If, like me, you were stupid enough to have watched TV in the late ’70s, you saw Shields and Yarnell almost constantly. The husband-and-wife mime troupe of Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell were a regular fixture on variety shows like The Tonight Show, The Muppet Show, Sonny & Cher, Red Skelton, etc. etc. etc. In fact, they appeared on more than 400 TV episodes during their run as Shields & Yarnell from ’72 to ’86, and also had their own short-lived variety show from ’77-’78. But the absolute feeding frenzy of Shields & Yarnell guest appearances, as I recall, was about ’78 to ’81; there was mime blood in the TV water. You’d see them and think, “Oh. I know those people.” They were the Charo of mime.
A major specialty seemed to be appearing as human robots. One of their main recurring acts was “The Clinkers,” a pair of windup robots who moved in jerky fits and starts, and after divorcing Shields in 1986, Lorene Yarnell appeared as the robot Dot Matrix in the 1987 Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs (Joan Rivers did the voice).
Yarnell, who had moved to Norway with her second husband (whom the New York times says was actually her fourth husband — damned if I can sort it out) passed away last week of a cerebral aneurysm, apparently unexpectedly.
Good night, sweet mime. And flights of robots draw invisible coffins around thee to thy rest.
Screencap of Shields and Yarnell as The Clinkers from fuzzymemories.tv.