Hosting a Talk Show With Tammy Faye Bakker Was the Best Kind of Chaos

Tammy Faye Bakker’s gilded world got here crashing down in 1987. The perky cohost of The PTL Membership, a long-running Christian program that made Bakker one in all America’s most well-known evangelicals, was too intently affiliated along with her husband—Assemblies of God televangelist Jim Bakker—to evade the fraud scandal that landed him in federal jail. However Tammy Faye, along with her cartoonish make-up and Midwestern magnetism, was all the time the extra charismatic Bakker. Within the ’90s, after remarrying and altering her final title to Messner, she made a tender comeback within the type of The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Present, a daytime speak present stuffed with wacky segments like goat-milking contests.

The Jim of the title was not Messner’s incarcerated ex, however Jim J. Bullock—a comedic actor finest identified for the ABC sitcom Too Shut for Consolation, a recurring position on ALF, and the late-’80s iteration of Hollywood Squares. As her cohost, Bullock noticed Messner’s post-scandal life up shut and private in a means that few others did. Along with Jim J. & Tammy Faye, he appeared within the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a great primer for the new movie of the same title starring Jessica Chastain as Messner and Andrew Garfield as Bakker.

“Tammy was all the time an actual particular person; what you noticed is what you bought,” Bullock tells Vainness Truthful. “Her religion was the whole lot to her. She was an extremely compassionate girl and really Christlike, loving everybody. It’s onerous whenever you get right into a scenario like that that spins uncontrolled so shortly. It’s onerous to know which means is up and which means is down, and he or she by no means stated something unhealthy about Jim.”

The concept for a Messner-led collection arose when she appeared on Leeza, the NBC speak present hosted by former Leisure Tonight correspondent Leeza Gibbons. Leeza producer John Redmann had put collectively a 1994 episode that united three scandal-plagued girls of the late-Twentieth century: Messner, Gennifer Flowers, and Roxanne Pulitzer. Gibbons says she initially nervous the idea was exploitative, however as soon as Redmann satisfied Messner to take part, the others agreed too. On the finish of the episode, the trio carried out “I Will Survive” collectively.

“Seeing her in particular person was like whenever you’re a child and also you see a personality at Disneyland,” Redmann says. “You’ll be able to’t imagine that she’s an actual particular person and he or she actually exists. She was tiny however with an enormous presence. She knew learn how to flip it on, whether or not on digicam or off digicam. She was scared individuals wouldn’t like her. Each time I noticed her and hugged her, my shirts would have half her face imprinted on them as a result of she wore a lot make-up. I’d have orange bronzer and pink lipstick marks throughout.”

Gibbons describes Messner as “the quintessential speak present visitor” as a result of she was “uninhibited, susceptible, and a visible bonanza along with her eyelashes.” After the taping, Gibbons advised Messner she ought to have her personal present. Redmann urged the thought to producer Dan Weaver, who had additionally labored on Donahue and The Geraldo Rivera Present. So Weaver began to develop the venture, figuring out that Messner can be an awesome talker however not such a dependable emcee. She’d want a cohost to assist hold the published on observe. Weaver, who died in 2018, additionally determined that cohost ought to be an brazenly homosexual man—a uncommon request circa 1994. Someway, although, it made sense. Messner’s major viewers appeared to have two halves: conservatives who cherished her parables, and gays who cherished her pageantry.

Bullock was engaged on a little-seen sitcom in Canada when he received the decision from Weaver. “My honest-to-Jesus response was ‘She’s fucking loopy,’” Bullock says. “That’s actually what I stated to him, and he stated, ‘Nicely, would you meet along with her?’ I stated, ‘Oh, my God, sure, in fact.’ I didn’t know something about Tammy, however I used to tune in, like everybody else, to PTL [the Bakker-run network that aired The PTL Club] and giggle at her.”

Messner and Bullock clicked immediately, and so they quickly filmed trial runs—no fancy lighting, no wardrobe, only a digicam on a tripod and a set that Messner likened to the junkyard from Sanford and Son. “We have been simply making an attempt to be who we have been, however Regis and Kathie Lee was form of the template, and this little present known as Mike & Maty,” Bullock says. Ultimately, they shot and bought a pilot to Fox, recording a peppy theme song composed by “The Nanny Named Fran” author Ann Hampton Callaway.

By Ron Galella Assortment/Getty Pictures.

“Everybody who labored on that present, together with Tammy and myself, labored for pennies on the greenback as a result of nobody was going, ‘That is magic, that is gold,’” Bullock says. Folks have been going, ‘We’re taking an actual probability right here.’ The nice and cozy-up man [comedian Steve Moore] was making greater than Tammy and me.”

The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Present premiered on the tail end of 1995. In line with Bullock, it had a Pee-wee’s Playhouse aura. “Tammy Faye channeled Lucille Ball each time she was searching for ‘the humorous,’” producer Jan Landis says; certainly, an early episode discovered Messner shoving chocolate in her bra throughout a fondue section. (Landis additionally says Bakker was “an emotional youngster each on and off digicam and maintained a way of entitlement that she loved throughout her PTL days.”) The collection struggled to e-book A-list celebrities. When requested to call an particularly well-known visitor, Bullock cites a put up–Golden Women Estelle Getty. However there was one exception: Rosie O’Donnell, who adored Messner. O’Donnell, as Bullock remembers it, inspired the present’s micromanaging higher-ups to let Messner and Bullock be as foolish as they needed. These higher-ups, Bullock says, have been too busy doing the other, trying to reign within the hosts’ whimsy.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/09/tammy-faye-bakker-talk-show-cohost-interview | Internet hosting a Speak Present With Tammy Faye Bakker Was the Greatest Form of Chaos

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