Victoria Jackson, Tea Party Princess

Victoria Jackson went from the big leagues of comedy to the rabid right of modern politics.

The couple wed in Los Angeles in 1984 and two years later had a daughter they named Scarlet. Soon, Victoria snagged a role on the sitcom pilot Half Nelson as Hollywood security guard Joe Pesci's ditsy blond secretary. The show was canceled after six episodes, but she bought her first house — a two-bedroom Lookout Mountain bungalow in Laurel Canyon — with the paychecks.

She was a regular performer on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where in one of her most memorable bits she channeled Patti Smith, singing about being an "angry woman" while doing tricks on a balance beam.

In 1986, she flew to New York to audition for SNL. Executive producer Lorne Michaels, she remembers, curled his lower lip and lamented her lack of comedic characters. So the next time she was on Carson's show, she continued the audition by doing impressions of Diana Ross and Edith Bunker and inventing a character: a glum boss interviewing Carson for a job. She joined the SNL cast that season. With a new baby in tow, she and Nisan bought a four-bedroom Colonial in Weston, Connecticut. They split time between the two homes.

Half Nelson, Victoria Jackson's sitcom with Joe Pesci, lasted all of six episodes.
Courtesy of Victoria Jackson
Half Nelson, Victoria Jackson's sitcom with Joe Pesci, lasted all of six episodes.
Jackson with pizza magnate and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
Courtesy of Victoria Jackson
Jackson with pizza magnate and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

But Michaels' trepidation had been spot-on. Victoria's castmates included Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. She couldn't keep up. "I lived on pure adrenaline," she says. "You always think you're going to get fired. You're always competing with your cast members for air time."

Coming up with characters and premises for skits was a supreme struggle. She confesses that one of her funnier sketches — "Victoria's Secrets," in which she wore lingerie and throatily fumbled at being sexy — was a product of begging castmate Jon Lovitz and writer Conan O'Brien for ideas as they walked down an office hallway.

Her nasal voice nixed nuanced impressions. Besides doing backbends and reading poetry on the "Weekend Update" news desk, impressions of Roseanne Barr and Zsa Zsa Gabor were her only recurring gags.

Critics and former castmates haven't been kind. Nerve.com recently ranked her dead last of 92 all-time cast members and wrote that her "cute-ditsy-idiot act got pretty thin, [and] it turns out it wasn't an act." And in the 2002 book Live From New York, an oral history of the show, castmate Jan Hooks sniped, "I just have a particular repulsion to grown women who talk like little girls. It's like, 'You're a grown woman! Use your lower register!'" (Victoria, by the way, claims her weird voice is the result of a medical defect: a "congenital palatal insufficiency." )

Look, I'm not qualified for this, Victoria recalls thinking. Maybe this is my mission field. I'm supposed to tell my cast members about Jesus!

But Hartman didn't want to talk about the Son of God. And Lovitz asked how Jesus, "a grown man," could have fit in his mother's womb to be born again. When Victoria left audiocassette box sets of the Bible in each castmate's mail slot for Christmas, they were angrily returned.

Writer and performer Al Franken, now a Democratic U.S. senator for Minnesota, cornered her once, Victoria says. He said he was "offended" by her "ditsy" act. "Maybe I'm overcompensating," she retorted, "because everybody here is dying and going to hell, and I'm supposed to tell them about Jesus."

Franken went white, she says. "He never talked to me again."

Victoria struggled to make the leap to film acting. Her biggest role was as a costar in 1988's Casual Sex?, an insipid rumination on sexual relationships in a post-AIDS world. It flopped. "The movie is exactly like the real thing," the Washington Post opined. "Kinda empty, kinda unfulfilling and you feel just awful afterward." Victoria also played "Weird Al" Yankovic's love interest in UHF. Again, not a Brando-esque turn.

Besides the film proceeds, Victoria was making $20,000 per weekly episode of SNL, according to divorce records. In 1991, her ill-conceived marriage to the fire-eater finally came to an end. "He hated me more and more each day," she says. "One night he was fumbling around in the gun closet and he was drunk, and I thought, Is he going to kill me?"

A Connecticut judge ordered Victoria to pay Nisan alimony of 15 percent of her income, but not less than $3,000 a month, for three years. He also received a portion of the residuals from her films and, less financially momentous, her catalogue of ditties such as "I Am Not a Bimbo" and "I Wanna Be a Slut." (Victoria sells her songs on a self-published CD called Use Me. "Even my friends haven't listened to it," she admits.)

Nisan declined to be interviewed for this story. Still in Connecticut, he's now known as "the Magic Genie." His website boasts he "offers quality magic tricks at discount prices. ... He can even levitate one of the children! Fire effects are optional."

