• July 19, 2024

Vicki Lawrence moved to Hawaii in 1979 with thoughts of retirement

As the Seventies came to a close, Vicki Lawrence, her second husband Al Schultz and two children loaded up their sailboat and set sail for Maui. The family was moving to Hawaii. What better way to get there than a 41-foot ketch? In 1978, The Carol Burnett Show had come to an end after 11 successful years. Lawrence had been on the comedy series from the very beginning, since she was a teenager. During that run, she had recorded a hit No. 1 single, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” She had cut three albums. She had appeared on dozens of episodes of the game show Pyramid.

In 1979, she had only just turned 30. But Lawrence was thinking about stepping away from Hollywood.

“I’d love to open up a dress shop [in Hawaii],” she told the Associated Press. “I have a fascination with cash registers.”

The comedy natural added, “If they canceled show business tomorrow I don’t think I’d slit my wrists.”

After all, when she was young, she dreamed of becoming a dental hygienist. This helps explain why she so casually considered walking  — well, sailing — away from the spotlight.

“I’d like to get out of performing and just produce records,” she admitted.

A decade later, a Tribune profile explained that she and Al intended for their Hawaii move to be a “semi-retirement” — “but the lack of work became boring.”

Sitcom fans can be thankful for that boredom. As in 1983, Lawrence revived her beloved Thelma Harper character from The Carol Burnett Show for the long-running Mama’s Family.

But Lawrence was determined to keep a healthy work-life balance. “I have what are almost part-time hours,” Lawrence told the Tribune in 1988. The shooting schedule on Mama’s Family allowed for her to spend quality time with her actual family.

“I look at someone like Cybill Shepherd, wonder how often she gets to see her family,” Lawrence mused. “And I know I’m incredibly lucky to be where I am.”

Lawrence did get a chance to return to Hawaii as Mama. In season four of Mama’s Family, Thelma wins a tropical vacation on Jeopardy! and the Harpers travel to Honolulu. The two-part episode “Mama Goes Hawaiian” was filmed on location in the Aloha State. Now you know, it was a homecoming of sorts for the star.

We’re just glad the lure of cash registers was not enough to keep her in Hawaii permanently.

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