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Arts & Culture

Thelma Harper Brings Vicki Lawrence To Tobin


One of show business's most talented split personalities comes to San Antonio this weekend--Vicki Lawrence.

"I kinda think I was kidnapped by show business, that's what I think."

Characteristically humble Lawrence was voted 'Most Likely to Succeed' in her senior year of high school.

"I don't think it was by any fault of my own, but I did it," she says.

Famously, Lawrence's mother wrote to Carol Burnett, saying Vicki looked like her. San Antonio native Burnett agreed and scooped her up for her wildly popular variety show. The rest is history. The Long Beach, Calif., native was quite aware that she was coming to Burnett's home town.

"Obviously, y'all are making some funny people down there; Carol came from that neck of the woods."

Also, Lawrence clearly feels a show business obligation to Burnett.

"As Carol's protegee I think it is my duty to make everybody laugh. It's what I learned from like the best lady in the whole world."

This is the part where you might want to click "Listen" above to hear the story. As I interviewed her, I began to hear the unmistakable sound of a dog getting a drink of water. Loudly.

"Now...is that a dog lapping up water in the background?"

"You can hear her?--yes!--"Aw, bless her heart. She loves to drink. It's very warm here."

Also appearing at the Tobin Center with Lawrence in her "Two Woman Show" is her Mama's Family alter ego Thelma Harper. Lawrence achieves the transformation through "Mama" clothing, a wig and other tools of the trade. They're all things she brings along in her suitcase.

"Well, she spends a lot of time in the suitcase when she's not--that probably makes her a little angry," she laughed.

The character is known for her decidedly testy nature. 

"I often wonder what TSA thinks when they open my suitcase," she laughed. "Y'know because there's an old lady wig and the shoes ... I just wonder what they think."

"They probably wonder if you're some sort of a killer."

"Mmm-hmm...or some sort of a kinky...who knows?"

She hits San Antonio Sunday, where it likely won't be as warm as her home in Long Beach.

Find more on Vicki Lawrence's Tobin Center performance here.