Tammy Faye Messner died on Friday after a long struggle with cancer. 48 hours earlier she had taped a final interview with Larry King, looking terribly gaunt (video) and saying her weight had dropped to 65 pounds.
The media remembrances of Tammy Faye have been a bit unusual. She was often a figure of fun and scorn back in the 1980s, when her first husband, televangelist Jim Bakker, was proving that power corrupts, and Tammy Faye was known for absurdly thick mascara that would run whenever she cried.
In death she seems widely and openly beloved. The Washington Post says, with an apparently straight face, that she looks like an angel now. The Denver Post says she “fought off fear” and inspired others. Adult film star Ron Jeremy, with whom she appeared on The Surreal Life, said “God rest her soul” on his Myspace page. Even the left-leaning website The Huffington Post had good words.
Perhaps Tammy Faye’s most improbable role was gay rights icon. Somewhere along the line she was embraced by many gay men as a favorite camp figure; she embraced them in return, mostly minus the camp, and became a leading evangelical supporter of gay rights. Her pronouncement on the subject, as quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald: “I refuse to label people. We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn’t make any junk.”