Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Shelf: Cry Me A River. Several Rivers

When I attended UC San Diego in the 1980s, my friends and I would gather at our buddy's Dan's house, across the street from the school, to watch Jim and Tammy Bakker on TV. This was, obviously, before their spectacular scandal hit. But OMG, did we ever love them! Jim and Tammy were pure, throbbing entertainment: blatantly bizarre, filled with histrionics, so unintentionally funny that segments could have been run on Saturday Night Live and been the funniest things on the show. My favorite show was "Tammy's House Party," in which Tammy would sit around her "living room" with guests and then, eventually, move to the kitchen to make some godawful trashy food. Generally you wouldn't have to wait more than 5-10 minutes for Tammy to cry, her greatest talent.

Jim and Tammy merchandise wasn't easy to come by; they weren't nearly the stars they would become later. I did find Tammy's biography, though, shown here, in a thrift shop. You can click it to see a bigger version. And it's so good! In it, Tammy talks a lot about her addiction to makeup, about how she has such low self-esteem that she would just bury her face in cosmetics. The other thing she talks about a lot is about how she cries all the time, like a never-ending saline fountain for Jesus.

I remember the guy shown on the back cover (see below), Tammy's ghost writer Cliff Dudley, was on the show a lot. Click on the picture of the back cover, please, and just admire that plaid suit! He always wore incredible suits with sensational ties. They also frequently hosted Gavin MacLeod and his Christian wife, Patti. At that point, MacLeod's Love Boat days were behind him, and nobody was hiring him, so he became a professional Christian.

Another fun part of the show was child exploitation! Jim 'n' Tammy would trot out their kids, Tammy Sue and Jay, at every opportunity. They always looked like they wanted to be somewhere –anywhere– else. I'm kind of amazed that Jay went on to become a preacher himself, as chronicled in the very, very entertaining, and even uplifting One Punk Under God reality show. He's now covered with tattoos and facial hair!

And, finally, there was singing, lots and lots of singing by Tammy. You can hear some examples here, as well as examples of their recordings for children.

I miss Tammy. She turned out to be OK, after all. If you haven't seen The Eyes of Tammy Fae, it's essential viewing. Watch delusional but kind-hearted Tammy pitch her "Tammy's Terrific Teens" television show to startled yet uninterested programming executives! See Tammy tell her makeup artists about her tattooed eyebrows! Marvel at Tammy's brave wardrobe choices!

Later, in 1987, when Jim and Tammy's PTL scandal hit, my friends and I were initially overjoyed: our favorite performers had become superstars! Quickly, however, we realized that this was NOT a good thing, because all their wonderful, wonderful shows disappeared from the airwaves. No more Tammy's House Party! *SOB*

Finally, here's the back cover:


Matthew Hubbard said...

Dudley's suit is stunning, but his metamorphosis from middle manager at a food company to head of a publishing empire is the true miracle here. Just thinking about how God blessed this man... I'm nearly in tears!

Lulu Maude said...

I'm older than you are, so when I was in college we watched Kathryn Kuhlman. "I belieeeev-uh in-uh meer-acles, becauuuuze I belieev-uh een-uh Gaawwd."

No tears, but lots of groovy speech patterns and Dino at the piano, playing cocktail-y versions of "He Touched Me," etc.

Muscato said...

PTL in its glory days was a kind of splendid alternate universe John-Waters caliber bad taste combined with insincerity so thick that Tammy could have glopped it on in place of foundation. It was matchlessly fabulous, and you're quite right that the scandal(s) just brought it all back down to earth.

Damn Jessica Hahn!

Karen Zipdrive said...

Loved Kathryn Kuhlman, but by the time the PTL Club started up, there was no cable TV and it was about the only thing that was on at 3 a.m.
I was up at 3 a.m. because I took a lot of speed back in those days, and I always thought one night Jim and Tammy Faye would catch me off guard make me succumb to fundamentalism.
Fortunately, I escaped their clutches. And the clutch of speed.

Diane Griffin said...

You were into Tammy Faye back in Tucson, I remember. I had issues with her Christian thing (a little too near & raw for me, so I couldn't really watch her in those days without being too strongly reminded of certain relatives) but now I think I'd really enjoy reading that book: I'll have to see if I can find a copy. I LOVE the back cover, especially the titles of Dudley's books. Screaming laughter ova hea.

Distributorcap said...

what ever happened to their theme park?

and jimmy swaggert?

Anonymous said...

Sweet and sour hotdogs! Tammy made em on the house party.

Fran said...

I am so late to this but I must concur- The Eyes of Tammy Faye is not negotiable! Rent! Buy! Watch!