The Coffee Lab aims to fill void on Cedar Springs

With Buli converting to a piano bar, the strip was going to be minus a coffee shop where people could convene with their laptops and spend hours nursing a latte. But I snapped this quick pic today while driving that way to find The Coffee Lab slated for the old Obscurities place next to Hungdinger. According to co-owner Neil Delaney, we should be enjoying their fine coffee drinks pretty soon.

If all goes according to plan, Delaney said, the shop could open on its target date of May 1 for the new “third wave” coffee house. Third wave has something to do with the all the coffee in the shop is no more than two weeks out of being roasted. The coffee comes from Counter Culture out of North Carolina. Pretty much after that shelf life, the coffee is out of there. Otherwise, Delaney is intent on providing the freshest coffee (that is also fair trade and organically certified) possible to customers.

“Every time we make a drink, the coffee will be ground right before it’s made,” Delaney said.

Delaney wasn’t specifically looking in the area for his new upstart company, but as he discovered Buli’s metamorphosis, his real estate agent suggested the spot. Delaney saw the timing as pure luck and got a lock on the spot. The signs went up Tuesday.

Delaney and his business partner Darin Danford are aware also of their location (they’re straight) and hope the Lab will fit right in to the heart of the gayborhood.

“We’re so excited about being a part of the community and we want to support it as well,” he said. “We know down there, a business either stays open two years or 20 years.”

They are shooting for the latter.

The Coffee Lab is currently hiring. Visit their website for details.

—  Rich Lopez

Mama knows best

Vicki Lawrence works to keep Mama up with the times in a new show she brings to Fort Worth

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Vicki Lawrence
DON’T TALK BACK | Vicki Lawrence has made Mama into such an icon that now she shares top billing in her newest show, which Lawrence brings to Fort Worth Saturday.

We like our mothers and grandmothers just the way they are: Ornery or pleasant, they are, for the most part, the only people who can get away with being themselves and remain dear to our hearts.

Tell this to comedian Vicki Lawrence. This Saturday, she’s bringing her most famous character, Thelma Harper — or as we know her, Mama — to the Laugh With a Legend Gala at Casa Manana. But it might be fair to say this is Mama 2.0.

“Mama has changed a lot,” Lawrence says. “I told myself for this run that I wouldn’t be happy going back. We need to go forward, and so we set about making Mama incredibly modern.”

Will our favorite ol’ grump be tweeting her snarky retorts? That would be a “no.” But Mama has come a long way since her inception on The Carol Burnett Show. Part of that evolution is thanks to Harvey Korman, whom Lawrence credits as really starting Mama’s growth.

“She changed between Burnett and Mama’s Family,” she says. “Korman really helped out. He made the point that people couldn’t just come home, relax and watch her be mean to everyone. She had to become a fun and silly character. I learned the most about comedy from Harvey.”

Lawrence plans to keep Mama topical because she apparently has opinions on BP and Mel Gibson. But she also has visions of Lil’ Kim in her head. For this show, Lawrence will perform Mama’s Rap to prove she’s no fuddy-duddy and knows what’s what.

Her metamorphosis mirrors Lawrence’s. As the years passed, Lawrence grew from 20something comedy ingénue into pop culture icon — and grew a little closer in age to Mama.

“She became this wonderful peacock of a character,” she says. “But I have to say, I tend to agree with her a little more as I get older. “

Vicki Lawrence
Vicki Lawrence

Through Mama, Lawrence has built her own gay fan base that surprised her initially. Her Mama’s Family co-star Dorothy Lyman was the first to show Lawrence pictures of drag queens in old lady garb. But then it all seems to make sense for her.

“Everyone has a twisted family,” Lawrence says. “And mother issues. But gay fans have been wonderful, and I guess they love that she is this outrageous female character — although probably not as much fun to dress up as as Cher.”

Lawrence is spending more time on the stage than the small screen, touring with Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show. But her heart sounds like it’s still in television. She’s had bit parts on Roseanne and Yes, Dear and even played against teen megastar Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana’s, grandmother Mamaw Stewart.

“That was a fun set, but if it’s television versus the stage, well that’s a loaded question,” she says. “We taped Burnett like a bat out of hell. I miss that kind of TV. Stage is like that with the live audience and interaction. I miss TV. Now, everybody’s putting their two cents in via committee.“

Lawrence sees today’s TV, at least behind the scenes, as far different from her heyday. It’s harder to have fun than when she was new to the medium.

“I wrote to Carol when I was in high school. She changed my life and told me I would have found showbiz anyway,” she says. “The funny thing is I don’t know how comedy found me. I was gonna go to college to become a dental hygienist, marry a dentist and be done with it!”
Of course, then we wouldn’t have Mama, or any of her other characters. But Thelma Harper is Vicki Lawrence’s comedic legacy — which is a duel-edged sword.

“I’m definitely in Mama’s shadow — she gets all the good jokes,” she laughs. “I need to be me before I’m not anymore. We were watching the Michael Jackson memorial and I think sometimes I wanna do that for Mama. The sad thing is, if I were gone, people would miss her!”

Casa Manana Theatre,
3101 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth. Aug. 28 at 8:45 p.m. $75.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas