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Vicki Lawrence: Mama’s Memories

A star talks health and Hollywood



 



It was 50 years ago in 1967 that Vicki Lawrence wrote a fan letter to Carol Burnett, telling the famous comic that friends had noticed a resemblance between the two women. Lawrence was competing in the “Miss Fireball of Inglewood” contest, and Burnett showed up to see for herself whether there was any likeness.
 

Bingo. Burnett liked what she saw and signed Lawrence as a regular on her eponymous new variety show, set to premiere that fall on CBS. In the years since, Lawrence performed on the entire 11-year run of the legendary “Carol Burnett Show,” starred in her own sitcom “Mama’s Family,” spinning off her famous character, and even recorded a No. 1 record. Half a century later, Lawrence accepts the title of “Hollywood Royalty” with a gracious smile. She was in Oklahoma City recently as part of a nationwide medical tour, bringing attention to a little-known condition from which she suffers – it’s called chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), more commonly known as chronic hives.

“I woke up one morning about seven years ago with my palms itching, so I told my husband to go buy a lottery ticket,” Lawrence says with a laugh. “A little while later, I was walking the dogs and began itching all over. By the time I got home, I had welts all over my body.”

Lawrence went to her doctor, who said almost everyone breaks out in hives at some point in their lives. But after six weeks and dozens of treatments, the hives would not go away.

“That’s when he diagnosed me with CIU,” she says. “I began searching the internet, but didn’t find much about it. Luckily, my doctor got my hives under control. Fast forward – I joined this program [called] ‘CIU and You,’ which is supported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America along with Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Genentech. It’s sort of an educational program for people with this condition, and there’s a lot of information we provide. Bottom line, I’ve become the poster child for hives.”

More than 1.5 million people suffer from CIU, Lawrence said.

“I’m trying to get the word out to people that if you have this, you’re not alone,” she says. “You haven’t lost it; you’re not going nuts. It’s a real thing. I’ve now had an opportunity to talk to others with this condition, and they’re just as surprised at this as I am. And honestly, so are a lot of doctors.”

Fortunately, Lawrence says her hives are under control, so she can continue her work on and off screen. She regularly tours with “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show,” in which she resurrects the loveable Mama Harper character she made famous so many years ago.

“I was only 24 when I first did Mama on the old Burnett show,” Lawrence remembers. “That’s over 40 years ago, and Mama has never aged.”



“I’m trying to get the word out to people that if you have this, you’re not alone. You haven’t lost it; you’re not going nuts.
It’s a real thing.”
 


Lawrence graduated from high school in 1967, the year of the Summer of Love. She said she was into dance and music, and never identified with the hippie or flower child lifestyle that was so prevalent then.

“I was a good girl,” she says. “I was into cheerleading, and I loved music. My favorite song that year was ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and I remember playing that on the hi-fi so many times and my mom yelling, ‘Turn that record off, you’re driving me crazy!’ Then when we had Bobbie Gentry on the Burnett show, I totally freaked out. I remember she was late for rehearsal and someone called the front gate and asked if Bobbie Gentry had come through yet. The security guard said, ‘I haven’t seen him.’ They didn’t even know who she was! But I did!”

A few years later, Lawrence had a hit single herself, which earned her a gold record in 1973. “My first husband had written this song called ‘The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia,’” she recalls. “He wrote it thinking it would be a great song for Cher, but Sonny said, ‘Absolutely not! That would offend the entire southern part of the country.’”

When Cher passed on the record, Lawrence went into the studio and cut it herself. It immediately hit No. 1, and was covered in the 1990s by Reba McEntire.

“During my ‘Vicki and Mama’ show, I always do that song,” Lawrence smiles. “I call it “a medley of my hit.”

Her schedule keeps her busy, Lawrence said, both performing and spreading the word about CIU. But when she can, she keeps up with her former co-stars. “Someone asked me if we would ever do a ‘Mama’s Family’ reunion, maybe something like Eunice and Mama in assisted living,” she chuckles. “There’s been talk of a reboot on Netflix, but nothing definite.”

What does she think Mama Harper would say about today’s political climate? “I think she’d stay the hell out of that conversation,” Lawrence says as she slips into Mama’s distinctive drawl. “But I do think she’d tell the President to get a decent hairstyle and get that raccoon off his head.”

Touring the country gives Lawrence a chance to see the landscape of America, and she’s been to Oklahoma City several times. “Oklahoma City is so beautiful,” she says. “And it’s grown so much. I will say you have more earthquakes here now than we have in California. But the Bombing Memorial is spectacular; very moving. And the last time we were here, you had just gotten the NBA team, the Thunder. My husband said that was one of the best things that could happen to Oklahoma. It’s always a pleasure when I get to visit here. You Oklahomans are the best!”

 

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Calendar

May 2019

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

The Zarrow Pointe Retirement Community invites you to a presentation by Tulsa mayor G. T. Bynum on "Replacing Partisanship with Policy." Mayor Bynum will share his vision for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Zarrow Pointe
2025 E 71st St
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Zarrow Pointe
Telephone: 864-921-2780
Contact Name: Aaliya Briggs
Website »

More information

Watch happy hour turn to golden hour while we fill the air with live music. For 5 consecutive Tuesday evenings, we invite OKC to come out after work to enjoy a variety of food, views,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: OkSessions.com
Contact Name: James
Website »

More information

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A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Junk Utopia returns to the Centennial Building at the State Fair Park. Bringing some of the best vintage, retro, handmade, junk, antique, decor, salvage and boutique vendors to OKC! Free...

Cost: Free

Where:
State Fairgrounds - Centennial Building
609 Kiamichi Pl
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Oklahoma Modern Music Collective presents the debut concert for the ensemble "nu" - including an eclectic program in a resonant and beautiful space. Program: And Legions...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Let’s kick off Her Flag, including a toast at 7 p.m.! Marilyn Artus has been working on Her Flag since she came up with the idea in the summer of 2017. She is finally...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Let’s kick off Her Flag on June 1, from 6 - 9 p.m. and a toast at 7 p.m.! Marilyn Artus has been working on Her Flag since she came up with the idea in the summer of 2017. She is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris Wheel, and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma...

Cost: Adults $20; Seniors and Children $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Show More...
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