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Vicki Lawrence (1949)

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  Summary  

Vicki Lawrence is an American actress, comedienne, and Billboard Hot 100 #1 singer, who was frequently a game show panelist in the 1970s and 1980s. She is best known for her co-starring role on The Carol Burnett Show, alongside Carol Burnett, from 1967 to 1978, and as the sharp-tongued matriarch, Thelma Harper (the main character on Mama's Family, airing from 1983 to 1990, which was spun off from The Carol Burnett Show's The Family sketches). As a singer she recorded The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia that made #1 on the US chart as well as in Canada. She is credited with co-authoring two books and has also used the name Vicki Lawrence Schultz.

  Biography  

 life and career
 Early life
Lawrence was born in Inglewood, California, the daughter of Anne Alene (née Loyd) and Howard Axelrad, a certified public accountant. She is a graduate of Morningside High School in Inglewood.

 Acting career
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.

Lawrence was hired for the show on the basis of a letter she sent to Burnett and the producers, with a photograph of Lawrence that clearly showed her resemblance to Burnett.

After The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, Vicki and her husband Al moved with their children to Maui in Hawaii but after a couple of years, returned to Los Angeles where they have remained.

Her portrayal of the "Mama" character was so popular that NBC created a sitcom, Mama's Family, based on characters from the skit. 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' mean drill sergeant, Alvinia T. Plout), Major Dad, Roseanne, Hannah Montana and Yes, Dear. She 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 'Mamaw 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 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.

  Other work
As a singer, Lawrence got her start as one of the scores of bright-faced, wanna-be hopefuls on the syndicated "Johnny Mann's Stand Up And Cheer" program. But 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, unbeknown to her, her then-husband Sonny Bono had turned it down.)

"He Did With Me," Vicki's follow-up to "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," only managed to reach #75 in the United States, although it became her biggest hit in Australia reaching #1 there in November 1973. She followed it up there with Ships In The Night in 1974. A year later, in the fall of 1975, Vicki managed one last minor US chart entry on the Private Stock label with the anti-feminist curiosity "The Other Woman" (#81).

She released a disco album entitled Newborn Woman late in 1979. The album produced the minor disco hit Don't Stop the Music which was released as a disco single. Unfortunately the anti-disco backlash was in full swing when the album was released and the album and single failed to chart.

As an emcee, she hosted the daytime NBC version of the game show Win, Lose or Draw, 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!, 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 also currently can be 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".

Criticism
In January 2011 Lawrence elicited criticism from advocates for and members of the homeless community for a video she created as a parody of Ted Williams, a homeless man and a former radio announcer who gathered media attention after another video of his vocal talents became viral on You-Tube. The video, in which Lawrence played her noted foul-mouth and quick-witted satirical "Mama" character, and made several jokes about "overnight celebrities", came under fire by the National Coalition of the Homeless . The NCH director, Neil Donovan, was quoted as saying "This is a woman who has made children's videos with a Christian message and now she's saying some of the most un-Christian things imaginable."

 Personal life
Ms. Lawrence had been previously married to Robert "Bobby" Russell during 1972 -74. Lawrence's second and present husband is the make-up artist, Al Schultz, whom she has been married to since November 16, 1974. They have one daughter, Courtney Allison Schultz and one son, Garrett Lawrence Schultz .

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Vicki Lawrence", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.