Monday, July 23, 2007

Tammy Faye Baker Messner

They were the first religion and sex scandal that I remember. They had built a conservative evangelical empire, including a theme park, and then he cheated on her with his secretary. Much worse, he cheated on all of the people who had sent him small donations to support his ministry, and he served time in jail because of it.

Tammy Faye Baker Messner died this weekend at the age of 65. She always seemed like a bit of a caricature with her overdone makeup and a little bit of the hapless victim. She stood by Jim Baker for a few years, but as the truth emerged about his character, she finally divorced him, only to marry another man who served time in jail for similar offenses. In her last years, she appeared on "The Surreal Life", a program about passe celebrities where she hung out with a porn star.

But, underneath it, one sensed that there was a much stronger woman, and she earned my respect because in the last ten years she supported gay pride events and even co-hosted a TV program with an openly gay actor. Her obituary in the NY Times quotes her as saying, "I refuse to label people. We're all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn't make any junk."

Actually, I think Ethel Waters said the last first...but good for Tammy Faye to echo it publicly, despite sure opposition by some of her former PTL supporters. May she rest in peace.

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