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The Eyes of Tammy Faye: History vs. Hollywood


Jessica Chastain
Born: March 24, 1977
Sacramento, California, USA

Tammy Faye Bakker
Born: March 7, 1942
Birthplace: International Falls, Minnesota, USA
Death: July 20, 2007, Loch Lloyd, Missouri, USA
Bio: Talk Show Host/Singer

Andrew Garfield
Born: August 20, 1983
Los Angeles, California, USA

Jim Bakker
Born: January 2, 1940
Birthplace: Muskegon, Michigan, USA
Bio: Televangelist

Vincent D'Onofrio
Born: June 30, 1959
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA

Jerry Falwell
Born: August 11, 1933
Birthplace: Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
Death: May 15, 2007, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA (cardiac arrest)
Bio: Televangelist

Randy Havens
Born: 1977

Steve Pieters
Born: August 2, 1952
Birthplace: Andover, Massachusetts, USA
Bio: AIDS Survivor

Gabriel Olds
Born: March 24, 1972
New York, USA

Pat Robertson
Born: March 22, 1930
Birthplace: Lexington, Virginia, USA
Bio: Televangelist

Mark Wystrach
Born: December 17, 1979
Tucson, Arizona, USA

Gary Paxton
Born: May 18, 1939
Birthplace: Coffeyville, Kansas, USA
Death: July 17, 2016, Branson, Missouri, USA (complications from heart surgery and liver disease)
Bio: Record Producer/Singer and Tammy's Love Interest

Historical Accuracy (Q&A):

How did Jim and Tammy Faye meet?

The Eyes of Tammy Faye true story reveals that Jim Bakker met Tammy Faye LaValley in 1960 while they were both students at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They married the following year on April 1, 1961. In 1962, they relocated to South Carolina where they started their ministry together. At first, they embarked on a traveling ministry around the United States. Jim would preach and Tammy Faye would play the accordion and sing. -The New York Times

Did Jim and Tammy Faye find success by using puppets to explain Christianity?

Yes. As seen in the Jessica Chastain Tammy Faye movie, their use of puppets to teach Christianity was an integral part of their children's show Come On Over on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). After struggling to make it as traveling ministers, Jim and Tammy Faye had been invited to the CBN Network by its founder, Pat Robertson (portrayed in the movie by Gabriel Olds). They accepted the invitation on the condition that Jim would get to host his own nighttime show. Robertson agreed and made Jim the host of The 700 Club.

It's true that Tammy and Jim Bakker used puppets to help explain Christianity to children.

Was Jim Bakker the first permanent host of The 700 Club?

Yes. As stated above, Jim got the gig after he and Tammy were invited to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) by its founder, Pat Robertson. They agreed to work for the network on the condition that Jim be given his own nighttime show. He became the first permanent host of The 700 Club, which is still on the air today. The show gets its name from the 700 members who, during a 1966 telethon episode, Robertson said were needed to save the network financially, hoping that each member would donate $10 a month (equivalent to $86 in 2021). The 700 Club telethon is still held annually.

In conducting The Eyes of Tammy Faye fact-check, we learned that Jim Bakker was indeed fired by Robertson in 1972. Robertson stated it was over philosophical differences, but Tammy Faye said that Robertson wanted the show for himself and forced Jim out.

Did Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker have two children?

Yes. As seen in The Eyes of Tammy Faye movie, the true story confirms that the couple had two children, a girl named Tammy Sue "Sissy" Bakker, born in 1970, and a boy named Jamie Charles "Jay" Bakker, born in 1975.

Is The Eyes of Tammy Faye based on a book?

No. The Eyes of Tammy Faye movie is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Much of what unfolds in the movie is taken almost directly from the documentary.

The Jessica Chastain movie is based on The Eyes of Tammy Faye documentary released in 2000.

Were Jim and Tammy Faye pushed out of the Trinity Broadcasting Network after helping launch it?

Yes. After they were forced out of CBN, they were pivotal in getting the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) off the ground. However, once they helped attract viewers to that network, they were let go from there as well.

Did Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker launch their own TV network?

Yes. As seen in in the movie, The Eyes of Tammy Faye true story confirms that the couple launched their own network, the PTL Satellite Network, in 1974. The network's three-letter abbreviation is short for "Praise the Lord" or "People that Love." The couple hosted the network's most popular show, The PTL Club, until 1987 when allegations of sexual assault were levied against Jim Bakker by a former church secretary named Jessica Hahn. Jim left the show and stepped down as the leader of the PTL network.

Top: The real Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker are pictured on their show The PTL Club circa 1986. Bottom: Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield portray the televangelists in the Tammy Faye Bakker movie.

Was Tammy Faye a successful singer who released numerous gospel albums?

Yes. In researching the question, "How accurate is The Eyes of Tammy Faye?" we learned that she was indeed recognized for her voice, and she put out more than a dozen gospel albums. Her first, Tammy Tammy Tammy, was released in 1970 and her last album came out in 1987. Most were produced by the PTL network's own label, PTL Club Records & Tapes.

