Victoria Jackson: Tea Party princess

From SNL to the rabid right of modern politics

Victoria Jackson: Tea Party princess
Giulio Sciorio

Victoria Jackson hurtles through intersections and down side streets while using her left hand to hold a Flip cam to her face. The inside of her car­—a weathered Honda Civic with "Nobama," Marco Rubio, and Tea Party bumper stickers—smells like it's been fumigated with sweet incense. Steering with elbows and the occasional pinkie, she opens a Bible inscribed with her name and quotes scripture in her inimitable high-pitched voice. Then she turns the camera on a reporter riding shotgun. She suspects he's a socialist. "Don't you think that some people are on welfare from cradle to grave," she demands, "because the government is encouraging them never to work?"

"Leaving on a Jet Plane," her ringtone, blares from some unknown recess of her purse, and she's suddenly burrowing through loads of makeup cases to find it. "What if we crashed and died on video?" she says, laughing wildly. "That would be the most viral video of the world! You'd be dead, but you'd have a really viral video!"

At age 52, Victoria Jackson bears little resemblance to that lithe and sweetly dopey girl with the grating voice on Saturday Night Live. And you wouldn't recognize her from those eight mostly forgettable '80s and '90s feature films such as I Love You to Death and No More Baths. She's more plump. Or as Howard Stern recently put it, she "looks like she ate Victoria Jackson." 

Victoria Jackson photographed at Hollywood Beach, Florida
Giulio Sciorio
Victoria Jackson photographed at Hollywood Beach, Florida
First year as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, 1986
courtesy of Victoria Jackson
First year as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, 1986

Her comedy career, which took her from Johnny Carson's stage in Los Angeles to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, long ago squeaked its last breath. These days she's a Miami-area suburban grandmother and wife of a buff local cop with a Bad Boys-esque career full of shootouts and commendations. And to some Christian conservatives, she is a seer of truth. The Washington Post once described her thusly: "If you opened her head, it would be filled with cotton candy." Now the former daffy actress is a bizarrely riveting semiregular political pundit on Fox News.

She's no Keyboard Cat. But videos uploaded of her—on cable news programs, on her online talk show, or filmed by her own erratic hand—have in just the past few months amassed more than a million page views. She has strummed a ukulele while harmonizing that Muslims "like beheadings and pedophile weddings." Even Bill O'Reilly laughed at her when she compared Barack Obama to "Castro in Cuba, or the guy in China, or Saddam Hussein." She has declared, in protest of a gay kiss on Glee, that homosexual children need to "pray the gay away" and that there's a "spiritual war in America."

But calling her the lunatic fringe is at most half right. She has been invited to the office of Republican Florida congressman Bill Posey, who commiserated when she said Obama has "the fakest birth certificate I've ever seen in my life." She has gained a sympathetic audience with nearly every GOP candidate of the 2012 presidential campaign (excluding the guy she calls a "fake conservative," Mitt Romney). She rode the Tea Party Express bus with Herman Cain and joined Michele Bachmann at a D.C. rally where the crowd chanted, "There's a communist living in the White House!" If not the captain of the S.S. Tea Party, she's at least the screeching mermaid strapped to its bow.

  

VICTORIA'S 76-YEAR-OLD mom, Marlene, giggly and moon-faced, pulls out a throne-like seat when her daughter arrives at the family's Miami Shores home with a male visitor. "That's the master's chair," she says cheerily, gesturing for the visitor to sit, before delivering cookies and Coca-Cola in old-timey glass bottles. "The man is the master."

Then Jim Jackson appears. He is a strapping, boyish 83-year-old former gymnast in thick spectacles. A squiggly triangle of pale flesh, left over from a melanoma graft, mars his left cheek. Victoria stands by, barefoot with cherry-red toenail polish and, as always, filming with her Flip cam. The little family gathers around a high-top table.

Soon, Jim begins with booming recollections of his youth as a champion gymnast. "I'm homophobic," he announces while describing why he doesn't like to strip in male locker rooms. "I also don't like fat people. Every time I see a 300-to-400-pound lady or a man sit down to stuff her face, I want to say, 'No, you fool! You're killing yourself!' "

Then he adds for good measure: "Our son is 300 pounds."

Marlene and Jim met around 1950 in Chicago, where he was raised and she was studying to be a nurse. Victoria's mom was from a family of Baptist zealots near Windom, Minnesota, a plains town about three hours southwest of the Twin Cities. During the Great Depression, the whole family went door-to-door preaching the evils of alcohol, caffeine, movies, music, dancing, dice, and cards.

Marlene's much-adored sister, Angeline Rose, had developed schizophrenia as a teenager and died in a state hospital. Marlene blamed God, and in revenge she married the happy-go-lucky gymnastics-obsessed Jim, whose only religion was Fred Astaire and Burt Lancaster movies. They moved to Miami in the early '50s, partly because Jim was inspired by Clark Gable's Mutiny on the Bounty.

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7 comments
CJ
CJ

This story is annoying and irrelevant. I weep for the paper that was wasted to print this. Slow news week in the Cities?

casimir
casimir

City Pages' role used to be local investigative journalism. Nothing says "advertising rag" like a generic cover story written on the cheap and with no relation to the Twin Cities. Worse than that, a story on some C-list celebrity with mentally weak Baptist parenting turning out to be a birther? Sad but not sure why we're supposed to be interested ... I guess it's a bit of a change from the publisher's self-serving articles on the sex-industry-kidnapping hoax ...

Christine
Christine

This weekly rag is "City Pages."How is this article relevant to our city? Maybe the paper should be called "Random Pages." Or "Who Cares Pages."

Melissa Summers
Melissa Summers

WHY did you waste your time writing this story? Ignore her and she'll go away; you're only encouraging the crazy by paying attention to her.

David Howe
David Howe

She was one of the highlights of her seasons on SNL. Those songs were hilarious. But today, she's clearly unbalanced. It's obvious that she's wrong, but she's also diagnosable. And hopefully treatable.

S. Abdul Otherwise Himself
S. Abdul Otherwise Himself

Earth to Victoria Jackson: No one wanted to imagine you naked in the 80s either! If she's delusional enough to imagine herself a bombshell...well, hmph. A 'birther' fixation is small potatoes in comparison.

swmnguy
swmnguy

This is a sad story. Seems like the brother who got away is the only OK one in the family.

 
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