I was never interested in working with Brando or DeNiro or any other big star. But two months out of college in 1995, when I got the opportunity to PA on a new talk show pilot starring Tammy Faye, I jumped at the chance.
Tammy had magnetism about her wherever she went, and working with her was a surreal experience. Day one, when Tammy came to town, she was staying at the Oakwoods and I was the lucky one who got to pick her up and take her shopping. From the moment we stepped inside the Ralphs supermarket on Buena Vista and Victory in Burbank, she lit up the store. Between buying packs of bologna and cheese and cases of Diet Coke (her favorite), shoppers would do double-takes as she passed by. Some asked for her autograph, not believing Tammy Faye could be blessing their little neck of the woods. And everyone who saw her, whether they asked for her autograph or not, had a big smile. You just couldn’t miss that face… or her bright spirit.
Later that year, on my birthday, Tammy insisted on giving me a big surprise, even though she had traveled back home to Palm Springs. When the producer of the show called me into his office, he had Tammy on the speakerphone, her larger-than-life voice singing “Happy Birthday” to me. It was a moment I’ll always treasure.
I later became a producer on The Jim J and Tammy Faye Show, a series with a lotta brilliance, but not a lotta viewers, a show perhaps before its time. But Tammy was always delightful and made the most out of every day. At her best, Tammy’s comedic timing rivaled Lucille Ball’s; I’m reminded particularly of her facial expression on a cooking segment when she made tofu and was forced to eat it – classic TV. The staff and audience loved her, and so did I. Tammy left the show when she was diagnosed with cancer. Although I didn’t see her very much over the next few years –Tammy moved back home – we’d reunite every time she came to town. And it was always like no time had passed.
Last week, when Tammy did her final interview from Kansas City, I had my friend and Larry King producer relay to Tammy that she was in my prayers. She cried and said it meant so much to her. And it also meant a lot to me. A true talent with a heart of gold and eyes of Maybelline, she will be missed.
– Todd Radnitz, WOW producer