Shields and Yarnell

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For other people named Robert Shields, see Robert Shields (disambiguation).
Yarnell (left) and Shields (right) in 1977.

Shields and Yarnell were an American mime team, formed in 1972, consisting of Robert Shields (born March 26, 1951) and Lorene Yarnell (March 21, 1944–July 29, 2010).


Shields was born in Los Angeles and graduated from North Hollywood High. At the age of 18, while working as a street mime and performing at the Hollywood Wax Museum, Shields was discovered by Marcel Marceau, who offered Shields a full scholarship to his school of mime in Paris. His apprenticeship was short lived as he felt the need to develop his own style and pry mime loose from its artsy pedestal. Shields soon returned to California,[1] working in Union Square, San Francisco. Shields is credited with being the originator of "The Robot" moves early in his career. In 1974, Shields appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's film The Conversation. In 1998, Shields was recruited by the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Baily Circus to serve as their Director of Clowning.


Lorene Yarnell (also a native Angeleno) had become a tap dancer and actress in television shows including, Shindig!, The Carol Burnett Show, and off-Broadway musicals before she met Shields, in San Francisco.[2]

She had speaking guest appearances on The Muppet Show and Wonder Woman which both featured her then-husband, Robert Shields.

Yarnell later appeared as Claudine in a spectacular 1983 outdoor production of Can-Can at The Muny in St. Louis, starring Broadway's Judy Kaye, John Reardon, John Schuck, Beth Leavel and Lawrence Leritz, her dance partner, to excellent reviews. On film, Yarnell played Dot Matrix (body acting, with Joan Rivers doing the voice) in the 1987 Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs.[3]

As a duo[edit]

The Shields and Yarnell comedy act originated in their partnership.[2] Their specialty was taking on the personae of robots, with many individual, deliberate motions (as opposed to normal smooth motion) stereotypical of robots and early animatronics, enhanced by their ability to refrain from blinking their eyes for long stretches of time. They called themselves The Clinkers.[4]

Their dance and mime performances were featured in 1977 on their own CBS television comedy-variety program, The Shields and Yarnell Show. They appeared on 400 national television shows in the US,[2] including The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Red Skelton Show,[5] The Muppet Show (1979), and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[2] They performed in the unsuccessful Broadway musical production Broadway Follies in New York City, which closed after several performances. Career highlights included shows for two American Presidents and a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, as well as a tour of China with comedian Bob Hope.[2]

Their TV special Toys On The Town, written by Shields, earned an Emmy.[2]

They won an award as Las Vegas "Entertainer of the Year," dual Georgies for "Rising Stars of the Year" and "Special Attraction of the Year" from the American Guild of Variety Artists.[2]


Shields and Yarnell were married in 1972 and divorced in 1986.[6] Shields opened a jewelry and art business in Sedona, Arizona,[1] while Yarnell remarried and moved to Norway.[7] They reunited periodically to tour with their act.[2]

In 2002, Shields met Laurie Burke, a singer-songwriter in Sedona, and the two were married on September 25, 2006. Burke was diagnosed with a brain tumor the next spring, and died on April 25, 2007.[8] Shields married Jennifer Griffiths in December 2009. The couple divorced in 2014. Robert currently resides in Verde Valley, Arizona, where he creates paintings, sculptures, and jewelry design.

Death of Lorene Yarnell[edit]

Yarnell moved to Sandefjord, Norway in 1998 with her fourth[9] husband Bjørn Jansson. She died of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm on July 29, 2010, at the age of 66.[10] Her interment was in Sandefjord's Sandar churchyard.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Shields' Biography". Arthur Shafman International Ltd. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Shields & Yarnell". Arthur Shafman International Ltd. 
  3. ^ Bierly, Mandi (2010-08-07). "Remembering Lorene Yarnell of Shields and Yarnell (and 'Spaceballs') | PopWatch |". Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  4. ^ "Lorene Yarnell, half of '70s comedy mime duo, dies at 66". Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  5. ^ Armstrong, Lois (1977-06-20). "Prime Time Is Mime Time for the Married Robots Shields & Yarnell". Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 7, 2010). "Lorene Yarnell, Half of a Dance Duo, Dies at 66". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Remembering Laurie Burke Shields: Songwriter traveled the world". North County Times/The Californian. May 3, 2007. 
  9. ^ Fox, Margalit (August 7, 2010). "Lorene Yarnell, Half of a Dance Duo, Dies at 66". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Lorene Yarnell Jansson er gått bort". Sandefjords Blad. August 3, 2010. 
  11. ^

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