Shields and Yarnell

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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).

Robert Shields[edit]

Robert Shields
Born (1951-03-26) March 26, 1951 (age 69)
OccupationActor, mime artist
Lorene Yarnell
(m. 1972; div. 1986)

Laurie Burke
(m. 2006; her death 2007)

Jennifer Griffiths
(m. 2009; div. 2014)

Shields was born in Los Angeles and graduated from Grant High School. 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.[citation needed] In 1974, Shields appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's film The Conversation. In 1998, Shields was recruited by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to serve as their Director of Clowning.

Lorene Yarnell and Robert Shields met when they worked on Fol-de-Rol, a 1972 Sid and Marty Krofft TV special that marked Shields' first TV appearance.[2]

Lorene Yarnell[edit]

Lorene Yarnell
Lorene Louise Yarnell

(1944-03-21)March 21, 1944
DiedJuly 29, 2010(2010-07-29) (aged 66)
Resting placeSandar Church Cemetery in Sandefjord, Norway
OccupationActress, mime artist
Notable work
Dot Matrix in Spaceballs (1987)
John R. Hartman
(m. 1966; div. 1967)

Robert Shields
(m. 1972; div. 1986)

Bjørn Jansson
(m. 1996; her death 2010)

Lorene Yarnell (also a native Angeleno) had been a dancer and actress in movies and television shows, including Bye Bye Birdie, Shindig!, and The Carol Burnett Show, as well as off-Broadway musicals, before she met Shields, in San Francisco.[3]

She later had speaking guest appearances on The Muppet Show and Wonder Woman which both also featured Shields.

Yarnell later appeared as Claudine in a 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 performing the voice) in the 1987 Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs.[4]

As a duo[edit]

The Shields and Yarnell comedy act originated in their partnership.[3] Their specialty was a series of skits called The Clinkers in which they assumed 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.[2]

Their dance and mime performances were featured 1977-1978 on their own CBS television comedy-variety program, The Shields and Yarnell Show.[5] They appeared on 400 national television shows in the US, including The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Red Skelton Show, The Muppet Show (1979), and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[3][6] The pair played the "Six-Hundred-Dollar People" created by Dr. Loveless, Jr. in the 1979 TV movie The Wild Wild West Revisited. They performed in the unsuccessful Broadway musical production Broadway Follies in New York City, which closed after only one performance following bad reviews that night. Career highlights included shows for two American Presidents, a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, and a tour of China with comedian Bob Hope.[3]

Their television special Toys on the Town, written by Shields, earned an Emmy Award.[3]

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.[3]


Shields and Yarnell married in 1972 and divorced in 1986. Shields opened a jewelry and art business in Sedona, Arizona,[1] while Yarnell remarried and moved to Norway.[5] They reunited periodically to tour with their act.[3]

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.[7] Shields married Jennifer Griffiths in December 2009. The couple divorced in 2014. Shields 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 third husband Bjørn Jansson. She died of a ruptured intracranial aneurysm on July 29, 2010, at the age of 66.[5][8]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Shields' Biography". Arthur Shafman International, Ltd. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  2. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (August 6, 2010). "Lorene Yarnell dies at 66; half of the Shields and Yarnell comedy mime team". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Shields & Yarnell". Arthur Shafman International, Ltd.
  4. ^ Bierly, Mandi (August 7, 2010). "Remembering Lorene Yarnell of Shields and Yarnell (and 'Spaceballs')". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
  5. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (August 7, 2010). "Lorene Yarnell, Half of a Dance Duo, Dies at 66". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Armstrong, Lois (June 20, 1977). "Prime Time Is Mime Time for the Married Robots Shields & Yarnell". People. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  7. ^ Ireland, Philip K. (May 4, 2007). "Remembering Laurie Burke Shields: Songwriter traveled the world". San Diego Union-Tribune.
  8. ^ Tveitan, Flemming Hofmann (August 3, 2010). "Lorene Yarnell Jansson er gått bort" [Lorene Yarnell Jansson has passed away]. Sandefjords Blad (in Norwegian).

External links[edit]