Jim and Tammy Bakker’s Christmas Parade (1986)

Jim Bakker — Lord of Buckets, master of the incoming apocalypse — hosts a Christmas parade on his now defunct televisual program with his now divorced wife. Get ready for the night of your life.

If you want to watch it before reading the interview, you can do so here

Or, you can watch my condensed, edited version here

To keep up my holiday spirit, I sat down with St. Arnold’s Ye Olde Christmas Ale to endure this cringy Christmas parade. Yes, I know IT is not technically Christmas, but it’s my favorite story of all time, so (in my opinion) it transcends and embraces all holidays. (There’s no point in me telling you this, but I liked the picture I took and didn’t want it to go to waste). 

Background

Jim Bakker loves buckets. In fact, he sells buckets of food all the time so that you can be prepared for the coming armageddon. Oh the wondrous buckets!

But you know what else Jimmy loves? Getting arrested.

While reading up on this dude’s background, I found out that he’s actually a convicted felon for sexual assault and accounting fraud. He spent time in jail, which caused his wife (Tammy, seen here in the parade) to leave him. Even by televangelist standards, Jimmy is a scumbag. But that doesn’t stop him from loving Christmas and possibly being the worst parade MC of all time.

Another fun fact: This parade takes place on the grounds of Heritage USA, which is a basically a Christian Disneyworld. It’s now defunct, due to Jimbo’s felonies. I’ll have to do another post about it sometime. 

Top Ten Memorable Moments

1. Jim Bakker — Dark Lord of the Buckets

Jim is a convicted felon, rapist, fraud, and fearmonger. He exploits his viewers by filling them with fear about the coming ‘end of days. Using that fear and manipulation, he sells his products at a ridiculously high price. Thus, I have no problem in saying that Jim Bakker is evil.

And that’s what makes this parade fascinating. It’s like having a real-life villain host a Christmas parade. That sounds like a cartoon plot, but this is reality.

2. The Parade’s Introduction

First, we are hit with the cheesiest intro song ever. This ought to be a classic amongst terrible televangelist theme songs.

Second, the entire monologue sounds like Jim is making up everything impromptu. It’s as if the real MC didn’t show up, so Jim had to fill in at the last minute. And then Tammy acts like everything Jim said is the most fascinating statement of all time. This dude is just talking about how tall a building is, and Tammy acts like he’s just saved a litter of puppies or reconciled Einsteinian relativity with quantum mechanics.

Then, Jimmy and Roe Messner drivel on about the height of their new building and the Christmas tree on top of it for an awkwardly long time. And poor Mr. Messner — he doesn’t seem to be prepared to speak either. Painfully cringy smalltalk ensues. Tammy, without missing a beat, chimes in yet again with laughter forced so hard that I was scared she’d have a bowel movement. How did this lady not win an Oscar?

Within this 5 minute intro, they pray twice. Perhaps the greatest sin of the entire parade is this religious faux pas. Everyone knows that you should never delay the start of an event with more prayer than necessary. If you doubt me, just try to pray for a few minutes before dinner. Your guests, even if devoutly religious, will hate you.

Finally, to end the awkward momentum we have going, a cop car blaring its sirens drives past the booth, signaling the start of the parade. Perhaps this wasn’t even scheduled, and the police officer just felt the need to rescue the audience from this small talk. Hopefully this all happened before Jim was a convicted felon — otherwise those sirens might have been scary for him.

3. Gavin MacLeod?

The “grand marshall” of this parade is Gavin Macleod, who played Captain Merrill Stubing on the comedy show Love Boat. Weird flex but okay.

4. The Board of Directors’ Fashion

The 3rd float to pass the Bakkers is dawns the PTL Board of Directors (the Bakker’s television network).

Concerning the design of this float, it’s as if someone took the most amorphous Christmas elements possible, and then super-glued them to a float. I can’t figure out what is going on here. There is some green stuff vaguely resembling garland, arranged in a shape vaguely resembling a bell. It looks like the last-minute school project of a lazy freshman. I love it.

But don’t worry about the strange float, because the people it carries are here to steal the show. The the PTL board of directors are the epitome of high church fashion. Their suits and sequined dresses were the must-have for anyone who was anyone during 80s church life.

Church people thought it was the coolest thing ever for a family of gospel singers to tour churches and perform. Necessary for the endeavor is this type of fashion. The woman’s dress had to sparkle like a galaxy (or least have sleeves reaching past the elbow), and the man’s suit had to scream “I only read the KJV Bible.” Unfortunately, I will never be as cool as those people.

5. Tammy Sue Bakker

Tammy Sue!!

Rolling out in a red corvette is none other than Tammy Sue Bakker. Why is she here? Is it because she’s the daughter of the hosts? No. Tammy Sue is here to promote her new mixtape!

It’s a real shame that they didn’t have the budget of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, because we all want to see Tammy Sue rock out one of her banger tracks. But don’t worry. I have you covered. You can listen to one of her hit tracks here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhDbPzFfFq0

Of course, she’s no Chuckie P, but that hair and outfit combo is almost as good as the board of directors.