Did Tammy Faye struggle with drug addiction?

Yes. In 1987, Tammy Faye publicly admitted to being addicted to prescription drugs. She made the revelation on a prerecorded videotape that aired on the PTL Television Network. Tammy's addiction had landed her in the hospital, followed by a stay at a drug rehab center. The Bakkers came forward with the announcement after fans began to speculate as to why Tammy had been absent from the PTL network's Jim and Tammy Show-UPI

The real Tammy Faye Bakker (left) is pictured during her 1985 interview with AIDS activist Steve Pieters, who appeared on her PTL show Tammy's House Party. Jessica Chastain (right) recreates the moment in the movie.

Was Tammy Faye one of the first televangelists to defend homosexuality?

Yes. Tammy Faye openly supported the gay and lesbian community, now more commonly referred to as the LGBTQ+ community, which includes other groups. It's true that her husband Jim and other televangelists like Jerry Falwell were critical of her for doing so. Tammy's interview with Christian AIDS activist Steve Pieters on her show Tammy's House Party indeed happened in real life, and the interview in the movie is taken almost verbatim from the actual Tammy Faye Steve Pieters interview. Her obituary in The New York Times notes that she started to attend gay pride events and became an icon in the gay community, especially amongst gay men. In 1996, Tammy Faye began to co-host the short-lived talk show The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Show with openly gay actor Jim J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort, Spaceballs, ALF).

Top: Tammy Faye Bakker interviews AIDS activist Steve Pieters in 1985. Pieters was too sick at the time to make it in person. Bottom: Actress Jessica Chastain recreates the interview in the movie.

How big did Jim and Tammy Faye's PTL Network become?

While investigating The Eyes of Tammy Faye's historical accuracy, we discovered that approximately 13 million households subscribed to the PTL (Praise the Lord) Satellite Television Network at the peak of its 14-year history.

Did Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker really start a Christian theme park?

Yes. The income from the Bakker's PTL (Praise the Lord) Satellite Television Network allowed them to build the Christian theme park Heritage USA, dubbed the "Christian Disney World," on the border of North and South Carolina. The park was founded in 1978. It offered a water park, train, prayer chapel, shopping areas, rides, and more. It expanded to encompass 2,300 acres at a value in excess of $125 million. At its peak, it was the third most popular theme park in the country and received approximately six million visitors per year. Amid the controversy surrounding Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, construction halted on a 21-story hotel on the park grounds. The building still stands to this day. However, many of the other structures have been torn down. A group of townhomes now sits where the waterpark had been located.

Top: The real Heritage USA theme park billboard featuring Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. Bottom: The Heritage USA billboard in The Eyes of Tammy Faye movie.

How much wealth did Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker accumulate?

Jerry Falwell claimed that after the accountants went through the books, they discovered that Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were paid $1.9 million during their final year at PTL Ministries. Jim Bakker defended their salaries during a Ted Koppel interview on Nightline, stating that they had nothing to do with what they were paid and that they didn't take any of the millions in proceeds from their books or Tammy's records. Tammy admitted to Koppel that she loved to shop. Reporters asked about their luxurious lifestyles, including their lakefront Tegan Cay home and reports of gold-plated bathroom fixtures and an air-conditioned doghouse.

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's reported compensation from their PTL Television Network. Photo: The Charlotte Observer

It's sometimes pointed out that today's equivalent of Jim and Tammy Faye, minus the major scandal, are Joel and Victoria Osteen. While Joel Osteen has said that he takes no salary from his megachurch, he leveraged his celebrity status to write self-help books and make money in other similar ways. He had published 15 books as of 2020. Though reports of him having a yacht were false, he and his wife Victoria live in an $11 million mansion and his net worth in 2017 was estimated at approximately $60 million. He told Oprah that although he doesn't ask for money on television for his ministry, "people still send in millions of dollars to help keep the broadcast on the air." Osteen defended himself by saying that he has also given away millions of dollars.

Did sexual assault allegations lead to the collapse of Jim and Tammy's PTL empire?

Yes. In researching The Eyes of Tammy Faye true story, we learned that
in 1987, a former church secretary named Jessica Hahn came forward and claimed that Jim Bakker had sexually assaulted her in 1980 when she was 21. Hahn was secretly paid $279,000 with PTL funds to keep the allegations to herself (Charlotte Observer). It is believed that Bakker kept two sets of books for PTL in order to keep the payment a secret. Hahn has said that she doesn't exactly feel comfortable talking about the encounter in terms of rape, but she also doesn't believe it was consensual. John Wigger, author of PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Evangelical Empire, said that what she told him sounds a lot like rape. According to Hahn, she was drugged and manipulated into having sex with Jim Bakker and another pastor, John Wesley Fletcher.

