Saga of Jim and Tammy Faye won’t die

Jul 19, 2005 4:40 AM

I normally do not review television shows, but I stumbled on one last week, while imprisoned for a hospital checkup, that was so incredible that it cries for comment. You may have seen it, although I hope you were spared.

It was the venerable Larry King, interviewing a redhead with leonine mane who I first thought was Brenda Starr, the heroine of the old comic strip of the same name.

It turns out it was Jessica Hahn.

You remember Jessica, the shapely 20-year-old of 25 years ago who brought down — literally and figuratively — Jim Bakker, the pious television evangelist whose PTL ministry enrolled millions, and made him and his equally flamboyant wife Tammy Faye national celebrities.

Although the arithmetic made Jessica’s age clear, she avoided the question when asked by King, saying "I’m in my 40s." She also noted that she had breast augmentation to keep things shapely, since she figured she has two years left "before I hit the wall." And she emphasized, twice or more, that she was a church-working virgin when she and Bakker got together in a motel that fateful night.

Jessica told King that a third man, a mutual friend who had introduced her to Bakker, drugged her water that night, saying something to the effect that, "You know, Larry, how the mind knows it’s wrong but the body goes along." Then, according to her version, the third guy wanders in after Bakker leaves and claims his ransom as well, apparently as a reward for the introduction.

Jessica told how she worshipped Tammy Faye when she started working in a church at 14, listening enchanted to Tammy telling of making fudge. She went to work for her and Jim because they needed help in Florida looking after their three kids, and when King asked her, "You were a nanny?" she replied, "Yeah, a nanny."

All of this inspiring tale was joltingly interrupted when King made a remark about Jim being innocent or some such thing, and Jessica, with her deep church and nanny background, blurted, "Innocent my ass!" and then, looking in shocked horror at a companion off camera, covered her mouth in dismay at blowing her image.

She told a bizarre tale about meeting Liberace and being inspired by his playing, and how she then, without ever taking a lesson, simply sat down one day and played classical piano. Clips were shown of her playing, swaying behind the piano to the music, but strangely enough, for professional camera work, never showing her hands on the keyboard.

Her wish for the world, Jessica told King, was that everyone in it could someday enjoy — "how can I put it?" she said, — one blissful orgasm, so they can understand what true love means.

She told how she has "tried and tried and tried" to reach Tammy Faye, without success. Imagine! Tammy Faye not wanting to talk to the woman who ruined her husband’s life, and hers. Jessica seemed to have no remorse, saying she had felt sorry for Jim because Tammy Faye, according to Jessica, was having an affair with her choir director. Tit for tat.

This nighttime soap opera went on and on. Clips were shown of a younger Jessica with Hugh Hefner at his Mansion, and King bluntly asked if Jessica had slept with him. "Yes," she said, "but only once."

She confirmed that she had been paid $265,000 in hush money before the scandal was given to the press by the mutual friend — six years after it happened — but she said she had given virtually all of it back to PTL parishioners because she felt sorry they had lost everything.

There was a replay of the humiliating scene of a shattered Bakker being led, bawling like a baby, to a waiting car headed for five years in a federal clink.

Asked by King what she would like to do with the rest of her life, Jessica said her ambition was to do a talk show on satellite radio.

That’s intriguing. Who knows, like her heroine Tammy Faye, she might talk about how she makes fudge, or how she plays the piano divinely by divine inspiration.

Let me know if it happens. I’ll go back to the hospital to hear that one.