Leader Blues

Monday, May 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> Lulu Roman’s rough past, bright future

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

She’s a little bit country, a lot of comedy and all Christian and performed at Cabot High School Saturday, April 25th. She’s “Hee Haw” star Lulu Roman.

But she was once a hedonistic hippie on a drug-induced downward spiral.

“You’d be surprised how looking at 20 years in prison can start you on the right path,” Lulu said before the show, adding that it was God who kept her on that right path.

Roman, along with her manager Terry Rhodes, local sensation Kirby Shelby and Cabot’s very own Hallelujah Harmony Quartet, put on a laid-back, 90-minute, quality family show. Even though the crowd was small, the entertainers all thought the audience was enthusiastic and the entertainers enjoyed the night as much as the crowd.

Lulu, who turns 63 on Wednesday, took time backstage to talk about her life and also gave testimonial on stage to inspire those in the audience.

“I’ve lived a very tragic and very wonderful life,” she said.

The “Hee Haw” star, who is a member of the Country Gospel Hall of Fame, was born in a home for unwed mothers in the Dallas area and was quickly shipped out to an orphanage.

“Talk about feeling abandoned. Plus I had this little thyroid problem, so I was rounder than most of the other kids in the orphanage and they let me know it, too,” she said.

Lulu hit 300-plus pounds before having surgery.

Because of the weight, the teasing and a lot of other things, Lulu was a very angry person. “I felt abandoned by God, but He had a plan. I just didn’t know it at the time,” she said.

“I’ve lost 208 pounds,” she told the Cabot crowd.

Lulu said she started using drugs in high school and continued in college. “I took more LSD than anyone I know. I had a friend that would make it for me,” she said.

Even with her drug use, she managed to find work. First as a go-go dancer, then as a comedian, when she met Buck Owens.

“He told me I was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and that one day I’d be a big star and he’d have something to do with it,” she said, laughing.

A short time later, in 1969, when she was 23, she got a call to come out for the start of “Hee Haw.”

“I didn’t even have to audition. Buck and the others knew what they wanted. They wanted a blonde bombshell, a brunette bombshell, a fat funny guy and a fat funny girl. When they got to that part, Buck said he had the girl — me,” Lulu said.

“Here I was in the middle of a country version of ‘Laugh-In’ and didn’t know anything about country music. Remember I was a hippie through and through. I had no idea who Minnie Pearl or Roy Acuff were.”

Lulu said the first person she actually met going into the “Hee Haw” set was Carol Burnette. “She gave me great advice,” Lulu said. “She said close that mouth.”

Despite the show’s success and her own success, drugs still ruled her life. After her second arrest, she was eased out of the show and luckily, she said, ran into another girl from her orphanage days.

“She and her church just took me in and loved the hell right out of Lulu,” she said.

The entertainer still vividly remembers the day she dropped to her knees and turned her life over to the Lord in 1973.

“I called my friend and told her I was off drugs and to come by and help me through the withdrawals. It’s been 36 years and we are still waiting,” she said.

Besides facing jail time, Lulu’s child was addicted to drugs. “I was told he wasn’t going to live, but God had a plan. My baby is now 37, lives in Seattle and is in his fourth year internship at his church,” she said proudly. Her second son, born a few years later, is doing equally well.

As she got off drugs, her career blossomed. She was brought back to “Hee Haw” and stayed with the show until it ended in 1989. She still keeps in touch with most everyone from the show. “We were and still are just one big family,” she said.

Lulu said it’s important for her to tell her testimonial. “If the Lord can work wonders with me, there’s hope for everyone,” she said.

“People need to hear especially in the time we’re living in now that there is a place where you can go for hope and peace,” she said. She has found that in Jesus, she said.
When she came back to “Hee Haw,” she convinced the writers to include a gospel quartet on the show.

She and Terry Rhodes, who showed the Cabot audience that he’s quite a singer and comedian in his own right, performed 208 shows last year. They are now performing in Branson.