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Vicki Lawrence Schultz, 2009
|Born||Victoria Ann Axelrad
March 26, 1949
|Other names||Vicki Lawrence Schultz|
|Education||Morningside High School|
|Occupation||Actress, Comedian, Singer, Dancer, Writer|
|Spouse(s)||Bobby Russell (m. 1972–74)
Al Schultz (m. 1974)
Courtney SchultzGarret Schultz
Victoria Ann "Vicki" Lawrence (born March 26, 1949, sometimes credited as Vicki Lawrence Schultz) is an American actress, comedienne and singer. She is perhaps best known for the many characters she originated on CBS's The Carol Burnett Show where she appeared from 1967 to 1978, for the entire series run. It wasn't until the sixth season (1973-1974) the The Family sketches first appeared and immediately became popular. It was then that Vicki originated the character of Thelma Harper/Mama a supporting character who was Eunice Higgins's mother. The Family sketches and Thelma Harper/Mama have become undoubtedly the most popular sketches from The Carol Burnett Show. In 1982, six years after the series ended, a made for TV movie entitled Eunice based directly on The Family sketches aired and received good Nielsen ratings. This prompted executive producer Joe Hamilton to develop a television series starring Vicki Lawrence as Thelma Harper/Mama from The Family. In early 1983 Mama's Family was first broadcast on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. It aired on NBC until the end of the 1983-1984 season when it was cancelled by the network. In 1985, it went back into production as Lorimar Telepictures began distributing the show in first-run syndication where it soon became the highest rated program in syndication. It continued in first-run syndication until the last episode was produced in 1990. Mama's Family has been aired in re-runs in the United States and around the world continuously since then, far exceeding the typical lifespan of a television series' to air its re-runs, which is usually no longer than ten years.
She is credited with co-authoring two books.
She has made multiple appearances in Television shows such as Laverne and Shirley, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Roseanne, Diagnosis Murder and with friend and co-star Tim Conway in Yes, Dear. She most recently played Mamaw in Hannah Montana.
Lawrence has made numerous post-Mama's Family guest TV show appearances in her famed Thelma Harper/Mama role. On February 5, 2013, Lawrence appeared as the character in a special sketch for "Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday." In addition, Lawrence regularly hosts a non-televised stage show titled Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.
Early life and career start
Lawrence was born Victoria Ann Axelrad in Inglewood, California, the daughter of Anne Alene (née Loyd) and Howard Axelrad, a certified public accountant for Max Factor. The family surname was legally changed to "Lawrence" when Vicki was young. She is a graduate of Morningside High School in Inglewood. She was valedictorian of her class of 1967. Lawrence had originally planned on being a dental hygienist. She attended UCLA while on The Carol Burnett Show, and even changed her major to theater arts, but dropped out after two years.
In high school, Lawrence auditioned and got in to the musical group The Young Americans. She stayed with the group almost until the end of high school. By being with the group, she gained experience from touring, performing at the Oscars, coming in contact with noteworthy performers such as Johnny Mathis and Louis Armstrong, and performing on the Andy Williams Show.
In November of Lawrence's senior year, she entered the Miss Fireball of Inglewood contest for the local fireman's ball. A reporter for a local newspaper wrote a story about the contest and stated that Lawrence bore a striking resemblance to a young Carol Burnett. Being an avid fan letter writer, Lawrence's mother urged her to write a letter, to which Lawrence included the newspaper article. After receiving the letter, Burnett found Lawrence's father's name in the phone book, called her and said she would go to see the Miss Fireball contest. Lawrence won the contest and Burnett was called to the stage to crown her. Coincidentally, Burnett was looking for an actress to play her younger sister on her upcoming show. After a few months and auditions, Lawrence got the part, specifically for playing Chrissy in the Carol and Sis sketches.
After been given the job on The Carol Burnett Show, Both Burnett and Harvey Korman took Lawrence under their wing. Korman taught her various sketch comedy skills such as listening not just for a cue line and also coached her in other areas such as speaking in different accents. Lawrence has noted Korman and Burnett as her mentors and has referred to her experience on the show as the "Harvard school of comedy". She is considered to be Burnett's protégée. Lawrence has stated that she learned show business from Burnett and looked up to her very much and the two share a very close friendship.
As a comedienne and actress, Lawrence is known for her work on The Carol Burnett Show, of which she was a part from 1967 to 1978. She was the only cast member, except for Burnett herself, who stayed on the show for the entire eleven seasons. After The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, Lawrence and her husband Al Schultz moved with their children to Maui, Hawaii, but after a couple of years, returned to Los Angeles where they have remained.
Her portrayal of the "Mama" character on The Carol Burnett Show's The Family sketches was so popular that NBC subsequently created the sitcom, Mama's Family, elaborating on the Mama character. (Burnett reprised the Eunice Higgins character for the sitcom from time to time.) The series ran from 1983 to 1985 on NBC; after its cancellation from NBC, it was renewed from 1986 to 1990 in first-run syndication. The show was more successful in the renewed version. She also reprised the "Mama" character on stage for Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show.
