Sunday, December 7, 2008

I Made Tammy Faye Cry

It wasn't very hard.

And it was one of the more memorable moments of the years spent covering the Sundance Film Festival.

The best interviews during the star-studded and over-merchandised event are often not with the beautiful people. But with the interesting people.

Fascinating folks accompany many of the documentaries and some of the narrative films. The Tuvan throat singer and his friend, the blind San Fransisco bluesman, the Baghdad lounge pianist, and the man whose parents were convicted and executed for spying for the Soviets.

And Tammy Faye.

As you might recall, Tammy and her then-husband Jim Bakker built a TV ministry empire. After a church secretary said she had an affair with Jim, Tammy went to Betty Ford and Jim went to prison and Tammy married Jim's best friend, who also went to prison.

And Tammy Faye (once Bakker, now Messner) recounted this soap opera in the hallway of a Park City condo complex.

The people who gave us "Inside Deep Throat," about the porn flick, produced a doc about Mrs. Messner and brought her along for publicity.

At the time, Sundance was headquartered at a condo/hotel where interview space was truly at a premium. So we interviewed her in the hall.

As guests carted their luggage to and fro, Tammy Faye got emotional.

I asked her about Heritage Park USA, the Bakker's Christian theme park, and tears began to flow.

Memories of PTL Club clips and SNL skits flashed before my eyes.

And a maid apprehensively pushed her cleaning cart past the camera.

Mrs. Messner turned out to be less the cartoon character with a penchant for over-emoting and over-the-top eyelashes, and more the personable and sincere woman...with big emotions and eyelashes.

She's since appeared on TV in The Surreal Life with Vanilla Ice and porn star Ron Jeremy. And she's been battling cancer. [She died in 2007, after this was posted.]

As years go by, I have a hard time recalling which actor or actress I interviewed about which movie. But I remember the promotional ice cream social hosted by Tammy Faye and drag queen RuPaul. I remember the impromptu wrestling match between Godzilla and a man in a bear suit outside the ice cream social.

And I remember the time I made Tammy Faye cry.

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