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The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Lions Gate Films
Directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey

Just when everyone thought Tammy Faye Bakker had already used up more than a lifetime's allotment of surprising about-faces, she has returned to the limelight. In January she was feted at the Sundance Film Festival, where The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a documentary about her trials and tribulations, premiered to a wildly enthusiastic reception. The film opened on the coasts in July, generating coverage in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

All of this publicity will undoubtedly help Tammy Faye in her latest business venture: selling bath oils and beauty supplies on the Internet. Even more surprising, it reveals that Tammy Faye, following in the footsteps of Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Cher, has become an unofficial icon for homosexual men.

From puppets to PTL

Born Tammy Faye LaValley and raised in a strict Assemblies of God family that, according to her brother, "almost scared her into staying close to God," she learned to avoid worldly sins like makeup and television. She developed a lasting addiction to both after marrying a young preacher named Jim Bakker. Pat Robertson asked the couple if they would perform their popular puppet show on his fledgling Christian Broadcasting Network. They did, sticking around to create and host The 700 Club, the world's first Christian talk show. When Robertson claimed the show for himself, the Bakkers fled to southern California, where they helped Paul Crouch found Trinity Broadcasting Network. But that relationship went sour too.

Setting up shop in an abandoned furniture store in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Bakkers launched their own network, PTL (Praise the Lord), in 1974. Three years ...

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