6. Children Ministry’s Horrifying Float

After the Heritage Grand Hotel staff sheepishly saunters by, the gates of Hell open to release this horrifying horse-headed monstrocity. Allegedly, this is for a children’s ministry, but one can only assume this ministry exclusively involves sacrificing children to Satan.

I mean this with all sincerity: this horse character would make an excellent movie monster. Perhaps he’s a special stuffed animal that a child finds in his attic. How did it get there? He doesn’t know. But it doesn’t matter because the child loves the toy and plays with it all the time. Then, one night, he awakens to see his horsie friend standing 8 feet tall at the end of his bed wielding an axe…

7. The Happy Tracks Cloggers

“No matter how fast I clog, I cannot clog away the pain.” — One of the children (probably)

These dancers are my favorite part of the show. Each member is expressionless, fully embracing the heavy burden of existence. It’s as if Friedrich Nietzsche started his own tap dancing team.

“Why did God send us into this world only to suffer and die?” one thinks.

“A man said to the universe: ‘Sir, I exist.’ ‘However,’ replied the universe, ‘the fact does not create in me a sense of obligation,'” a little girl mumbles repeatedly to herself.

“If only the sweet release of death could save me from this clogging nightmare,” the youngest child whimpers.

Their name — The Happy Tracks Cloggers — is surely an ironic title, referencing Albert Camus’ famous absurdist philosophy. At the bottom of reality, according to the Cloggers, is only matter, energy, and chance. There is no meaning, value, or hope. All actions are pointless states of affairs brought about by forces we cannot control. We are but dancing puppets in the malevolent strings of the universe. And yet, our passions dictate that we must dance. And this passion demands for our love to be real. It is a faint cry of rebellion against the heartless oblivion. They dare to have meaning within a meaningless and absurd existence.

One must imagine the Cloggers happy.

8. Doug and Laura Lee Oldham

Doug and Laura Lee Oldham are two gospel singers who just slaughtered half of the world’s polar bear population. From the carcasses of their massacre, they adorn their giant white fur coats and sit upon a throne, looking down at us mere peasants.

This might actually be the craziest outfit of the night. And that includes the killer horse. They look like pimps in a blaxploitation film sitting on a mound of tinsel. They need to take notes from the high-fashion, class, and sophistication of the board of directors.

Also, Doug sings gospel music. Of course you want to hear what he sounds like. It’s nothing like I expected. But then again, I expected Andre 3000 covers, given the coat. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDOq80C6Olo

9. Epic Jazz

Around the 27th float, someone starts blasting some epic Christmas smooth jazz. If there’s one thing I love in life, it’s randomly placing smooth jazz in things. I say that only half-ironically — given my affinity for mallsoft and the old Night Walk television series. If you start banging out some smooth jazz, I’m instantly filled with joy.

It’s somehow a fitting soundtrack to a Christmas parade hosted by a convicted felon.

10. Cast of Love Came Down

At around the 44 minute mark, we are introduced to the cast of Love Came Down. 

I searched as hard as I could, but unfortunately, I could not find any information about this musical that apparently sold out at every venue.

I’m sure the cast members are incredibly talented. In fact, these independent Christian stage plays are often a good way for young actors to get their foot in the door and have another opportunity to perform. Furthermore, since I’ve never seen the show, I have no idea if it is any good.

But wow. That performance was amazingly cringy. First, the choreography was horrendously great. Whose idea was it to have a bunch of people try to do a choreographed dance when they are packed like sardines on a moving float? You can’t do much dance beyond waving one arm horizontally in front of your chest. Or, better yet, having 23 seconds of the synchronized cast standing still and looking at the ground (yes, I counted).

And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, the song ends up simply repeating the chant “Celebrate Christ. Celebrate Christ. Yeah!” (which is now stuck in my head). It was definitely one of the cheesiest ways they could’ve ended their performance.

After this, I really wish I could go back in time and witness this musical.

My Favorite Quotes

“He not only knows hospitality from the hotel industry, but hospitality from the Bible.” — Jim Bakker

“I’m not sure if the boys are more impressed with the car or the girl. Let’s hope it’s the girl.” — Jim Bakker, said of his own daughter.

“Celebrate Christ. Celebrate Christ. Yeah!” — Cast of Love Came Down

“Humanity is a useless passion. It is meaningless that we live and it is meaningless that we die.” — little girl from The Happy Tracks Cloggers.

One Redeeming Comment

Though Jim Bakker is evil, parades can be something that brings the community together and gives people the chance to celebrate and get into the holiday spirit. There were probably children in the crowd or on the floats who had a lot of fun, and that’s a good thing.

Conclusion

What do you think? Are you familiar with Jim Bakker and his infinite buckets? Did you have a favorite float or performance? Did you ever participate in a Christmas parade? Let me know in the comments.

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