Viva and Jerry gave us 20-plus years on air, wrapping up their cult-classic country music video show in 2015.
Off-air, Viva Beck, wife and co-host to husband Jerry Beck, gave the Twin Cities nearly 80 years of vivacity and warmth. However many fans she'd won on their quirky little local-access TV gig, more still accumulated on the streets, in bars, and in friends' homes.
Consider a woman who, when the MTN station was facing a slashed budget from the City of Minneapolis in 2012, met the news by saying simply her husband Jerry is a "wonderful guy," adding: "But I suppose there's better places to put the money. I don't know."
Even if you didn't watch or ever bump into her, you'll feel like you knew Viva Beck personally after reading this Facebook announcement of her sudden death this week. (She was 79, and survived by two daughters, two grandkids, and "many friends," per a Star Tribune obit.) And you'll start missing her right away.
We're reprinting a slightly edited version in full. [Trigger warning: Sadness; though dammit if it doesn't somehow end up triumphant.]
Details on a memorial are included at the bottom of the Facebook announcement.
The city is a little less lustrous today. We lost our sweet Viva after having her succumbed to a massive stroke.
From humble beginnings in a tent camp in Estonia, at age 9, Viva was living in America stuck in extended stay hotels. She was taught to work her way up, starting with her first job at White Castle. After her mother would take her paychecks to help with expenses, whatever was left over, [Viva] would buy pizza.
In her early 20s she took that ambition for work and bought a house, which she still lived in to this day. She wanted parties and her friends around, so she had her close friend Patty move to the top floor of that duplex, where Patty still lives to this day. Viva loved getting up early to sit on the front stoop with her coffee and paper. Lyndale Open Streets was her glory. "Come see the garden! Come by for a hug!"
She was already divorced and living her routine when one night at the Cardinal Bar, by the pool table, she met a chatty farm boy with black hair, a butcher by the name of Jerry Beck. She would say "That night he stole a kiss and that was the end of me." She would tell you if she were here, she didn't know love until she met him. "He gives me goosebumps."
Together as newly-weds they started the TV show "Viva and Jerry's Country Music Videos," combining Jerry's love of country and Viva's love of spoofs. Their little show brought them to recognition among the giants, with appearances with Jon Stewart, Maury Povich, and hanging on every tour bus from Nashville, like Willie Nelson and Trisha Yearwood.
In fact, anyone who has ever played Nashville was on their show. Well... maybe not Dennis Rodman, Cher or Lady Gaga, but she still adored all three just the same. To her, people were people. She made everyone feel like a celebrity.
She looked forward to going places not because of the event (Minnesota State Fair, Grand Old days, etc.) but who she may run into there and what goodies she would bring. If you were ever out and ran into her, like the staff at MTN can attest to, you would notice her purse was the size of a refrigerator, from which she would dole out pens, candy and calendars. She wanted to talk and hug and tell people how special they were.
She loved supporting the local arts, the post office local papers, and her favorite ever... Arc's Value Village. She went at least two times a week. She would say "I need spoofs for the show. They're only two bucks, two bucks!" but we all know that collection of afghans never saw air time. Viva didn't have toys as a child -- they were too poor -- so her whole life was dedicated to having that joy she could now afford, and sharing it with others.
Viva was a trailblazer. She was one of the first people in Minneapolis with green hair, She was the first official member of the Prince fan club in the 1980s, and was invited to pose for Playboy, which she politely declined, yet still continued to support the publication.
Jerry and Viva lived life as adventure, entertaining the twin cities and trying to unite both sides of the river. Now that she's gone, lets continue to support others uniqueness and hometown pride. That would make a Viva proud. TWO BUCKS, TWO BUCKS, TWO BUCKS!
ALL are welcome this Saturday at the Cardinal Restaurant and Bar, from 1pm to 3pm for a send off for Viva. We will have her vintage matches from her coffee shop (now where the Vikings stadium stands) for you to take. Any flowers or cards can be sent there as well. Hope to see you there.
Cardinal Bar- 2920 E 38th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406