THE WEDDING WAS TO START AT 3 P.M.; the bride and groom showed up at 4. Then, while 50 guests waited patiently, the couple posed for pictures. Finally, at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, in a private room at the Lake Mirage Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., strains of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” sounded, and Tammy Faye Bakker walked down the aisle for the second time.
The entire production, one guest says, was “pure Tammy.” Her dress was an antique white-lace-hankie-hemmed gown with ruffles cascading from knee lo ankle. The room where she and former Jim Bakker associate Roe Messner, 58, exchanged vows was decorated for the event with hurricane lanterns and artificial flowers. At the outdoor reception afterward, guests (who did not include Bakker’s two children, Tammy Sue Chapman, 23, and Jamie Charles Bakker, 17, or Messner’s four) dined on chicken wings and meat-and-cheese platters bought from the deli department of a local grocery store. The punch was nonalcoholic, of course, though that did not slop Messner from accidentally dropping a piece of icing down the front of his bride’s dress during the traditional feeding of the wedding cake. Entertainment included Tammy singing “Jesus Loves Me.” (Before launching into the hymn, Tammy, who a friend says stopped gospel singing during “the ordeal” with Jim. told guests she started up again after “Roe told me he loved me.”)
But if some of the touches were a bit low rent, it couldn’t have been for lack of money. The couple reportedly sold the TV rights to the wedding to A Current Affair for $100,000 and pocketed another $75,000 for print rights from the tabloid The Globe. Both buyers went all out to protect their investment. “When the bride and groom arrived in a white Rolls-Royce, Current Affair reporter Steve Dunleavy tossed a cloth over the bride and further shielded her from view with a red-and-while umbrella. Guests were checked for cameras and tape recorders.
And if Bakker, 51, batted her famous lashes at the groom, only he and the man who performed the ceremony, Messner’s spiritual adviser, Wichita minister Bill Gebrosky, could tell. Her face was obscured by a white, wide-brimmed hat adorned with a glittering feather. Roe Messner, who has made a multimillion-dollar fortune building churches all over the world, became a devoted follower of Jim Bakker’s PTL (Praise the Lord) ministry after they met at a 1983 religious trade show. The two men were once so close that they sealed business deals with a handshake. In 1985, Messner even lent Jim Bakker $265,000 in an ill-fated attempt to stop Jessica Hahn from revealing Jim’s sexual escapades.
In 1989, when Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison for defrauding his congregation of $150 million (his sentence has since been reduced to eight years, and he will be eligible for parole next October), he naturally turned to his best friend and asked him to look after his family.
But in March 1992, not long after Jim Bakker’s first application for parole was turned down, Tammy Faye filed for divorce and moved to a two-bedroom lake front condo on the grounds of the Lake Mirage Country Club. At around the same time, Messner’s own marriage was collapsing, and during an argument he told his wife of 36 years, Ruth Ann, who had gone back to school to get a master’s degree in English, “If I do many Tammy Faye, she will be a housewife.”
That new role seems to suit Tammy Faye. “Tammy sees stability in Roe,” says Don Hardister, a close friend. “She’s ready to start a new life with a different sort of person.” Jim Bakker, now in a minimum-security work camp in Jessup, Ga., is resigned to the idea. “He knew I wouldn’t stay single forever,” said Tammy before her wedding, adding that her ex had recently written “to wish me and Roe well.”
When they return from their Hawaiian honeymoon, the Messners will continue their idyllic life in Rancho Mirage. Roe, an amateur golf champion, has been teaching Tammy Faye the sport. The couple are talking about starting a new church in nearby Indio, Calif., which he will build and she will run, but for now at least it looks like Messner has found his old-fashioned girl. “She intends to support her husband the way she stood by Jim,” says Hardister without irony. “Whatever Roe decides to do, Tammy will be behind him.”
LINDA MARX in Miami, LUCHINA FISHER in Chicago and L.A. bureau reports