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Why I love Jan Crouch: author and TV writer Christian McLaughlin explains his obsession with the elaborately tressed TBN evangelist.

Jan Crouch is Tammy Faye on crystal meth. You can't take your eyes off her because you cannot believe that someone who looks and sounds that much like a parody of religious TV is not only 100% real but also has inspired millions of devoted cash-tithing followers around the globe. Allow me to testify, brothers and sisters.

I was in my senior-year college apartment in Austin enjoying free cable when I stumbled across what looked like an angora kitten in drag preaching the gospel and demanding cash love-gifts. Whether it was the industrial-strength eye makeup, the cotton-candy wiglets woven together and teased into a cascading pink mane, or the helium-inflected Georgia drawl punctuated with babyish cooing and upper-register burbling, I was hooked.

However, despite her position as co-founder and first lady of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Jan stayed out of the spotlight in the early days. She was a skinny, spacey, frail little thing, dutifully supporting her windbag platypus-faced husband, Paul Crouch. But sometime in the early '90s, things changed. Paul was hit with accusations that he was into guys, even allegedly hiring a strapping African-American ex-con as his personal assistant-chauffeur. One can imagine her cornering Paul in one of TBN's Newport Beach, Calif., mansions after yet another meeting with an alleged molestee's lawyer: Jan jabs a finger into Paul's man-tit and ferociously mews, "You can chase all the black booty you like, mister, but things are gonna change around here!"

And change they did. Amid various lawsuits, payoffs, and gag orders, Jan underwent a startling metamorphosis: Suddenly her makeup thickened, her wigs became fuller and more elaborate, and she was sporting a newly tight, varnished face and an enormous bust. Plus her attitude took a turn for the sassy. On the air Jan began teasing her husband (who apparently decided to battle the gay rumors by draping his corpulent frame in hideous ultra-gay Versace knockoffs). She took to peppering her lengthy monologues with a trademark evil giggle when she let something catty or greedy slip out, and she has spent a lot of time solo-hosting Praise the Lord and the 30-minute "news" show Behind the Scenes.

Without Paul to hold her back, Jan has been free to be her daffy, devout, money-grubbing self. ("Hello-o-o! He died on the cross for you!") She rivets us with stories about Jesus raising her pet chicken from the dead. She inspires us to pledge amounts we can't possibly afford by telling us about TBN faithful who have done just that before receiving an inexplicable cash windfall via computer error or a surprise inheritance.

Jan makes us weep as she shares the story of her humanitarian endeavors in Haiti, where her Smile of a Child charity is building a children's hospital on direct orders from God after a hyena ripped off the face of a local tot who couldn't afford plastic surgery, unlike Jan. This reportage comes complete with plenty of surreal montages of Jan dispensing toys to Haitian children picture a pink-wigged Dollywood animatronic figure in platform boots cackling, "It's from Jesus!" as she presses her plum-colored lip-job to confused little black faces. Many of them seem to be saying, "Thanks. Scary Wig Lady, but I'll take my chances with the ravenous hyena."

NEED TO KNOW

Hairway to Heaven

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner:

Her do may be disappointingly restrained, but with Tammy Faye, it's all happening below the eyebrows.

Jimmy Swaggart:

In the late '80s, Sinnin' Jim's classic pompadour wasn't the only thing on him getting blown regularly.

Benny Hinn:

The ugliest mullet on Gods green earth. Hinn's hair resembles a badger slaughtered by a speeding pickup.--C.M.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SUMMER TV
Author:McLaughlin. Christian
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 5, 2005
Words:605
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