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Monday, May 5, 2008

It Seems Like Old Strippers Competing for the Love of Bret Michaels on Television is Unprecedented in its Insanity

posted by on May 5 at 9:29 AM


…but when I was a youngster, America gave mimes a prime-time variety show.

Citizens of a certain age certainly remember Shields & Yarnell, the married mimes who enchanted the nation for a number of months in the mid-late ’70s. As Wikipedia attests, “Their specialty was taking on the personae of robots, with many individual, deliberate motions (as opposed to normal smooth motion) stereotypical of robots, enhanced by their ability to refrain from blinking their eyes for long stretches of time.”

This is true. If Shields and Yarnell weren’t being robots, they were being old-timey toys, or marionettes—basically, whatever allowed them to devote long stretches of time to marching around with expressive elbows and spooky looks on their faces.

For a nation battered into cynicism by Vietnam and Watergate, then tenderized by the smooth matrimonial soul of Captain & Tennille, Shields & Yarnell were an irresistible mystery. They were also, for the young and impressionable, vaguely terrifying.

P.S. Shields and Yarnell divorced in 1986, but continue to reunite periodically to perform as a duo.

RSS icon Comments


You just reawakened a long-dormant walled-off corner of my brain. I liked it that way. I hate you for this.

Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 9:36 AM

I was happier having forgot that Dynamite Magazine existed... I was much happier until a few moments ago...

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 5, 2008 9:43 AM

This was only popular because a large portion of the population at the time was using LSD.

Posted by yucca flower | May 5, 2008 9:46 AM

They used to do a skit about a robot family called 'The Clinkers' that used to TOTALLY CREEP ME OUT as a kid.

Posted by Darrell | May 5, 2008 9:53 AM

They used to do a skit about a robot family called 'The Clinkers' that used to TOTALLY CREEP ME OUT as a kid.

Posted by Darrell | May 5, 2008 9:53 AM

Cato, how could you hate Dynamite?!? Sounds like a Bummer to me: "Don't you hate when..."

Posted by Explorer | May 5, 2008 10:05 AM

Dynamite was the best! I remember a profile of "The Fonz" that had a really hot picture of Henry Winkler!

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | May 5, 2008 10:14 AM

a bummer is when your parents subscribed you to dynamite magazine. please upgrade me to 3-2-1 contact, mom.

Posted by chops | May 5, 2008 10:14 AM


Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 5, 2008 10:20 AM

Michael Jackson certainly picked up a few moves from those two.

Posted by poster Girl | May 5, 2008 10:21 AM

I am pretty certian that I had that issue of Dynamite back in the day

Posted by genevieve | May 5, 2008 10:25 AM

18 years of therapy, down the drain. Thanks.

Posted by heywhatsit | May 5, 2008 10:28 AM


I have no idea how old you are, but it would appear your cultural timeline is a little out-of-whack. Shields & Yarnell were popular in the late 1970's, not the late 1960's.

By then, almost everybody was doing coke, not acid.

Posted by COMTE | May 5, 2008 10:38 AM

I'm in the same boat as Fnarf et al. The synapse leading to that memory had been in the big sleep til this morning. The use of the phrase "expressive elbows", however, softens the blow.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | May 5, 2008 10:43 AM

1) Dynamite magazine rocked.
2) Shields & Yarnell rocked.

Last night I happened to do a Shields & Yarnellish move while looking in my bathroom mirror. I definitely would not have done that had I not grown up watching that.

Posted by stinkbug | May 5, 2008 10:49 AM

The 70s were the absolute nadir of television quality, followed closely by the 80s.

Posted by Peter F | May 5, 2008 10:52 AM

Add me to the list of seriously freaked out kids. I wish that memory had stayed dormant.

Posted by angel | May 5, 2008 10:53 AM

i don't remember them, thank christ - but i remember the bugaloos!

Posted by max solomon | May 5, 2008 10:54 AM

I used to have a subscription. I think issue number one was Jimmy "J.J." Walker and the second or third issue was John Travolta.

Shields and Yarnell were like Donnie and Marie but only creepier.

Posted by elswinger | May 5, 2008 10:58 AM

Damn it, I was FASCINATED with those two back in the day....the nightmare has been reawakened. Thanks, Schmader.

Posted by Gidget | May 5, 2008 11:00 AM

For those that hate using a computer, I recommend getting a copy of Retro Hell that was put out by the Ben is Dead people. It can usually be found for a few bucks and it's a good book to have sitting around.

Posted by stinkbug | May 5, 2008 11:02 AM

Dynamite magazine DID rock!

And Shields spandex clad body made me feel all funny inside...

And even at 12, I thought it odd that he was so much younger than she was.

Posted by michael strangeways | May 5, 2008 11:03 AM
Posted by Explorer | May 5, 2008 11:04 AM

It was the best of mimes, it was the worst of mimes.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | May 5, 2008 11:06 AM

Explorer at 23: I nearly passed out when I saw that cover for the first time.

Everyone else: Sorry for the trauma, but I was experiencing Shields & Yarnell-related anxiety in isolation all weekend, and the commiseration is doing me a world of good.

Posted by David Schmader | May 5, 2008 11:08 AM

Michael Strangeways -- three years is "so much younger"?

Yarnell's spandex-clad etc. made me feel funny too, but not in a good way. Yeech.

Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 11:09 AM

But variety shows of the 70s were like the reality shows of today where anyone got one including, Pink Lady & Jeff, The Starland Vocal Band and Benji (well not Benji). I'm surprised their hasn't been an "Whos Wants To Be American Greatest Mime" on slate.

Posted by gregg | May 5, 2008 11:15 AM

I actually own that copy (and many others) of Dynamite. Wanna buy it?

Posted by flamingbanjo | May 5, 2008 11:24 AM

Harumph...that's what SHE claims NOW. I seem to remember reading something back in the day, where it was revealed she was much older than THAT. I think she's an age fudger, like Tom Jones, who used to be the same age as my mom, and is now mysteriously, about 5 years younger...

She looks like she's about 10 years older, at least.

Posted by michael strangeways | May 5, 2008 11:39 AM

Ack...I didn't even realize I was repressing that until now. I'm now in full RTSD (retro-trauma stress disorder.)

Posted by Cascadian | May 5, 2008 12:00 PM

@23 Thank you for erasing the Shields and Yarnell horror from my mind with that awesome cover image.

Posted by PopTart | May 5, 2008 12:06 PM

Wow...I had totally manages to block Shields and Yarnell from my memory. I am now inspired to bust out my "Land of the Lost" DVD collection and watch a young girl get tied up and abused by Sleestacks.

"Marshall, Will, and Holly...on a routing expedition..."

That should wipe out this horrible mime memory for a while.

Posted by Gabe | May 5, 2008 12:36 PM


Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 5, 2008 1:19 PM

Shields & Yarnell may help explain the widespread antipathy toward mimes these days.

Posted by Rich | May 5, 2008 1:44 PM

Well, yes. But then, EVERY mime helps explain the widespread antipathy towards mimes.

Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 4:54 PM

Damn, I loved Dynamite. But not Shields & Yarnell. They were scary.

Posted by litlnemo | May 5, 2008 6:54 PM

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