Vicki Lawrence is a legend who recently turned 74 after years of entertaining her followers. Her performance as Thelma Harper in the NBC sitcom ‘Mama’s Family’ was one of her greatest. She enjoys hosting, comedy, and singing in addition to acting.
According to accounts, the ‘Eunice’ star began her career at the age of 17 by forming a musical group and competing in the Miss Fireball pageant. Her big break in show business occurred when Carol Burnett requested her to work on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ after she sent her a fan letter.
Played family matriarch despite being quite young
Vicki Lawrence is reported to have mailed Burnett the letter and a newspaper item claiming she resembled the famed actress. The two eventually became friends and began working together. Both actresses also appeared together in ‘Mama’s Family,’ in which Vicki Lawrence played the family matriarch despite being the youngest in a cast that included Burnett, Beverly Archer, Betty White, Ken Berry, Dorothy Lyman, Rue McClanahan, Harvey Korman, among others.
However, prior to ‘Mama’s Family,’ the ‘Hart To Hart: Old Friends Never Die’ actress had married twice, the first for only two years. She married country singer Bobby Russell in 1972 when she was only 23 years old. They also collaborated on the song ‘The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.’ They divorced in 1974, however.
‘Carol found my husband for me’
Following the divorce, Vicki Lawrence prioritized her work and dedicated herself to ‘The Carol Burnett Show’. However, it was the same show on which she met her present husband, Al Schultz. Also, it was Burnett that made that happen. In 2019, she told the Hollywood Reporter, “Carol found my husband for me. Al [Schultz] had just gotten into the makeup union, and Carol was sitting in her dressing room when Al walked by. She told her secretary that he was adorable and wanted him on the show. Carol has been largely responsible for most everything in my adult life.”
Eventually, Vicki Lawrence and Schultz became parents to two children – Courtney Allison Schultz and Garrett Lawrence Schultz. In 2019, she proudly shared a photo with her husband on Facebook and wrote, “#fbf It’s #theweekend Spend it with someone you #love I love #thisguy …for 45 years now‼️💕”
‘The welts kept coming and they started to merge’
But life is not exactly a bed of roses for the comedian, who suffers from chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), which is “red, itchy skin welts that last more than six weeks. Many people have these welts every day for a year or longer. People with certain autoimmune diseases are more prone to chronic hives,” according to Cleveland Clinic.
Last month, she took to Instagram and posted, “A serious look for a serious neck mess. I am in #serious trouble…$eriously! #happybirthday to me…😊.” She’s also the spokesperson of CIU & You, an educational campaign. In 2017, Vicki Lawrence opened up about her diagnosis and told New Beauty, “Seven years ago, I was walking my dogs, when suddenly a hive appeared on the palm of my hand. By the time I got home, the hives had multiplied. The welts kept coming and they started to merge. They looked like continents.”
“I tried to figure out what was causing the hives with no success. I started avoiding things that I thought were causing the hives — I stopped drinking red wine, I changed soap and I submerged my hands in bowls of ice water. My allergist tested me for everything. I was seeking answers and relief and not getting any. After more than six weeks of trial and error, my allergist diagnosed me with CIU,” she explained at the time.
‘I couldn’t stop itching’
The ‘Eunice’ actress also mentioned the challenges she faced as she added, “When I had hives, I couldn’t stop itching. I tried everything. I would stand in the coldest shower until my body was numb and I was shaking, all to make the itching stop. Then I’d rub menthol all over myself and sit on my bed shivering, ‘mentholating’ and hoping that when it stopped the hives would be gone. They weren’t. I actually convinced myself at some point that warm water was triggering the hives.”
Vicki Lawrence, despite her health problems, is having a good time. She recently went out with her son Garrett and posted about it on Instagram, writing, “#datenight with my darling boy! Carol’s 90th birthday was celebrated with a #NBC special.”