Yesterday I finished reading The Edge of Disaster by Michael Richardson. Richardson was Jim Bakker’s former bodyguard and Edge is his behind-the-scenes account of being with Jim and Tammy Bakker, shortly before the downfall of their PTL ministry. I got this book as a gift from my brother in 1987, the year of its publication. Yet another ancient read that has travelled with me through two changes of residence.
The Edge of Disaster was a quick read, and not a poorly-written scandalous tell-all that I suspected it would be. It was a rapid read probably because it felt as though I was reading a transcription. There were many oral turns of phrase which seemed annoying to see in print, such as Richardson’s overuse of “I guess” both at the beginning, and more irritatingly, at the end of sentences:
“…The Partners were looking for a place to pray…looking for…hungry for…Whatever it was, they were hungry for it. A Christian life, I guess.”
“There was a whole little town of people at PTL, people who wanted to live the dream full-time, I guess.”
This seemed all the more annoying since the quotes appeared on consecutive pages (62 and 63) which meant that the pages faced each other and the “I guess”‘s jumped out at you.
Richardson witnessed the lavish spending sprees the Bakkers often had, and, as the song goes in the musical “Evita”, “And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)”. Richardson felt conflicted by the greedy escapades of his employer when Bakker was supposed to be asking for money to help the ministry. Richardson always excused the Bakkers’ spending sprees since he felt that their good work for PTL outweighed the selfishness of their greedy fingers.
When the author can’t confirm a rumour about the Bakkers, he admits it head-on and says that he did not hear or see anything to back it up. There is no reason to expect Richardson would dish the dirt on the Bakkers since he wasn’t mistreated or fired by them; he resigned of his own accord. He was also on call for up to eighteen hours per day, so he was constantly at Jim Bakker’s side and would have witnessed anything that the tabloids were gossiping about.
Richardson discloses that Tammy was flirtatious and that she often injected sexual innuendo into anything she said. He admits to developing a crush on her, however this came to nothing and Tammy never even knew she had an admirer close at hand.
The Jessica Hahn scandal and the downfall of PTL are not covered in this book. The Edge of Disaster only concentrates on Richardson’s time he was employed by Jim Bakker, which ended in 1984.