Flame was fleeting, but 'Miss Vicki' has endured
MAPLE SHADE, N.J.- The striking woman stretched across the glass counter top at Aqua Luna is chatting with an inquisitive customer on the phone about her latest metamorphosis.
In the air at the sunny-hued New Age boutique is the faint, sweet aroma of incense, stirred by a haunting refrain from long-dead Doors rocker Jim Morrison: "Break on through to the other side ... to the other side."
At the back of the room, the specter of another ghost-a flowing white bridal veil-drapes down from the ceilng and cloaks the small round table beneath it.
The offbeat accouterments of this shopkeeper's present endeavor reflect uncannily her past.
For she is none other than the wide-eyed Haddonfield, N.J., teen who grabbed 15 minutes of notoriety a quarter-century ago by exchanging "I do's" before 45 million television viewers with an eccentric pop singer some 20 years her senior.
It would appear that Victoria Lombardi's newest enterprise brings her full circle.
At age 17, "Miss Vicki"-as she'll always be remembered-became a bona fide curiosity when she tiptoed into the national spotlight and tied the knot with a stringy-haired, high-pitched warbler named Tiny Tim on "The Tonight Show." Their tacky TV nuptials on Dec. 17, 1969, earned Johnny Carson his highest Nielsen ratings to that time.
Twenty-five years later, Lombardi, a youthful 42, has evolved from being a TV curiosity to selling New Age "curiosities" out of a storefront near Philadelphia.
After her media marriage hit the rocks, Lombardi went on to remarry, divorce, remarry and divorce again.
"Since I've been married I've had so many other names," she said, politely declining to recount the exact number of husbands she has gone through. "I've lost count ... just a couple."
She has gained newfound solace as a businesswoman, stocking her cozy little nook on Main Street with beautiful "crystals and candles and incense and books and all interesting curiosities."
Friends have contributed one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and other handmade items to the stock. A card reader is on the premises for readings between 2 and 4 p.m. Saturdays (underneath the ethereal wedding veil-which is not one of Lombardi's). And Lombardi's best friend of the last 11 years, a psychic counselor by the name of Peace, is available for consultations.
"I always wanted to do something like this," Lombardi said. "I worked at Deacon's Luggage for nine years and decided to make a change. I didn't want to go find another job; I wanted to make my own and do what I wanted to do. I've always been interested in this. And now I'm able to do it."
She concedes her sudden leap from luggage store manager to store owner was rather "impulsive."
"I kept passing this store on my way to work every day and I decided to inquire about the rent," Lombardi said. "When he told me, I said, 'OK, I'll take it.'"
That was in December. On Jan. 7-the week of the New Moon for luck-the store was fully stocked and opened for business.
Lombardi has been a grandmother now for seven years. Her daughter with Tiny Tim, Tulip Victoria, 23, is married with two daughters of her own: Cherise, 7, and Jade, 1-1/2.
"Tulip lives about 15 minutes from here, so I see her a lot," Lombardi said. "To me, they are all my children."
Her divorce from Tiny Tim-whose real name is Herbert Khaury-was granted in 1977, but their union, in essence, lasted "probably two years," she said.
"I was 19 when Tulip was born, but I was on my own from the time she was a baby," Lombardi said. "And I did it all by myself. I worked three jobs most of my life. I worked it out that I was home when she came home from school. My jobs were at night when she was asleep, so I had a baby-sitter there."
As a single mother with a young daughter to support, Lombardi went on welfare for a while in the '70s, did a stint as a go-go dancer at Minnie's Lounge and posed nude in an eight-page spread in Oui magazine.
Tiny Tim never contributed to the support of their daughter, according to Lombardi. "But that's OK. He's making up for it now. I don't want to say anything negative about him."
Lombardi discreetly declines to talk abnout her very public first marriage, saying it has been a tough thing to "live down" over the years.
"That's a good way of putting it," she said. It's very hard to escape. I mean, it died down after a while, but even when I was working at Deacon's, maybe once a month would come in and say, 'You look like that girl...you know.' It's just like you can't get away from it."
The notoriety she gained in the wake of her TV nuptials was "overwhelming at times in the beginning."
To this day, she said, she cannot fathom the extraordinary number of people who tuned in to watch her get married on television.
"I don't know about that because I was on the other side it," she said. "But things changed very quickly when I got a grasp of what it was about. I was just a kid, thinking, "'This will be fun.' And it was. So I don't regret it."
Time, too, has managed to dull the acrimony of the couple's divorce.
"At first it wasn't great, but over the years we've found a comfortable place with each other because of the children," she said. "And I feel more at peace with myself because I'm now doing what I want to do...what I like."
Thursday, February 2, 1995
Source: By Terri Sanginiti Chicago Tribune
Reproduced according to "Fair Use"