After the divorce, Victoria reconnected with her former fiancé from Miami, Paul Wessel. Also divorced, he had become a Miami-Dade Police SWAT officer. In 1984, according to Paul's personnel file, the tip of his pinkie was shot by his own partner in a firefight with a drug suspect. In 1991, with a single round he killed an Opa-locka man who pointed a revolver at officers. At an inquest, the man's widow beseeched, "Why did they have to shoot him in the heart?" Paul's lethal actions were ruled justified. One year later, he used a shotgun to obliterate a pit bull that was attacking his partner. To date, Paul has been honored with 71 department commendations.

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19 comments
Len
Len

Why should I be surprised that someone who gained fame by acting like an airhead is now demonstrating that it wasn't an act?

Charles443
Charles443

I don't agree with Victoria Jackson's politics, but if you're going to do a hatchet job on someone, could you at least not make it so obvious? For instance:

Why would you quote that useless ranking of the funniest people ever on SNL? As a 20-year professional comedy writer for morning radio, and someone old enough to have watched every season of SNL since the premiere episode, I can assure you there's no justification for ranking her last, other than politics. I saw that list the day it appeared and immediately dismissed it as twaddle from an uninformed source, for that and many other reasons (he had her ranked below people who were on for only a few weeks and didn't appear in a single memorable sketch). It was clearly worthless, yet you quoted it as if it were some sort of authoritative source, just to get one more dig in at her.

Likewise, you quote Jan Hooks slamming her without bothering to mention Hooks' possible personal motivations for wanting to put her down. There's a well-known anecdote, recounted in Tom Shales' book about SNL, about how Hooks and Nora Dunn were so domineering and obnoxious, they'd demoralized the entire cast and crew to the point that the producers held a meeting to ask what was poisoning the atmosphere. Everyone else was afraid to speak up until Victoria Jackson finally pointed at them and said, "Oh for god's sake, everybody knows it's because of them!" Awkward moment. Think it might have made Jan Hooks a less than objective source on assessing Victoria's talent? This story might have taken all of five minutes' research on Google to unearth.

I get it that you wanted to do a hit piece on her because of her politics, but try to have the decency to be objective in assessing the person's talent in unrelated fields. Otherwise, you're no better than a right-winger railing about the communists in Hollywood whose movies he boycotts.

Everette Morgan
Everette Morgan

Politics have definitely gone to lunacy on the right you have your Victoria Jackson's and on the left you have your..mm...never mind. No one is like her!

catbird
catbird

Loved her "Lucy-esque" character on SNL and was pleased do discover she is a conservative Christian with the courage to take a public patriotic stand.

Call me crazy (and I know you will) but she is spot on about Obama and what he intends for the country.

jhon8541
jhon8541

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jhon8541
jhon8541

My best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millinaire manRonald who is the

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you can mee one, the most important is you can find yourtrue l-o-v-e! right?

Dl
Dl

Insane uneducated bimbos: The darlings of the tea party. What a sad joke this woman has become. She and Orly Taitz can hit the road together.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I know folks are blasting her, but I feel for her, she, like mel gibson, has had issues throughout her life with what appears to be some form of mental illness. Sane people don't act like this, no matter the political affiliation. I hope she can upright herself and get away from all the poisonous thought and nonsense, then get her career back on track..

Baywolfe
Baywolfe

We do remember this lady is a dipshit, right?

UnFair Pork
UnFair Pork

OMG!

"...and I could do airhead better than anyone. That's my specialty! It would be effortless."

'Nuff said.

mojorisin73
mojorisin73

I would have to say she is a typical Fox News Neo-Con having supported Bachman, whom is no longer in the race. If she was for real Constitutional Conservative principles, then she would be supporting Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul for the GOP nomination instead of a bunch of Patriot Act and NDAA loving Neo-Cons. She might want to add "Liberty Defined" by Dr. Ron Paul, in her collection of books, read and memorize the 10 principles to a free society.

Darrylrs
Darrylrs

This bitch was never funny and now she's just freaking insame.

Montemalone
Montemalone

She's just one of however many other freakazoids. Blaming Democrats for her failed marriage? I still remember her scene in Baby Boom as a nanny gettin naked with a guy and getting caught with her hands on her boobs. How conservative is that?

cupoftea
cupoftea

Victoria Jackson is an idiot. She needs to shut up and go away and hang her stupid head in shame. She is a complete embarassment. World Net Daily is like a crazy version of some freakish Christian tabloid. Their so called news is usually quite nutty. It fitures she'd write for them.

Inked_Alice
Inked_Alice

She is *literally* the problem in this country. Spouting insane theories that she picks up from here and there, with zero understanding of what she's saying. Illegals will vote because of cheating... REALLY? Wow.

She's apparently even too stupid to realize how much she shouldn't have done this interview.

UnFair Pork
UnFair Pork

I kinda like the fact that they're proud of their opinions and not afraid to toss them right out there. At least then we know what we're dealing with.

And the "I'm homophobic and don't like to undress around other men" thingy from her dad is just... priceless.

Steve
Steve

So why is that dumb, fat pig pretending to be hot?

 
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