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CBN.com Who could forget Lulu Roman of the long-running TV hit HEE HAW? Yet forgotten is exactly how she felt as an orphan in Dallas, Texas. They say that comediennes often come from very painful backgrounds - that they use humor to hide that pain. Lulu openly shares the story behind her unique brand of humor.
SCOTT ROSS: Lulu, you grew up in an orphanage, and this was when you were around 4? Is this your first memories of an orphanage?
LULU ROMAN: You think you don't have very many memories of a childhood, but I have vivid memories of September 10, 1950.
SCOTT ROSS: And that was?
LULU ROMAN: That was the day I was dropped in an orphans' home.
SCOTT ROSS: By whom? Who dropped you off?
LULU ROMAN: My grandmother.
SCOTT ROSS: Wow. You had to go through rejection and all this, isolation, identity crises, all that kind of stuff. Throwaway kid?
LULU ROMAN: I think I probably felt it a little harder than most of them because I was 'the fat kid.'
SCOTT ROSS: The fat kid?
LULU ROMAN: I came in with a thyroid problem, and I got things like, 'Fatty, fatty 2 x 4 can't get through the kitchen door.' I realize now that even then the enemy had plans to speak death to my spirit.
SCOTT ROSS: You can flip that off now with humor?
LULU ROMAN: Yeah, I can.
SCOTT ROSS: But was that part of the defense mechanism.
LULU ROMAN: Oh, yes. It was.
SCOTT ROSS: And you learned pretty early on to do that.
LULU ROMAN: I learned very early on that I could use a quick wit that the Lord had given me to have people laugh with me instead of at me.
SCOTT ROSS: Did you have any kind of spiritual input or background in a school like that or in an orphanage like that?
LULU ROMAN: We had that good ol' religion shoved down our throats, oh yes we did. We were made to memorize the Scriptures. We were made to learn the songs. We were made to ohhh, yes. We got that hell-fire and brimstone - Rrrrrrrrr! - you know. I remember sitting in church and we were offered things like, 'If you'll promise you'll never touch a drop of liquor, you can come stand here.' Bang! Right up there. Never drank. But nobody said, 'If you'll promise you'll never do drugs '. You stayed until you either were adopted, or your parents or your family came to retrieve you. Mine never did, and I never got adopted. They didn't adopt fat kids.
SCOTT ROSS: What about that? You would see some of your friends get adopted and just leave, go off to a family. And you're left standing there. They don't care about the fat kid, the Lulu, who is dying inside, basically. How did you handle that?
LULU ROMAN: You sat in your closet and you cried, or you sat in the window and you stared out of there and you watched the cars drive by and you thought, 'If I could just have a Momma or a Daddy, or a brother or a sister, or a room of my own.' I never had a bicycle. I never had a puppy. I never had any of those things that normal people had.
SCOTT ROSS: How old were you when you got out of the orphanage?
LULU ROMAN: I had just turned 18.
SCOTT ROSS: So you had your own option then to choose to leave?
LULU ROMAN: Well, no, when you turned 18, bye.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Lulu admits there were many good things about the orphanage, too. When she left they helped her find a job at the telephone company.
LULU ROMAN: So I turned into an operator with a very bad mouth because the first thing I wanted to do was learn how to cuss.
SCOTT ROSS: What?!
LULU ROMAN: Got it down real good. (laughs)
SCOTT ROSS: What was that about?
LULU ROMAN: Well, because I spent my whole life listening to people say, 'Thou shalt not,' and I thought, 'Oh, yes thou wilt!' (laughs) Everything that they said I couldn't do I did with gusto, Honey. (laughs) Got fired from that job real quick.
SCOTT ROSS: Did the drugs help the hole in your heart?
LULU ROMAN: Oh yeah.
SCOTT ROSS: It did?
LULU ROMAN: Oh yeah, temporarily. I could get high enough that I just went into my own little world, and that hurt did not hurt me anymore. I could just fly and have a wonderful time. I didn't have to worry about whether anybody saw me and thought I was ugly or unacceptable or unlovable or unworthy or 'un.'
SCOTT ROSS: When did it strike you that you had some real talent for show biz?
LULU ROMAN: I never really thought about having talent for show biz as much as I thought about someone paying attention to me.
SCOTT ROSS: Who did?
LULU ROMAN: Buck Owens.
SCOTT ROSS: The Buck Owens?
LULU ROMAN: The Buck Owens, yeah. And he said, 'One of these days you're going to be a big star, and I'm going to have something to do with it.' I says, 'Keep talking, cowboy. Go on, baby, talk to me.' (laughs) So when they put together the HEE HAW show, there were a couple of fellows from Canada and they had seen Laugh-in, and they thought, 'This could be a good thing. We could do country music in this and do real well.' So they made a list- one gorgeous blonde and one gorgeous brunette; one girl next door-type and one boy next door-type; one fat, dumb man and one fat, dumb woman. Buck said, 'I got your girl. She's in Dallas!'