Lawrence has made appearances on other programs, such as the sitcoms Laverne & Shirley (as the girls' drill sergeant, Alvinia T. Plout), Major Dad, Roseanne, Hannah Montana and Yes, Dear. In between the NBC and syndication runs of Mama's Family, Lawrence starred in the 1985 comedy pilot Anything for Love, which aired as a special on CBS that summer and co-starred Lauren Tewes and Rebeca Arthur. Lawrence has also appeared with Burnett, Harvey Korman, and Tim Conway in the Burnett show retrospectives that were broadcast in 1993, 2001 and 2004. Lawrence played 'Sister Mary Paul aka Sister Amnesia' in the TV special based on Nunsense Jamboree which originally aired on TNN in 1998.
Lawrence played "Mamaw Stewart" (the mother of Robby Ray Stewart and grandmother of Jackson and Miley Stewart) in the hit Disney series Hannah Montana, alongside Billy Ray Cyrus, and his daughter Miley Cyrus.
Lawrence recently played as "Mama" on an Ohio commercial, promoting a constitutional amendment that would permit casino gambling in Ohio. Lawrence played Dan's old high school flame, Phyllis, in an episode of Roseanne. She also appeared on a special celebrity edition episode of the Anne Robinson version of The Weakest Link. Playing for a charity, she made it to the final two, but ended up losing to Ed Begley, Jr..
As a singer, Lawrence got her start as one of the scores of hopefuls on the syndicated Johnny Mann's Stand Up And Cheer program. However, she is most known for her #1 hit, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", a song written by her first husband Bobby Russell, which was released on Bell Records in November 1972. It sold over two million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in April 1973. (Cher was offered the song first but, unbeknownst to her, her then-husband Sonny Bono had turned it down.) During the last episode of the sixth season of The Carol Burnett Show (March 24, 1973), Lawrence received her gold record by surprise from Carol Burnett. Her first LP, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" was issued soon after the single went gold in April, 1973.
"He Did With Me," Lawrence's follow-up to "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," reached #75 in the United States, although it became her biggest hit in Australia, peaking at #1 there in November 1973. She followed it up there with "Ships in the Night" (1974). A year later, in the fall of 1975, Lawrence managed one last minor US chart entry on the Private Stock label with "The Other Woman" (#81).
In 1974 she recorded her second LP for Bell Records, "Ships in the Night." The label was in the process of being bought out by ARISTA and the LP was not released in the US. The LP was, however, released in Australia where she continued to have chart success. Lawrence's first two LPs were released as a single CD with bonus tracks on April 1, 2014 by Real Gone Music.
She released a disco album entitled Newborn Woman late in 1979. The album produced the minor disco hit "Don't Stop the Music".
Hosting and other work
As an emcee, she hosted the daytime NBC version of the game show Win, Lose or Draw, as well as an unsold pilot for Mark Goodson Productions, Body Talk, and has also appeared often as a popular panelist on such game shows as Match Game, Password, Password Plus, Super Password, various incarnations of the Pyramid game show, as well as Hollywood Squares, where she appeared both as herself and in character as Thelma "Mama" Harper. Lawrence was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Talk Show in 1993 for the eponymous Vicki! (1992-1994), but the show was canceled after two seasons.
She tours the country with her "two-woman" show with the first half as herself and the second half done as Thelma "Mama" Harper. She can also be currently seen on TV in an infomercial for the "Big Boss Grill". She is also known for her voice-over work as "Flo" on the animation series Hermie and Friends.
Lawrence's second husband is Hollywood make-up artist, Al Schultz, to whom she has been married since November 16, 1974, and with whom she has two children, Courtney Allison Schultz (born May 5, 1975) and Garrett Lawrence Schultz (born July 3, 1977). Lawrence was previously married to Bobby Russell from 1972 to 1974.
|Year||Album||Chart Positions||Catalog #|
|1973||The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia||51||31||Bell 1120|
|1974||Ships in the Night||—||—||SOSL10106|
|1979||Newborn Woman||—||—||WindMill L26|
|US||US AC||US Country||CAN||CAN AC||CAN Country|
|1969||"And I'll Go"||—||—||—||—||—||—||singles only|
|1973||"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"||1||6||36||1||2||25||The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia|
|"He Did with Me"||75||14||—||42||16||—|
|1974||"Ships in the Night"||—||49||—||—||—||—||Ships in the Night|
|"Mama's Gonna Make it All Better"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Old Home Movies"||—||—||—||—||—||—||singles only|
|1975||"The Other Woman"||81||—||—||97||—||—|
|1976||"There's a Gun Still Smokin' in Nashville"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"The Other Man I've Been Slipping Around With"||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1979||"Don't Stop the Music"||—||—||—||—||—||—||Newborn Woman|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
- Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball (1995) - ISBN 0-684-80286-4; published by Simon and Schuster with Marc Eliot, an American biographer listed several times on the New York Times bestselling list.
- Mama for President: Good Lord, Why Not? (2008) ISBN 1-4016-0409-9 ISBN 978-1-4016-0409-7, with Monty Aidem, an American comedy writer.
- "Video Gallery | Movies & Specials | All Videos : Newest". NBC. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
- "VICKI LAWRENCE booking - Celebrity Actors, Comedians - Corporate Entertainment Booking". Delafont.com. 1949-03-26. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
- "Vicki Lawrence Biography (1949-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
- Vicki Lawrence Interview. Archive of American Television.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 314–315. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "Marc Eliot: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
- "Keynote Speaker: Monty Aidem". Wcspeakers.com. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
- Official website
- Vicki Lawrence on Myspace
- Vicki Lawrence at the Internet Movie Database
- Vicki Lawrence interview video at the Archive of American Television