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Not all mimes suck.
February 14, 2011 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Shields and Yarnell: innovators in the field of robotic movement, exploring the Uncanny Valley through nationwide public exhibits during the 1970's and 80's. They also took requests for other animals, from other animals, performing with someone named Animal.Lorene Yarnell died in July 2010.
posted by not_on_display (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by rainbaby at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2011


Yeah, I dig this show back in the day. I had no idea she'd passed away. Talented lady.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:58 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Appollo's Angels the acclaimed book on the history of ballet, details the surprising, for me anyway, origins of mime. It is as old as ballet, and was sprung from very high-minded academic theories of human communication.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:17 PM on February 14, 2011


It is a shame there isn't a bigger venue for talent like this these days.

RIP
posted by gjc at 6:36 PM on February 14, 2011


Oh goodness, Yarnell died? Oh, that's sad.

I worked for Robert Shields for a short time when I lived in Sedona. He was just starting to have his jewelry line take off, and he needed to ramp up production in his silver studio. He hired me in to increase production, and it was interesting. I was a man walking into a group of women who had worked together for years, and they weren't very sure about my presence at first. Happily, I managed to not just double, but triple the output of the studio without increasing hours or adversely affecting the workload of anyone there. It was all just about refining the process, something which I'd learned at earlier jewelry production jobs I'd had.

Shields himself was a bit of a loose cannon. Simply brilliant artistically, but very much a child in a man's body when it came to relating to people or even running his business. The sheer vibrancy coming off the man was astounding. He could take a paperclip and a magazine subscription card and with a few twists make something magical out of it. He would sometimes enter the room in some really grand mime-ish fashion, demonstrating a knowledge of his own physical self and how it interacts with the universe that few have ever mastered. He was doing just so much art -- paintings and jewelry and sculpture, all of it incredibly whimsical but all with a thought at the back of it which communicated clearly to the viewer. His generosity as an employer was only matched by his occasional petulant outbursts, which kept people a bit in fear. But I saw quickly that if someone stood up to him like a strong teacher standing up to a rebellious schoolboy, he would back down and see reason.

I had a moment of choice where I could either leave town with my partner or stay and work for Robert Shields Design. I've been with my partner now for 17 years, so that choice was clear. Still, I do miss the insanity and joy and productiveness of working for him in that studio. It was perhaps the most fun I've had at any job, anywhere.

Thanks for posting this. I look forward to viewing these links this evening.
posted by hippybear at 6:37 PM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, and for dear Yarnell...

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posted by hippybear at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2011


None dare call it mime....
posted by msalt at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2011


Robot impersonation is dangerous.

(Was that Shields at the beginning of "The Conversation"?))
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 6:59 PM on February 14, 2011


I'm shocked that Yarnell was 66 when she died. I remember watching their comedy show when I was a kid, though.
posted by crunchland at 7:14 PM on February 14, 2011


I had not thought about them in many years. They really nailed the uncanny valley from the human side.

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for Yarnell.
posted by immlass at 7:59 PM on February 14, 2011


Half of what I did as a breakdancer when I was a teenager was lifted from them. Which was true of everybody. If you've ever done the robot, you're doing a Shields and Yarnell routine.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:32 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://robertshields.com/ P.O. Box 3161, Cottonwood, AZ 86326 • (928)646-5439
posted by RockyChrysler at 9:03 PM on February 14, 2011


Oh geez, I remember them on... I thought it was Donny & Marie, but Wikipedia says Carol Burnett and Sonny & Cher. (Mom sure liked those variety shows.) For some reason I tried to explain them to a dorm-mate in college and he flat-out refused to believe I wasn't making them up or maybe dreaming them. "Shields and Yarnell?! Get the fuck out of here." He was my age so I dunno, maybe raised less cosmopolitan or something.
posted by El Mariachi at 2:28 AM on February 15, 2011


Some people don't get it, but Shields and Yarnell's robot routine is the single most important source of what we now know of as hip-hop dancing. THIS IS WHERE IT ALL STARTED. It's not like there were hundreds, or tens or even one other act out there doing robot dancing in the early 1970s. These were the guys. This was the show little Michael Jackson watched in his lonely hours in front of the TV as a boy. Creative street kids, dancers and choreographers went on to graft many other features onto this bit, but Shields and Yarnell's robot couple was ground zero of the late 20th century dance revolution that saw the ideal of flowing dance moves replaced with the herky-jerky moves we now take for granted.
posted by Faze at 4:17 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


True. I remember when the robot started to break in clubs, and the opening move, bending at the waist, extending the arm and flexing the elbow, was often the first move Shields and Yarnell would make.

Read about her death last year and was sad that they were apart (such a romantic act). Bless 'em both, they were a cool part of my youth.
posted by djrock3k at 7:49 AM on February 15, 2011


Enjoyed watching the show as a 10-year old kid back in the day. Loved that they appeared on the cover of Dynamite.
posted by davidmsc at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2011


Yarnell was the human under the costume in Spaceballs, as the robot with Joan Rivers' voice. Considering how brilliant their earlier work had been, this seemed a rather sad, faceless gig.

Not only were they extremely talented physically, but I always thought they were both quite beautiful as well.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Faze dance moves replaced with the herky-jerky moves

One fun video I discovered on YT lately is a short from 'The Scene' on WGPR 62 Detroit from 1982. Featuring a tune still getting air. (Check it fast, keeps getting pulled down.)
posted by Twang at 10:54 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting - I have so many memories of watching their show as well as comedy appearances (I thought it was on Donnie and Marie too!) during my childhood. Shields and Yarnell, Doug Henning, and Mork together made up my rainbow-accessoried pantheon of True Talent. And Mummenschanz, but that's a whole other post.
posted by Mchelly at 8:52 AM on February 16, 2011


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