With 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' in Theaters, Tammy Sue Bakker Opens Up About Her Mom

Wednesday September 22, 2021

Tammy Sue Bakker
Tammy Sue Bakker  (Source:Facebook)

At the end of "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," (Michael Showalter's biopic of the controversial televangelist starring Jessica Chastain), one of Tammy Faye's best-known songs comes on the soundtrack. However, it is not her version, but a cover by her daughter Tammy Sue.

How it came into the film was explained by Bakker on the Today Show, who confessed she wasn't thrilled to see that the film was being made. But then she got a text from the film's star.

"I got a text one day from Jessica Chastain, and she asked me if I would like to do a song for the film," Tammy Sue said. "I had not seen the film and so I really went out on a limb to do this."

The result is "Don't Give Up (On the Brink of a Miracle)," a song her mom often performed — that the 51-year old collaborated on with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb — that will play during the movie's credits. She has called working on the song "so wonderful" and a "dream come true."

Like her mother, Tammy Sue was a singer, releasing her debut Christian album, "16," in 1986, considered "edgy and progressive for its time."

Following in her mother's musical footsteps seemed to be natural for Tammy Sue, whom her parents often joked "was born on the set of a television show," she told Today. Looking back, the famous televangelist couple could be considered the "first iteration of the Kardashians, their personal lives put on display as its own form of entertainment."

"It's funny because someone else has made that reference before," Tammy Sue said of the Kardashians comparison. "We sent out Christmas cards to all the viewers, we were on my mom's albums, on magazine covers, in books and all these things that we were doing. Our lives were very open and basically on display for the world to see."

Tammy Sue Bakker
Tammy Sue Bakker  

During Tammy Sue's childhood, her parents built the Praise The Lord Network (PTL) that at its height reached some 20 million daily viewers. They also built a Christian theme park, Heritage USA, in South Carolina. But when Jim Bakker was exposed for sexual improprieties and financial irregularities within the PTL organization, he was "convicted of fraud and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. (He ended up serving five.)," writes Today. And Tammy Sue saw her life change and her music career evaporate.

"It was literally overnight," she said. "It was gone. It was over. One day I was being played on the radio. I was traveling, singing, doing concerts, on television and starting my own show, and the next day, it was over. It literally happened that fast."

While Tammy Faye faced no legal liability in the scandal, she was vilified in the media for being the face of PTL extravagance. Her spendthrift ways came under scrutiny, as did her famous look — with her highly made-up eyes, which became fodder for late night talk show hosts and comedians.

"The makeup was a really big deal for people," Tammy Sue said. "That was just her thing ... just like Dolly, Cher, Bette, drag queens today or the Kardashians. Everybody has their own style, their own thing. It wasn't the norm for Christians, but even for the world, I don't think people knew how to accept it back then."

In the interview, she discussed her mother's struggle with cancer. Tammy Faye died in 2007 and Tammy Sue was her mother's caregiver the last two years of her life. "Despite losing her mom, she is grateful their relationship mended when it did and that they got the time together that they had," Today writes.

While she currently works for her father's "Jim Bakker Show," she categorized their relationship with a curt: "We work together."

Asked about Tammy Sue, Chastain said, "She was so lovely while I was filming." She also praised the Bakker kids (Tammy Sue's brother Jay, too), saying she's become friends with them through texting and phone conversations. Chastain had plans to meet Jay Bakker for the first time at the New York premiere, Today said. "I'm really inspired by the two of them. Their mother's legacy definitely lives on through them."

"Tammy Sue said she's seen the new 'Eyes of Tammy Faye' movie. But she'd like to see it one more time before she shares her opinion of it with the media," Today said.