You may know her as bitter divorcée Phyllis Thorne on UPN's Half & Half, or as Nell Carter's skinny sidekick on Gimme a Break, but way back in the day, Telma Hopkins was also one-third of the music group Tony Orlando & Dawn ("Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree"). Remember the "Shaft" theme song? And the part where the girls go, "Shut yo' mouth"? Yep, that's her, too. We took a walk down memory lane with the actress who slipped into our pop culture lexicon without us even knowing it.
TV Guide Online: So, do you work a sassy "shut yo' mouth" into casual conversation?
Telma Hopkins: Uh, no. But it was one of the coolest singing jobs ever. I sang it with two other girls. But somehow or another I get all the credit.
TVGO: What about the hit "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" which came first, the song or the tying of the ribbons?
Hopkins: The song came first. And the funny thing is, I think it's about a guy in prison. He was being released and he told his wife if she still wanted to have a relationship with him, she should tie a yellow ribbon around a tree. And when he saw it he would get off the bus and if he didn't he would just keep going.
TVGO: Shut up!
Hopkins: Yeah. Now, if you get locked in the closet they'll tie a yellow ribbon. But the song was not about that. It was just timing. It came out in 1973 and then with the hostages coming home [from Iran], it just became an anthem.
TVGO: I looked you up online: Bosom Buddies, Gimme a Break and Family Matters. You're a pop culture trivia nut's dream!
Hopkins: Yeah. [Laughs] I'm lucky to have been on a lot of successful shows. Shows that had some legs. A lot of times people ask me about stuff and I have to stop and think about it: Did I really do that?
TVGO: Am I crazy, or were you on the Circus of the Stars doing...
Hopkins: A high-wire act. And I was the one who was crazy. I don't know how I got talked into that. And I did it on specially made roller skates.
TVGO: What did you do on Battle of the Network Stars?
Hopkins: Everything, honey. I swam, did the tandem bike, the obstacle course. Scott Baio was our team captain and he was so hardcore. You would think nobody had a job the way we were going at each other. In the tug of war, we pulled the skin right off our hands.
TVGO: And you voluntarily got rope burn because...
Hopkins: I was just a tomboy. I [also] did Celebrity Daredevils so I could go to stunt driving school and demolition derby... All that stuff. [On Battle of the Network Stars], each winning team got a certain amount of money. But it wasn't enough to make us kill ourselves. It's funny because you would have thought it was the only money we were going to make that year.
TVGO: Do you think you could get your Half & Half castmates to do something like that?
Hopkins: I think everybody but Rachel True would be game. She's such a girl.