The Eyes of Tammy Faye comes out today and we’re planning to mask up and go see Charlotte on film. The movie is based on a documentary with the same name that came out in 2000 and was narrated by RuPaul, drag queen and host of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The documentary starred Tammy Faye Bakker herself and her ex-husband, Jim Bakker. If you really want to dive into the story, you can rent the 2000 documentary on Amazon for less than five bucks!
The new movie, starring Jessica Chastain, was partially filmed in Charlotte. Tammy and Jim moved to Charlotte from Virginia, where they’d been involved in The 700 Club, in 1974 and lived here until the late 1980s. That same year, they started the Praise The Lord Club (PTL for short), broadcasting at one point from an abandoned furniture store. The Bakkers were already well known from their children’s show “Come On Over,” which featured puppet shows, and their involvement with the “The 700 Club” Christian talk show. With their newfound fame and success, the Bakkers created the Heritage Village, headquartered on Park Rd.
A window covered in bumper stickers from the 1970s to the 1990s that was a part of old Charlotte Observer offices is on display at the Museum. Several stickers are about the PTL Club, which frequently courted journalists for coverage. Image: Charlotte Museum of History.
Their biggest project was Christian theme park called Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The park is a core feature in the new movie. Pause the trailer at 0:55 to check out the park billboard that stood over the interstate. Heritage USA was one of the most successful attractions of its kind, with a miniature railroad, giant castle, and a water park. Millions of people each year visited Heritage USA, which put it right behind Walt Disney World and Disneyland in theme park attendance. There are still remnants of the park leftover today, including Heritage Tower which was a part of PTL Partner Center and is now used by another ministry group.
The entrance sign to Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Photo: Todd Barwick, Wikimedia Commons.
The Bakkers were a core part of Charlotte, but after scandals surrounding Jim Bakker, Heritage USA and the PTL Club faded from view. The Bakker rise (and fall) happened right in our backyard! Go check out the movie, then come see the Observer bumper sticker window to get a glimpse of what pop culture looked like when Jim and Tammy reigned.
Jim and Tammy Faye were pushed out of the PTL Club after Jim was accused of sexual assault and embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars out of charitable donations made by viewers. Jerry Falwell took over, but some weren’t happy, claiming that he only had financial interests in the program. Photo: Charlotte Museum of History.
Until next time,
Charlotte Museum of History
About The Charlotte Museum of History
The Charlotte Museum of History exists to save and share the Charlotte region’s history, helping create a better understanding of the past and inspiring dialogue about the future. The museum is the steward of the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander Rock House and homesite, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest home in Mecklenburg County. Visit charlottemuseum.org and follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The museum is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass