Tammy Faye Messner’s ribs and breastbone jutted from her neckline, the skin on her face and neck hanging in folds.
Inoperable cancer has whittled her body to a mere 65 pounds.
But the former wife of televangelist Jim Bakker appeared Thursday night on “Larry King Live,” and she was not bereft of her most striking attributes — glamorous eye makeup, bright lipstick, sparkly earrings, an unfailingly positive attitude and a vocal love of God.
Messner and her husband, Roe Messner, recently moved from Charlotte, N.C., to the Village of Loch Lloyd, just south of Kansas City.
Messner was too sick to travel for King’s show. But she and her husband fielded questions via satellite about everything from death and regrets to health and hope.
First, how is she doing?
Messner gasped when she spoke, but answered: “I’m doing pretty good, considering the circumstances, Larry.”
Why the move?
“My husband’s children and grandchildren are all within a hundred-mile range of this area,” she said. “I felt it’s his turn to be with his grandchildren and his children.”
On her condition
King: “Are you in pain?”
Messner: “All the time.”
Messner: “It’s in my back and in my tummy.”
King: “The cancer is where?”
Messner: “In my lungs.”
On her weight
King said he heard Messner had been craving a hamburger but wondered whether she’d be able to eat one.
“All I eat is chicken soup and rice pudding,” Messner said, then smiled. “But I’m looking forward to the day when I can bite into that hamburger and those fries.”
The pain makes it difficult to eat, she said, but she recently gained five pounds.
When death does come, cremation or open casket?
Cremation, Messner said. Her husband said he was OK with that — “It’s Tammy’s choice.”
A better place
“I believe when I leave this earth, because I love the Lord, I’m going straight to heaven,” Messner said. That makes death less scary, she said, although she’s concerned for the loved ones she’ll leave behind.
Leaving a legacy
One caller asked if Messner could have people remember her for one thing, what would it be?
Messner immediately laughed and said “My eyelashes!” Then, “I think people need to know that there’s great peace and joy in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior.”
One caller asked what about her life she would change if she could go back.
“I don’t think about that, Larry, because that’s just a waste of good brain space,” she said. When pressed, she called the PTL Club scandal a terrible ordeal.
Candy and flowers
Messner said her former Surreal Life castmates have been supportive in spades. They talk on the phone often and have sent plenty of flowers, cookies and candy during her illness.
What about Jim?
Messner described their relationship as good but said she hasn’t seen him, although she has spoken to his children.
A caller asked how she found it in her heart to love and accept them when other Christian contemporaries didn’t.
“When we lost everything, it was the gay people that came to my rescue,” Messner said. “And I will always love them for that.”
Favorite Bible verse for getting through hard times
Messner cited Romans 8:28: “For we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and those that are called according to His purpose.”
On her current husband
“Isn’t he cute?” Messner said, later leaning in toward Roe Messner, batting her eyelashes and praising how he gets up to help her with her medications two or three times every night.
What Tammy Faye wants everyone to know:
“I genuinely love you, I genuinely care, and I genuinely want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace, and I want you to find joy.”