma’s own Oral Roberts was still in the mix back then. At one point he perched himself in his prayer tower (the building on his Tulsa campus that looks like a gaudy lamp without a shade) and claimed that God was going to “call him home” if he didn’t raise enough money to keep his overblown ministry together. Luckily for Oral, in the eleventh hour before his execution, a man with a dog-racing track paid him off.

There was Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Lee Lewis’s tongue talking, hellfire and brimstone cousin, who insisted that rock’n’roll was the devil’s music and that pornography was an addiction that caused people to ruin their lives. Swaggart initially broke the story about Jim Baker’s scandal, but it latter turned out that he was getting’ his freak on with a prostitute in 1988, which ultimately crippled his ministry, and then he was caught with a second prostitute in 1991.

However, the king and queen of all of this nonsense were Jim and Tammy Baker. Tammy was on pills and basically had a nervous breakdown daily on television. Jim was bilking little old ladies out of their fixed income to build a monstrous, 2300-acre, Jesus theme park, Heritage Village U.S.A. While the scandal that torn their ministry apart was triggered by Jim’s attempt to cover-up an affair with, or rape of, a church secretary, Jessica Hahn - she claimed she was drugged and Jim had sex with her lifeless body – it was the bilking that brought them down. Baker was selling “shares” in the amusement park, where if you gave $1000, you would be assured a room in the park for four days for your vacation every year. The problem was that he was so over-budget that he had to keep building rooms to the point that mathematically he would never have enough rooms to house all 165,000 people, who gave him money, and their families for four days. After the dust settled each of these people received a $165 refund. During the park’s run Jim and Tammy Faye were paid $200,000 per year, plus $4 million in bonuses, including houses, cars, and jets.

When all of this was going on it was impossible to take your eyes off of the TV; finally there was an entertainment factor to all of this televangelism that was taking up so much of the airwaves. Tammy Faye was always the best show in town. Between her horrible productions where she would sing bizarre songs about Jesus (I remember one where she was in faux Hawaiian garb) and the complete emotional breakdowns by the end of the show, Tammy was an E-ticket of shameless self-promotion. A lot of people act like she was innocent of the crimes her husband was pulling off – RIGHT! And Eva Braun killed herself along with Hitler because the superficial bitch was so in love with the asshole. As Tammy Faye was flying her clothes across country, going on spending sprees, and air-conditioning their doghouse, you know she had to realize that all of that money was coming from the little old ladies who thought she was so sweet – and she had no problem playing the part for them.

The only saving grace about Tammy Faye was that she became concerned with AIDS and homosexuals long before it was fashionable in the Christian world, but that hardly counterbalanced all of the trouble and heartache she had caused everyone else... and she was nice to Ron Jeremy in “The Surreal Life.”

The Baker Empire fell apart when they gave it over to the late Jerry Falwell for safekeeping, which was like putting the wolf in charge of the sheep. Falwell attempted a hostile takeover, but the whole thing was in such a financial crisis that it was eventually abandoned. While Jim Baker was in prison, Tammy Faye married Roe Messner, who also ended up in prison for 27 months due to bankruptcy fraud charges. Of course, once again, Tammy Faye was “innocent,” and “oblivious” to the whole thing.

As a singer, Tammy Faye is already forgotten; only the people who are lost in the ultra-cheesy world of bad music collect her albums. However as a pop culture figure, she was a true original who will not be topped for a long time - no matter how long her old friend, Jan Crouch, lives. Americans have a plague of ADD when it comes to people suffering, and Tammy Faye, who lived on television, used her appearance on Larry King to die on television. In the end it was a simple act of grotesque exhibitionism that she knew would seal her legend as someone “heroically” battling cancer.

When I saw Tammy Faye’s last appearance on “The Larry King Show,” I was horrified, like everyone else, at how ravaged her body had become by cancer. It’s hard not to see anyone in such a condition and not feel sorry for them, but at the same time I just kept thinking “If there is a god, he must hate Tammy Faye with a passion.”


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