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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.
ROSS: When did it strike you that you had some real talent for show biz?
ROMAN: I never really thought about having talent for show biz as much as I thought about someone paying attention to me.
ROSS: Who did?
ROMAN: Buck Owens. 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.' (laughs) So when they put together the Hee Haw show, there were a couple of fellows from Canada that had seen Laugh-in and 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!'
ROSS: And you were which one?
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, like a donkey.' I said, 'Sure.' He said, 'There's going to be a lot of money.' I said, 'Keep talkin'.'
ROSS: Now you're listening, right?
ROMAN: They put me on a big jet plane, and they flew me to Hollywood, CA. 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.'
ROSS (reporting): Then came the audition. Lulu was high on drugs at the time.
ROSS: The success was almost instantaneous. What did that do to you? All of a sudden, the acceptance you'd been looking for...
ROMAN: I [almost] missed it because I was so messed up on drugs.
ROSS: You were wacked when you were doing the show?
ROMAN: Oh yeah, I was... most of the time.
ROSS: Did it eventually cost you?
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.
ROSS: Married at the time?
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.
ROSS: It's His fault.
ROMAN: That's right because I never got to have a Momma. I never got to have a Daddy.
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. That was the day I was dropped in an orphans' home.
ROSS: By whom? Who dropped you off?
ROMAN: My grandmother.
ROSS: Wow. You had to go through rejection and all this isolation, identity crises, all that kind of stuff. Throwaway kid?
ROMAN: I think I probably felt it a little harder than most of them because I was 'the fat kid.' 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.
ROSS: You can flip that off now with humor?
ROMAN: Yeah, I can.
ROSS: But was that part of the defense mechanism.
ROMAN: Oh, yes. It was. 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.
ROSS: Did you have any kind of spiritual input or background in a school like that or in an orphanage like that?
ROMAN: We had that good ol' religion shoved down our throats. We were made to memorize the Scriptures. We were made to learn the songs. 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.
ROSS: What about that? You would see some of your friends get adopted and 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. How did you handle that?
ROMAN: You sat in your closet and you cried. You sat in the window, and you watched the cars drive by. 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.
ROSS: How old were you when you got out of the orphanage?
ROMAN: I had just turned 18.
ROSS: So you had your own option then to choose to leave?
ROMAN: Well, no, when you turned 18, bye.
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.
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.
ROMAN: Got it down real good. (laughs)
ROSS: What was that about?
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.
ROSS: Did the drugs help the hole in your heart?
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.
ROSS (reporting): The last time Lulu left jail for drug possession, she ran into Diane, who'd grown up in the same orphanage.
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.'
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?
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.
ROSS: No withdrawal?
ROMAN: Never. Not one second.
ROSS: No cold turkey stuff.
ROMAN: No. Gone. Just gone.
ROSS: Wow. Did the Hee Haw people know that there'd been a change in you?
ROMAN: They did instantly. (laughs) It changed the way I looked.
ROSS: Your whole demeanor had changed?
ROMAN: Yeah, the whole demeanor had changed.
ROSS: Did they want you back?
ROMAN: They said, 'Will you come back?' And I said, 'I'll tell you this: I'll pray about it.'
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 and recorded gospel albums. Lulu is quite serious about sharing her humor, her help, and her faith in God.
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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