This seems to be my year for checking items off my bucket list or simply doing things I’d never imagined! Being in the same room as a comedic legend such as Vicki Lawrence falls into the latter category!
I grew up watching the Carol Burnett Show; we never missed it. It didn’t matter where we were, a friend’s house, a family get together, everyone sat around to watch Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway perform their weekly comedy sketches and Movie/TV Show parodies. My favorite segments were the Mama’s Family skits. Being a young girl, I found it amusing that a Grandma could be so raw, mean, and funny at the same time! I remember how shocked I was to find out that Vicki Lawrence was actually much younger than Carol! I actually thought she was older, or at least the same age. I believe that’s how you can judge good acting, when someone can make you believe that she IS the person whose role she’s playing!
We sat behind a taxi driver that had the pleasure of driving Vicki around San Antonio. He was scrolling through his photos and we noticed a photo of him and Vicki. We asked if he was at the meet and greet. He told us that she, her husband, Al Schultz, and her son, were really nice. They gave him tickets to the show and it appears that he was their driver for the weekend.
Vicki came out and connected with the audience by telling comical, but true stories, about routine events such as visiting the gynecologist. She reminded some of us that may have forgotten (or those that didn’t know) that she produced and recorded the first version of “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia.” Yes folks, Reba is not the original redhead to sing it! She said her then husband, Bobby Russell, didn’t like the song and she “got it in the divorce.” In 1973, it was number one on the “Billboard Hot 100.” She sang it for us and joked about how she was the only artist that could do a medley of her hits in one song.
Vicki also told us the story of how she was discovered by Carol at a “Miss Fireball” contest. Over the years I’ve seen articles speculating that Vicki resented being in Carol’s shadow. I didn’t sense that Vicki had any resentment for Carol at all. In fact, I think it is the opposite. I think she is grateful. Though I did sense a little resentment between Vicki and Mama. It seems that whenever Vicki is spotted by fans, they yell out to her, “where’s Mama?” It is as if they don’t realize that she IS Mama. I believe she should be proud that after 40 years, Mama lives on in the hearts of fans everywhere. Even though Mama came out of the Carol Burnett Show, she is clearly Vicki’s masterpiece. The Tobin Center was nearly full with people that came to see Vicki AND Mama and all the laughs were for Vicki and her alter ego – Mama; no one else!
Since it is not shown in re-runs, my 17-year old daughter never saw the “Carol Burnett Show” or “Mama’s Family.” She had no idea what she was in for, but she loved it! She screamed with laughter, just as much as us “old folks!” By the way, Vicki advised us that “Mama’s Family” is currently showing on “MeTV,” so if you get that channel, you are in luck. Sadly for us, MeTV is not on the Dish Network.
Of course the crowd really went wild when Mama came out and did a rap for us! It was hysterical! She did an “ask Mama” routine where she touched on some current issues. One question I recall was how she felt about Caitlyn Jenner. Mama said that she didn’t understand why someone would want to become a woman at the menopausal stage of life! The best way to describe the show is to quote Vicki, herself, “My show is not a retrospective, . . .It is a mixture of stand-up comedy, music and my observations about real life.”(http://www.vickilawrence.com/2woman2013.html) The only thing she left out is that you will be laughing so hard your sides will hurt and your eyes will tear!
“Vicki Lawrence and Mama, A Two Woman Show” is touring the country and I highly recommend you catch it if you can. You can see the schedule on her website by following this link http://www.vickilawrence.com/VickisSchedule.html. I hope she comes back to San Antonio next year. – BMT
Somehow this sad news fell under my radar. Writer, producer, actor, Garry Marshall passed away on July 19, 2016. He was 81 years old. As I feel it is always better late than never, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to Penny Marshall and the entire Marshall family. Garry Marshall was so incredibly talented, it would be terrible not to pay tribute to him. If you aren’t familiar with Garry’s career, just think back to your favorite TV show or movie since the 1960s and he probably had something to do with it. You name it, he’s likely written, produced, directed, and/or acted in it! Just to briefly list his accomplishments in television, he wrote for the Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar; The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show, Gomer Pyle, and The Odd Couple, just to name a few. More notably he was the creator and executive producer of classic hits such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley (starring his sister, Penny), Mork & Mindy, Angie, Joanie Loves Chachi, and he was the executive consultant for the current version of The Odd Couple, with executive producer, Matthew Perry. Over the years, Garry starred in several TV shows and movies, including Goldfinger, A League of Their Own, Murphy Brown, The Simpsons, The Majestic, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Louie, Two and a Half Men, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hot in Cleveland, and The Odd Couple.
Garry was born, Garry Kent Masciarelli on November 13, 1934 in the Bronx, New York. His father, Anthony Masciarelli, an industrial filmaker, changed the family name to Marshall in 1934. Though I am not certain why, I do know that back in those days, due to discrimination, many Italian-Americans changed their names to something they believed to be less “ethnic.” Being a New Yorker of Italian descent, I have a special place in my heart for stars like Garry. I always enjoyed listening to him give interviews. His voice, that New York accent, always took me back home. I couldn’t post about Garry without a video clip, so here’s an interview Garry did on “CBS This Morning” in 2012 to promote his book, “My Happy Days in Hollywood.” Such a humble and down-to earth man; they just don’t make them like that anymore.
(Video obtained from YouTube)
Movies Directed by Garry Marshall:
1982 Young Doctors in Love
1984 The Flamingo Kid
1986 Nothing In Common
1990 Pretty Woman
1991 Frankie and Johnny
1994 Exit to Eden
1996 Dear God
1999 The Other Sister
1999 Runaway Bride
2001 The Princess Diaries
2004 Raising Helen
2004 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
2007 Georgia Rule
2010 Valentine’s Day
2011 New Year’s Eve
2016 Mother’s Day
If you are like me, you may be reading this list, thinking, “I didn’t know he did that!” As you can see, not all of his work was comedy, but all of his work was brilliant!
In my research, I came across some of his quotes, “It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.” He also said, “Learn to work with people you wouldn’t go to lunch with.” Wise words to live by, don’t you think? The world has lost another great artistic legend. Rest in peace Garry. Eternal be his memory.
What’s your favorite Garry Marshall accomplishment? I’d love to hear about it.- BMT