Tamarie's Time

Whole Foods, hard wit, the legacy of Lucy and offspring of hippies have helped the woman of Tamalalia take Houston by storm. But where's she really headed?

"Generally, she's one of the happiest people I know," says Nodler, who might know her as well as anyone outside her family.

Cooper has a longtime boyfriend, fellow IBP member Troy Schulze; she's also got a sense that things are going great. "I've never felt more focused, or on a path," she says. "I mean, I can always go back to school if I decide again that I want to be an elementary school teacher. And someday I want to have kids and a big family, but I have ten years to do that. Right now there just seems to be this opportunity, all these things happening."

So what would be the finale to this grand musical? The big dance scene where she wins her freedom from Whole Foods?

Nah. Not surprising, it turns out she loves the guys at Whole Foods ("They're my biggest cheerleaders"), so quitting her job there is not exactly a case of finally sticking it to The Man.

A better finale might be a moment from this year's Tamalalia. It was just a dance number in the middle of the show, a piece where Cooper and two other dancers started into a tap routine.

The music built, and more dancers joined in. Then more.

And all of a sudden Cooper was tapping furiously toward the front of the stage, arms stretched out to the audience, heading a chorus line right out of MGM with music to match. There she was, starring in her own show, in front of a thrilled crowd, a key part of a company and a family that seemed to have only the brightest future in front of it.

A giant smile broke across her face, as if she just couldn't imagine anything better than this, this moment that embodied the dreams that had come from watching old movies on TV, being on top and still having bigger worlds ready to conquer.

Maybe things can't get any better than that for Cooper. But chances are they will.

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