How Tom Met Lori

The Opryland USA Brochure

You wouldn’t think a theme park could make much of a difference in a person’s life, would you? But one did. Opryland USA, now closed, was where Tom met Lori, his “guardian angel.” One Sunday the Smiths went to a certain outdoor show, and a young singer on the stage noticed a guy in the audience. . .but I’ll let her tell that story. Here’s Lori:

I moved to Nashville in 1989 to pursue a career in music. I thought Opryland would be a great place to get my feet wet. I was 25 years old, “green” and totally full of myself. Boy, did I have a lot to learn! I found out I had a better chance of becoming an aeronautical engineer for NASA than breaking into the Nashville music scene. However, I’ve had a blast over the years and I’d do it all over again. Of course, I never got that job with NASA. I am a successful commercial actress and voiceover personality in Nashville and surrounding states. And I still perform in the corporate world through several entertainment companies I’m listed with. Life is never boring, that’s for sure.

(You can see what Lori's up to these days by going to her website. Or see some of the show's she's performing in on her her husband Phil's website. Don't worry, they'll open in a new window so you won't lose this.)

I was selected to be on the front cover of the Opryland brochure in 1989. As the “new kid on the block,” it was a BIG thrill. That’s me in the red with the big hair, front and center. We call it “NashVegas Hair.” Behind me, you may recognize Minnie Pearl of Grand Ole Opry fame. Ralph Emory, the host of Nashville Now, is to the right and behind Ralph is a very young Randy Travis. The others are park performers like me.

Tom Meets Lori

Lori in Plume

It was 1992 and my fourth season at Opryland. While performing in “Way Out West,” I looked into the audience and saw Tom’s smiling face. Since my father was a career Navy man, I know a “Fly Boy” when I see one. I could not resist his charm. In my frilly yellow saloon girl dress and huge “Big Bird” plume hat, I ran down to Tom after the show. “Hi, I’m Lori.” Tom looked to his right then looked to his left. “You talkin’ to me?” I had to laugh. His parents, Ken and Patricia Smith, introduced themselves. And thus began a friendship that I knew would last a lifetime. I so looked forward to seeing him every week. (For a good laugh, here's a shot of me in that plume hat.)

Though Opryland is now gone, Tom holds the memory of those happy times deep in his heart. Through Ken and Patricia’s dedication each Sunday, Tom could escape into a world of entertainment and I’m so honored to have been a part of that. Opryland not only made a difference in Tom’s life but also in mine.