HIV+ gay minister relives 1985 interview with Tammy Fay Bakker in new film 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'

Gay HIV+ reverend relives famous interview in new film

Karl Schmid Image
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Rev. Steve Pieters relives famous televangelist interview in new film
In 1985 Rev. Steve Pieters, an openly gay minister living with HIV appeared on televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker's PTL Network chat show to talk about AIDS

LOS ANGELES -- Rev. Steve Pieters recently turned 69 years old -- a milestone for anyone, but even more so for a man who was diagnosed with GRID - what would become known as AIDS back in 1982.

What makes Steve's story even more unique is that Steve was a practicing minister.

In 1985, three years into his HIV diagnosis and after having a near-death experience, Steve was invited to appear on the then Praise The Lord Network, otherwise known as PTL, which was run by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

"Tammy Faye decided that she wanted to be the first televangelist to interview a gay man with AIDS," Pieters shared with On The Red Carpet's Karl Schmid for an exclusive interview with Plus Life.

Steve's interview is now recreated in a new film starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield called "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," which is released in theaters tomorrow. The film aims to show Tammy Faye Bakker was not the villain the media portrayed her to be.

"Jessica Chastian and Andrew Garfield are incredible in their performance as Jim and Tammy Baker," Pieters remarked. "I think the film really humanizes Jim and Tammy. This is the first time they've really been given a human side," Pieters told Schmid.

The film is based on a documentary from 2000 and its star Chastain researched her character for 10 years. Steve's interview is a pivotal moment in the movie.

"They have me saying Jesus loves me just the way I am and Jesus loves the way I love. And Jerry Falwell is seen backstage listening to the interview and he goes nuts. It's a turning point in the film," Pieters told Schmid. "I've had so many people tell me over the years those were such stupid questions or such silly questions, but for her audience they were the right questions," Pieters added.

In 1985 people living with HIV /AIDS were increasingly stigmatized and persecuted because of their diagnosis.

"There was such a stigma about having AIDS, and I knew that stigma was reduced by putting a human face on what was stigmatized," said Pieters. "Nobody was talking about what it was like to be a person with AIDS, and I thought that it was important that somebody do it, so if not you then who?"

"Right away I went public about having this disease," Pieters told Schmid. "I wasn't supposed to see 33 so 69 feels damn good," Pieters exclaimed.

"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" is in theaters September 17.

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