Former church secretary Jessica Hahn accused Jim Bakker of sexually assaulting her in 1980.

Overnight, Jim Bakker had betrayed the trust of the PTL Network's members and shattered his image of being a devoted Christian. He turned over control of PTL to Jerry Falwell (portrayed by actor Vincent D'Onofrio in the movie), who, according to the Bakkers, pushed them out of the business they founded. Falwell asserted that Jim and Tammy Faye were no longer fit to lead.

In Jim Bakker's 1997 book, I Was Wrong, he challenged Hahn's description of the encounter, claiming that he had been "set up" and that the sex with Hahn had been consensual. Not long after she came out publicly, Jessica Hahn capitalized on her newfound fame by posing nude for Playboy three times and making guest appearances on various TV shows, including Married... with Children. Longtime fans of The Howard Stern Show will recognize Hahn as having been a frequent guest during the late 1980s through the early 2000s.

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker addressed the allegations against them during a forty-five-minute interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline on May 27, 1987.

Did Tammy Faye have a crush on country singer Gary Paxton?

Yes. The Eyes of Tammy Faye fact-check confirms that Gary Paxton had been producing Tammy Faye's albums in the late 1970s and they had been spending a lot of time together during studio recording sessions. Gary Paxton's wife, Karen, and Tammy Faye's private secretary, Linda Wilson, both said that the recording sessions could sometimes last all night. While Tammy Faye never admitted to having an affair with Gary Paxton, Karen told the Los Angeles Times that Tammy Faye was in love with her husband. "She was in love with Gary, or thought she was, and she knew I knew it." Rumors of Tammy's infatuation with Paxton reached Jim Bakker, who became jealous and banned Paxton from returning as a guest on The Jim and Tammy Show. Paxton has always maintained that there was never anything sexual between himself and Tammy. It is believed that Tammy's interest in Paxton may have sparked Jim Bakker to have his infamous sexual encounter with church secretary Jessica Hahn.

Tammy Faye Bakker reportedly had a crush on country singer Gary Paxton, who produced her albums.

Was Jim Bakker a gay man?

As Jerry Falwell was pushing Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker out of the PTL Ministries that they founded, Falwell publicly stated that he had spoken to several men who said that Jim Bakker had made sexual advances towards them. Specifically, these allegations came from former PTL Club co-host John Wesley Fletcher and PTL director Jay Babcock. The reliability of their claims was dubious, especially since Jessica Hahn had also accused Fletcher of raping her too (in addition to Jim Bakker). Under oath, Jim Bakker denied the claim that he was a gay man.

In the wake of the scandal, did Jim and Tammy Faye make a list of demands they wanted met in order to step away from the PTL Ministries?

Yes. Like in the Jessica Chastain Tammy Faye movie, Jerry Falwell publicly revealed some of the items on Jim and Tammy's "shopping list" of demands that they wanted met in order for them to step away from the PTL Ministries. The demands included a $300,000 lifetime salary for Jim and a $100,000 lifetime salary for Tammy, as well as the retention of their made and secretary. -Nightline

Was Jim Bakker sent to prison for defrauding people?

Following revelations that Jim Bakker had paid his sexual assault accuser, Jessica Hahn, $287,000 of PTL funds to silence her, along with reports of the Bakkers' luxurious lifestyles, the government launched an investigation into PTL's finances. Criminal charges were brought against Jim Bakker for defrauding PTL's donors, who believed that their money was going to be used to help spread the message of God, as well as help those suffering from substance abuse and various other ailments.

The real Jim Bakker (left) was sent to prison for defrauding PTL's donors. Andrew Garfield (right) portrays Bakker in the movie.

The true story behind The Eyes of Tammy Faye confirms that Jim Bakker received a forty-five-year jail sentence after being indicted on twenty-three counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. He appealed the ruling and his sentence was lowered to eight years. He was paroled in 1994 and returned to his work as a televangelist, a job that he still performs to this day. In fact, 20 years after he was released from prison, Bakker relaunched the PTL Network after buying back its trademark and logo. Tammy Faye was never charged with any crimes related to the scandal.

Jim Bakker found himself in hot water again in 2021 when he was ordered to pay $156,000 in restitution for claiming that his Silver Solution health supplement could cure COVID-19. He admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement agreement. -Christianity Today

When did Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker divorce?

Yes. The couple divorced in 1992, four years after Jim Bakker was indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges. The split happened while Jim was still in prison. Tammy Faye remarried, tying the knot with church/megachurch designer Roe Messner in 1993 after Messner divorced his first wife. Ironically, Messner was convicted on bankruptcy fraud charges in 1996 and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.

Tammy Faye Bakker Interviews & Related Videos

After watching the Jessica Chastain Tammy Faye Bakker movie, check out the videos below, including Tammy Faye's Steve Pieters interview and her appearance on Nightline with husband Jim Bakker during the scandal.