Tammy Faye Bakker Messner Dies at 65

Tammy Faye Messner died of colon cancer at her home near Kansas City, Mo. She was better known as Tammy Faye Bakker. She rose to fame when she helped first husband and televangelist Jim Bakker build the multi-million-dollar PTL (Praise the Lord) empire that collapsed in disgrace.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The family of a one-time media star gathered to remember her over the weekend. Tammy Faye Messner died on Friday of colon cancer. She was 65. In life, she was better known as Tammy Faye Bakker. She was the wife of televangelist Jim Bakker. They got their start doing a puppet show in the 1960s as part of a Christian television program.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

INSKEEP: Years later, Tammy Faye Bakker explained to Terry Gross on WHYY's FRESH AIR how those voices, those puppet voices, launched the Bakkers as broadcast missionaries.

Ms. TAMMY FAYE MESSNER (Co-Founder, PTL Club): A man came to church one day and saw us doing the puppets, and he went back and told the fledgling television station about us. The name of the man that owned it was Pat Robertson.

INSKEEP: And Pat Robertson was the one who put them on television. The Bakkers went on to fame with their own program and their organization, PTL, which stood for Praise the Lord, or People That Love. The ministry crumbled, though, in the 1980s, when Jim Bakker was revealed to have had sexual relations with church secretary Jessica Hahn. Later, he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for diverting church funds for personal use.

Tammy Faye maybe remembered most vividly for her makeup and for her eyes, eyes that were wide with false eyelashes and dark makeup that streaked down her cheeks when she cried on the air. In the years before she died of cancer, Tammy Faye once told NPR that eyes are so important. I believe eyes are the soul. I truly do.

She's dead at the age of 65.

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