She burst on the national scene as Tammy Faye Bakker, later changing her name to Messner after remarriage. Some saw Tammy Faye as a trusted friend in faith - others saw her as a punchline, but her undeniable spirit turned many critics into admirers as Tammy Faye battled one tragedy after another.
When Tammy Faye was little, she prayed, “Dear God, please don’t let my life be boring,” and nothing about Tammy Faye ever was.
With her trademark heavy mascara, and her show, the PTL Club, she and her husband Kim Bakker were royalty among T.V. evangelists in the 1980s - but their kingdom collapsed when Jim went to jail for fraud. She divorced Jim and married his business partner, though he also went to jail.
She became a gay icon - one of T.V.’s first evangelicals to reach out to people wih AIDS. Her T.V. career was reborn on the reality series the Surreal Life and in the end, even when cancer whittled her down to just 65 pounds, she never stopped smiling.
Tammy Faye Messner died on July 20, 2007, at her home near Kansas City, Mo., at the age of 65. A private funeral has already taken place.