SCOTT ROSS: And you were which one?
LULU ROMAN: I was the gorgeous blonde, of course! (laughs) He said, 'They're going to do this country and western-type show, and they're going to call it HEE HAW.' I said, 'Hee what?' He said, 'HEE HAW.' He said, 'Lulu,' he said, 'HEE HAW, like a donkey.' I said, 'Sure.' He said, 'There's going to be a lot of money.' I said, 'Keep talkin'.'
SCOTT ROSS: Now you're listening, right?
LULU ROMAN: They put me on a big jet plane, and they flew me to Hollywood, Calif. Took me to CBS television studios. The first person I saw was Carol Burnette. I'll never forget as long as I live. She met us in the hall and said, 'Shut your mouth, child. You're fixin' to be one of us.'
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Then came the audition. Of course, Lulu was high at the time.
LULU ROMAN: Finally somebody came in with a great big box and it had a dress in it that Jonathan Winters used to wear. To make matters worse, it fit!
SCOTT ROSS: I was just going to ask you.
LULU ROMAN: Yeah. (laughs)
SCOTT ROSS: The success was almost instantaneous. I mean, you had overnight audiences. What did that do to you? I mean, here's a kid from an orphanage. Who knew? All of a sudden, the acceptance you'd been looking for.
LULU ROMAN: I pretty closed to missed it because I was so messed up on drugs.
SCOTT ROSS: You were wacked when you were doing the show?
LULU ROMAN: Oh yeah, I was.
SCOTT ROSS: Most of the time?
LULU ROMAN: Most of the time.
SCOTT ROSS: Did it eventually cost you?
LULU ROMAN: I ended up getting busted not once, but twice, for possession of dangerous drugs. It ended up costing me losing my position on the HEE HAW show for a whole year. In the middle of that, I found out that I was very much with child.
SCOTT ROSS: Married at the time?
LULU ROMAN: Nope, not married. I left there very bitter, very angry, thinking that if there was a God, He certainly didn't love me because He dumped me.
SCOTT ROSS: It's His fault.
LULU ROMAN: That's right because I never got to have a Momma. I never got to have a Daddy.
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Lulu had her baby boy, and six months later was back in jail on drug charges. When she got out, Lulu ran into 'Diane,' who'd grown up in the same orphanage.
LULU ROMAN: She wanted to tell me about Jesus. The first thing I wanted to do was say, 'Don't try to come at me with that. You grew up in the same place I did. Don't even try it.' She said, 'Louise, just listen to me. Let me tell you that Jesus is real. Let me tell you how He's changed my life.'
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): The love that Lulu saw in Diane was quite different from the religion of her youth. She agreed to go church, heard who God really is, and in time, came to know Jesus as her Savior. And the drugs?
LULU ROMAN: Whenever I got down on my knees and gave my life to the Lord, in that place, I mean, instantly He took those drugs away from me.
SCOTT ROSS: No withdrawal?
LULU ROMAN: Never. Not one second.
SCOTT ROSS: No cold turkey stuff.
LULU ROMAN: No. Gone. Just gone.
SCOTT ROSS: Wow. Did the HEE HAW people know that there'd been a change in you?
LULU ROMAN: They did instantly. (laughs) It changed the way I looked.
SCOTT ROSS: Your whole demeanor had changed?
LULU ROMAN: Yeah, the whole demeanor had changed.
SCOTT ROSS: Did they want you back?
LULU ROMAN: They said, 'Will you come back?' And I said, 'I'll tell you this: I'll pray about it.'
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): Lulu did indeed return to HEE HAW and stayed until the show's close in 1995. Since, she's shared her testimony widely, recorded gospel albums, and recently started a candy company.
(to Lulu): What is this going to do for my cholesterol?
LULU ROMAN: It's going to make you happy, Honey! (laughs) That's what it's going to do.
SCOTT ROSS: I don't know if you've ever heard of Pat Robertson's milkshakes and pancake mix.
LULU ROMAN: I have, and they look really nice, but you don't eat them with this candy, Honey.
SCOTT ROSS: I know, but could you mix it into the milkshake. Put it in his pancakes.
LULU ROMAN: Oh, I bet you could! (laughs) Tell Pat to throw one box of this in there one morning and just try it. (laughs)
SCOTT ROSS (reporting): All kidding aside, Lulu is quite serious about sharing her humor, her help, and her faith in God starting with her candy proceeds.
LULU ROMAN: We have started the Lulu Roman's orphan fund. I know I can't gather up a ton of these kids and adopt them and take care of them, but I can make them laugh for a little while. I can take them to great places and take their minds off of feeling sad. And that's what I want to do.
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