I admit it. I used to make fun of Tammy Faye Bakker. Her excessive eye make up seemed more befitting the flamboyant Muppet Show superstar Miss Piggy than the co-host of an Evangelical Christian television show. But, as there was no room in my pagan life for even a channel stop on religious programming, her full-Kabuki face didn’t capture my attention until the highly publicized, 1989 fraud and conspiracy trial of her televangelist husband Jim Bakker. In keeping with the best of courtroom dramas, none other than a sex scandal had preceded Bakker’s trial.
Tammy stood by her man and always appeared in the news coverage, including several times when she cried on camera. I can’t recall anything she ever said. I don’t know if I even heard her words when she talked. I was too distracted by the black rivulets streaking both sides of her face and disappearing under her chin.
After the trial, I didn’t think of her again until 2006 when my sixteen-year-old son asked me if I’d ever seen the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye. I hadn’t.
“Oh, mom, you have to watch this.”
He handed me the VHS tape he’d read about on World of Wonder’s web site and rented at Blockbuster. There were her trademark eyelashes.
“What’s so great about it?”
“She was just such a good person. Her story will make you cry.”
I watched The Eyes of Tammy Faye by myself that night. Toward the end of the movie, I learned she was sharply different from other televangelists. She had a more broad-minded view regarding homosexuality. She featured people suffering from AIDS on her PTL Club (Praise the Lord) program and urged her audience to show sympathy and pray for the sick.
I admired her. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing mascara.
I’ve thought about Tammy Faye again twice recently. My son sent me a text message with a photo of a vintage 80s Tammy Faye t-shirt he finally found after years of searching. He says it’s the closest thing there is to official Tammy Faye merchandise.
And then I saw the YouTube video of the peacock spider. I refer to it as the Tammy Faye of the insect world, and I think it’s probably a very gentle spider.