When Victoria Hallman was starting out in the ’70s – she worked for Bob Hope as the comic’s opening act – she had no idea one of country music’s biggest stars would sweep her off her feet.
In early spring of 1979, Hallman’s manager persuaded Buck Owens to let the Alabama native be a part of his performance at the Orange Show. By summer, a romance had blossomed.
Hallman, who would later star in the popular variety show “Hee Haw,” which Owens had hosted for a decade with Roy Clark, revealed how her life forever changed in the new book “Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights.”
Hallman told Fox News the romance was far from a whirlwind. In fact, Owens was curious to learn more about the aspiring singer.
Victoria Halman got her start in Hollywood as Bob Hope’s opening act. (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
“It was so slow and gradual,” she explained. “It was a natural progression… We were on the road all the time and I was by his side constantly… It wasn’t like there was a dating process. We were just together. He played songs for me… We snuggled. It was just very natural.”
In the book, Hallman admitted she was quickly mesmerized by the country crooner, who was a fixture on Alabama television. And Owens, captivated by the brunette beauty, called the next day after their initial encounter, which led to a relationship with its very own soundtrack.
“Almost immediately after our meeting I began working with him,” said Hallman. “And then a romance happened.”
In the book, Hallman alleged that before a relationship occurred Owens was very protective of her. He allegedly kept tabs on her to the point that if he couldn’t locate her in Hollywood, where she resided, he would call her mother in Alabama.
Buck Owens (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
And when it came to quality time together, Owens liked to keep it simple. Hallman revealed he preferred having dinner while watching TV with a plate of chicken-fried steak he prepared himself.
Hallman said one of her fondest memories was celebrating Owens’ 50th birthday with him. It was on that day when he gave her a new stage name — Jesse Rose McQueen.
Hallman claimed he wrote a song inspired by her.
“He got his guitar and sat in his desk chair to sing it to me,” Hallman recalled in the book. “‘Cowboy walked into a barroom, said I’m looking for a lady, said the lady’s name was Jesse Rose; long dark hair, big bright eyes, pretty little thing… The cowboy and the lady rode away.’”
Hallman claimed that when Owens hit the road, she was by his side. Owens taught Hallman how to play chess, as well as “obscure English words.” She in return spoke French to him because “he liked the sound of it.”
Victoria Hallman and Buck Owens (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
The couple also prayed together.
“He would call me and ask me to pray about things,” she explained. “He would always say I had a special line to God. When his dog Cannon was dying of cancer, he called me and asked me to pray to God so that he could have the strength to deal with that… He loved his dogs like babies.”
However, the relationship ended in March 1980. The reason? Hallman met someone else — Jim Halper, a Clark Gable look-alike with Paul Newman’s eyes who was ready to settle down. That same year, she tied the knot with her new beau.
Victoria Hallman and her then-husband, Jim Halper. (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
Owens allegedly wasn’t happy with the engagement, but he also didn’t want to lose his friendship with Hallman.
Hallman claimed the last time they spoke was for the 25th anniversary special of “Hee Haw.
“We were taping the special in Oklahoma,” Hallman recalled. “Buck was being very reclusive. He had his own motorhome parked at the ranch… And nobody was bothering Buck. But I was not shy so I knocked on his door. And his manager came and said ‘Come on in.’
“[Buck] and I sat and talked for a long time… I told him I had to go. I gave him a kiss on the cheek. As I was walking out, he told [his manager], ‘That Jesse Rose, she is a loyal little thing.’
“He would send me things in the mail. He would always let me know what was happening. I remember on one he put, ‘You were always a little doll.’ Another he put, ‘You were always my inspiration.’ Things were OK, maybe not as OK as I hoped they were.”
Victoria Hallman holding Buck Owens’ guitar. (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
Owens passed away in 2006 at his home in Bakersfield at age 76. The New York Timesreported he died in his sleep, hours after finishing a gig. A family spokesman revealed Owens had suffered a stroke some time ago. He also dealt with ailments and underwent surgery for cancer in 1993.
Hallman revealed that despite the success of “Hee Haw,” he allegedly grew frustrated with his involvement. Owens appeared in “Hee Haw” from 1969 until 1986. Hallman starred in the series from 1985 until 1988.
“He really believed that [his appearance on ‘Hee Haw’] was a mistake as far as his career,” said Hallman. “He did think it affected his recording career. He felt it took the mystery away. It’s hard to be a major recording star, he felt, when people can see you every week, just yucking it up.”
As for Hallman, her marriage to Halper began to crumble by 1984. The couple split and she has been married to Franklin Traver for 25 years now. The couple currently resides in Nashville.
Victoria Hallman insisted she never regretted her time on “Hee Haw.” (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
A rep for Owens’ estate did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment regarding Hallman’s allegations.
Jim Shaw, a member of Owens’ band The Buckaroos, told Fox News he wasn’t aware of any relationship between the two.
“Victoria did in fact sing and tour with us in 1979 under the stage name of Jesse Rose McQueen,” he said. “If she ‘dated’ him during this period, Buck was discrete enough that none of us was aware of it.”
Hallman also admitted she too struggled with being typecast as a sexy, bubbly brunette since she left behind “Hee Haw.” However, she has never regretted her time on the show.
Buck Owens filming “Hee Haw.” (Courtesy of Victoria Hallman)
“‘Hee Haw’ was on for 25 years,” she said. “It made it difficult to crawl out of that road and go somewhere else. But I am very happy for it. Sure, it made it more difficult to be taken seriously as an actress. But ultimately, it was a very, very good thing for me and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Hallman also revealed she still cherishes her memories of Owens.
“That was a very special moment, just the two of us,” she said. “Buck with his guitar, and him telling me, ‘Here’s this song…’”