Tammy Faye Bakker, you’ll recall, was the wife of Jim Bakker, the boyish televangelist who got busted for improperly spending millions of bucks earmarked for a Christian theme park/vacation resort. Even before the scandal, during the halcyon days of cathode Christianity (roughly the late-’70s to late-’80s), Jim and Tammy Faye were a unique presence. Unlike the kick-ass Jimmy Swaggart, the richly bogus Jerry Falwell, or their benefactor, the nervously chuckling Pat Robertson, Jim and Tammy Faye just seemed like a couple of crazy kids with a TV show, happy campers pushing a feel-good brand of salvation-lite.
If there was any indication that trouble might be brewing in this benighted paradise, it didn’t come from larcenous Jim, who was a real trouper all the way up until that day he cracked in the courthouse and tried to hide his shame from God and man by crawling under a table. No, the burgeoning seed of chaos could best be glimpsed in the increasingly erratic behavior and mushrooming eye makeup of Tammy Faye.
She’d always worn too much mascara, but that could be chalked up to a naive idea of the obligations of show biz. One needed a little glitz. But as the years passed the darkness around her eyes grew to gothic proportions and, when she cried, which was often, black lines appeared on her cheeks like her own personal prison bars.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye tells the story of this strange little woman in a fairly straightforward manner, with a little miscalculated cuteness around the edges in the form of two puppets who briefly introduce each segment in a nod to Jim and Tammy’s early Christian puppet show. The rise and fall of the Bakkers is retold, as are Tammy’s subsequent wanderings in the wilderness of former celebrityhood.
It’s an interesting story — not fascinating, just interesting — but it offers no insight into what makes the woman tick since Tammy, who speaks for herself, is clueless. Personally, I think she’s insane, but would quickly add, in the spirit of a humanistic version of the all-embracing Christianity to which she aspires, that that doesn’t make her a bad person.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Richard C. Walls writes about film and music for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.