Well, maybe this is what it took to really finish off the '80s.
Yet it seems, somehow, impossible to absorb. Like Sonny and Cher, Dean and Jerry -- like Ron and Nancy -- they were a team. They created a television empire together. They sang together. They shopped together, and appeared on "Nightline" together. They were Jim and Tammy. And now they're going to be Jim.
Yesterday, the world learned they're getting a divorce, and someday, Americans may be asking themselves where they were when they heard the news.
There is terrible pathos in this story, and there have been nothing but hard times since the ministry fell amid a scandal filled with sex and money. Johnny Carson made fun of them. Tammy Faye, it was said, "had an addiction to Maybelline." Things were not easy.
But they were America's couple, perhaps in more ways than America knew. We followed their PTL ministry as it paid for face lifts and air-conditioned doghouses and gold-plated faucets and the Rolls-Royce. They were a natural team, so smarmy as to be lovable, so lovable as to be smarmy. And they had magic in their prime. President Carter prayed with them; George Bush appeared with them; Ted Koppel interviewed them.
As with the divorce of anyone we know, one is tempted to take sides. Let's concede that it is tough for Tammy to live in Orlando and be reduced to a storefront ministry, and that one weeps to hear her write this explanatory letter to her supporters: "For years I have been pretending that everything is all right ... when in fact I hurt all the time. I cannot pretend anymore."
But what about Jim? In truth, he languishes in prison, perhaps for another 18 years (though he could be paroled in 1995). And what about his devotion? "Jim Bakker wants the people to know he is very sad about the divorce and loves Tammy very, very much," his lawyer James Toms told the Associated Press. "Jim doesn't want the divorce but at this point this is the only thing he can give her."
Tammy said, "I cannot pretend anymore. Pretending becomes too hard on the physical body. I have been suffering with high blood pressure, anemia, asthma, hyperventilation ... all, the doctors tell me ... related to stress and severe nervous strain."
Fine, fine. But Jim Bakker has suffered too. He was, after all, a man whose TV ministry once reached 13 million homes and took in $129 million a year and drew 6 million visitors to his Christian theme park. And now he has been working in a hospice and leading a stop-smoking class for his fellow prisoners.
In the end, we want only the best for both of them, as the '80s shut down, as the legendary televangelist and his flamboyant wife take the path of Donald and Ivana Trump, and so many others. Who can wish anything less for a couple that, according to one bodyguard, used to order $100 worth of cinnamon rolls some mornings just because they liked the smell?
It is fitting that, just a few weeks after Hillary Clinton said, "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette," the other Tammy ended the Standby Era officially.