R.I.P. Yarnell

by Andrew Osborne

The late, great Douglas Adams said that he came up with the idea for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while lying drunk in an Innsbruck field and staring up at the stars with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe under his arm.  But then, years and years and dozens or hundreds of interviews later (in the words of Wikipedia), he eventually got to the point where he’d told the story “so many times that he had forgotten the incident itself, and only remembered himself telling the story.”

Nostalgia seems to work the same way, at least for me.  Certain totems of my seventies childhood — from The Brady Bunch to “My Sharona” — have been so thoroughly repeated, recycled and regurgitated that I can no longer truly remember my original reactions to them, nor do they conjure vivid memories or psychic wormholes to days gone by.

And then there are the genuine gold-plated psychic artifacts like Shields and Yarnell, the weird mime-themed variety program that I must have watched at least a few times between 1977 and 1978, because even then I can vividly recall thinking they needed far more of the duo’s bizarre robot antics (as “the Clinkers”) and far less of everything else on the show.

But until today, I hadn’t accessed the wrinkle in my brain storing knowledge of Shields and Yarnell for decades…which made the news of Lorene Yarnell’s recent passing (of a brain aneurysm, in Norway, at the age of 66) a moment for reflection.

According to The New York Times obituary, Ms. Yarnell “had originally trained as a dancer, [Mr. Shields] as a mime; after meeting in the early 1970s, each learned the other’s art. Together they developed a style that was an amalgam of the two” (which my wife, Amy, has dubbed “mance”).

O, what an innocent time, when CBS would actually build a variety show around mime!  O, lost youth, in a distant past so impossibly  far removed from my adult existence that it seems now like something from a half-remembered Middle Earth!

Alas, poor Yarnell!  I knew her, a lady of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, who leaves behind a fourth husband, Bjorn Jansson…

…as Cheney continues relentlessly on…

…alack!  Or as the mimes would say…


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