How televangelist Tammy Faye Messner became a gay icon

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(CNN)Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker) was campy incarnate. With her wildly over-the-top constitution and garish animal-print ensembles, a penchant for singing Christian disco anthems contempt her deficiency of dependable training, and a consciousness of childlike wonderment with which she preached her gospel, she made for compelling TV viewing.

Though the televangelist is remembered for each of those things and much (including her archetypal husband, Jim Bakker, getting convicted for defrauding churchgoers retired of much than $150 million), what endures is the seemingly sincere emotion she had for her cheery fans.

Messner, who appeared connected TV for astir each of her big life, could travel disconnected arsenic artificial onscreen. But it was groundbreaking successful 1985, erstwhile she interviewed a gay antheral surviving with AIDS and showed him compassion (amid immoderate precise idiosyncratic questions astir her interviewee's enactment life). It was a departure from the norm to perceive a idiosyncratic successful her presumption -- fractional of an evangelical Christian mates -- enactment cheery people, particularly arsenic evangelism became progressively conservative. Messner spoke retired astir that, too.

    'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' isn't arsenic  bully  arsenic  Jessica Chastain's performance

    "I deliberation I person a batch successful communal with the cheery colonisation due to the fact that they've been made amusive of and enactment down and misunderstood and person truly had a unsmooth enactment to hoe successful life," she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel successful 2002, up of a unrecorded amusement she performed for chiefly cheery audiences. "They place with maine and I surely place with what they're inactive going through."

      Messner, who died from crab successful 2007, takes the signifier again, this clip portrayed by Jessica Chastain successful the movie "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," which shares a sanction with a 2000 documentary connected the icon. In some films, Messner's enactment for cheery radical and radical diagnosed with AIDS is amplified -- and by doing so, some films effort to redeem her memory.

      She interviewed a cheery AIDS patient

      The HIV/AIDS epidemic had hardly been discussed by the US government, fto unsocial a televangelist mates similar the Bakkers, successful the 1980s erstwhile it reached its peak. But successful 1985, Messner invited AIDS diligent and curate Steve Pieters onto her amusement to sermon his diagnosis, his religion and his sexuality.

      When speaking to Pieters, who was recovering from chemotherapy, Messner started to teardrop up implicit his parents' absorption erstwhile helium came retired arsenic gay.

      "No substance what happens to a young idiosyncratic successful their life, they're inactive your boy, they're inactive your girl," she said. "And I deliberation it's truthful important that we arsenic ma and dada emotion done anything."

      In 1985, Messner, right, interviewed Pieters astir  his AIDS diagnosis and the friends helium  mislaid  to the disease.

      After telling Pieters she wanted to "put [her] arms astir him," she went connected to inquire him astir his intersexual relationships with women and whether helium thought helium conscionable hadn't fixed women a "fair try."

      Pieters told CNN affiliate KABC helium thought Messner was "pretty savvy" successful asking what she did, adjacent though immoderate of those questions could beryllium considered violative today, since her assemblage apt didn't cognize galore cheery men oregon radical with AIDS.

      "I've had truthful galore radical archer maine implicit the years those were specified anserine questions oregon specified silly questions, but for her assemblage they were the close questions," Pieters told KABC earlier this month.

      She teared up again during the interrogation aft Pieters discussed losing his friends, asking her unrecorded assemblage and the viewers, "How bittersweet that we arsenic Christians, who are to beryllium the brackish of the earth, we who are expected to beryllium capable to emotion everyone, are acrophobic truthful severely of an AIDS diligent that we volition not spell up and enactment our limb astir them and archer them that we care?"

      In a 2002 interrogation with the LGBTQ outlet Metro Weekly, Messner said she was alert of the interaction that occurrence would person with cheery viewers.

      "I was astir apt 1 of the archetypal ever to person a cheery antheral connected my show," she said of the occurrence with Pieters. "And truthful I deliberation they retrieve that. They knew that we accepted them."

      She showed up for cheery supporters

      Following Jim Bakker's fraud condemnation and the couple's divorce, Messner grew much vocal astir supporting cheery radical arsenic a Christian, adjacent erstwhile the evangelical Christian assemblage disapproved. (It was besides astir this clip she joined Roe Messner, who besides went to situation for fraud related to the Bakkers' taxable park, and changed her past name.)

      Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, she was a regular attendee astatine Washington's Capital Pride Festival, adjacent co-judging a Tammy Faye lookalike contention with raucous resistance queen Lady Bunny. She assisted cheery advocacy groups astatine foundation events and befriended notable cheery figures similar RuPaul and the filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, and the brace yet directed the 2000 documentary astir Messner's life.

      That documentary was mostly sympathetic toward Messner and highlighted her popularity among cheery fans -- and it helped reshape the representation of Messner from a disgraced televangelist to a pillar of accepting Christianity.

      In an appearance connected "The RuPaul Show," Messner shared an casual rapport with the famed resistance queen. When asked by RuPaul what she made of comments that Messner is simply a resistance queen herself, the erstwhile televangelist smiled, made a face, past got serious.

      "I accidental everybody indispensable beryllium who they are," she said, speaking to the camera similar she did for truthful galore years connected the PTL Network. "Young people, don't ever fto anyone marque you thing that you're not."

      She called retired anti-gay Christians

      In a country successful the caller film "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," Messner (Chastain) states her enactment for cheery radical aboriginal on, years earlier she invited Pieters onto her program.

      "I don't deliberation of them arsenic homosexuals, I conscionable deliberation of them arsenic different quality beings that I love," she tells a stunned Jerry Falwell, played by Vincent D'Onofrio. "You know, we're each conscionable people, made retired of the aforesaid aged dirt. And God didn't marque immoderate junk!"

      Messner defended her enactment of cheery radical arsenic a devout Christian aboriginal successful existent life, too. She said she saw it arsenic her ngo from her God to widen her emotion to each of humanity.

      In her interrogation with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Messner said Christians had "gotten acold away" from the church's teachings of acceptance and emotion for each people.

      "[Christians] person go condemning," she said aft reasserting her emotion for her cheery fans. "It's conscionable bittersweet to maine what has happened to Christians today."

      Her enactment for cheery radical stood successful crisp opposition from evangelical leaders similar Falwell, who took implicit the Bakkers' Praise the Lord Network. In a 2000 interview, and repeatedly successful his broadcasts, helium called homosexuality "so wrong."

      The limits to Tammy Faye's enactment of cheery rights

      Messner's enactment had its limits. In 2002, NPR reported that Messner refused to talk astir governmental issues similar same-sex matrimony and said she wouldn't enactment successful Pride parades, though she often appeared astatine Pride events, wherever she'd inquire attendees to forgive those who discriminated against them.

      Randy Shulman, past a steadfast of Metro Weekly, told NPR astatine the clip that Messner's connection was muddled, and that helium suspected she didn't afloat o.k. of her cheery fans' sexuality.

      "It comes backmost to this forgiveness thing," Shulman told NPR. "If you work betwixt the lines, she's not saying to me, 'It's OK that you're gay; she's saying, 'I forgive you for being cheery and erstwhile you spell disconnected and die, it's going to beryllium betwixt you and your maker.'"

      In a 2002 interrogation that aforesaid twelvemonth with Metro Weekly, Messner was asked what proposal she would springiness to a young cheery idiosyncratic whose parents haven't accepted them.

      "Don't propulsion your gayness successful anyone's face, conscionable unrecorded your life," she told Metro Weekly. "But I besides deliberation honesty is ever the champion policy."

        It was clear, though, that Messner understood her 2nd upwind of occurrence was mostly owed to her cheery fans. In her last interview, a speech with Larry King the day earlier she died, Messner said that erstwhile she and Jim Bakker mislaid everything aft helium misused funds from the PTL Club's ministry, "it was the cheery radical that came to [her] rescue." She'd ever emotion them for that, she told King.

        Messner's designation of the LGBTQ assemblage was inactive important during her lifetime. Though helium was skeptical astir her motivations, Schulman told NPR "we could each basal to larn from" her, adding, "If you tin find it successful your bosom to emotion everybody, nary substance what their flaws, past however is that a atrocious thing?"

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