Saturday Night Picks a Live One in Bubbly, 'Ditzy' Victoria Jackson
You think you can label me, but don't you dare.
'Cause I am not a bimbo.
She isn't, of course, not by a mile. But Victoria Jackson is a little airy. She's also funny, direct and—after three years—one of the most engaging bubbles of talent to effervesce on the revitalized Saturday Night Live since Jon Lovitz first saw Morgan Fair-child naked. Temporarily in New York as SNL begins its 14th season (her real home is in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon), she is, on an autumn afternoon, leading a "this is the Blue Room" tour of her cramped West Side quarters. She points out details in her signature high, nasal voice, an appealing mix of Judy Holliday and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. "If you move your head quickly, it looks blurry and poofy, like clouds," she says of the odd netting that hangs over her king-size bed. "It really looks neat."
Just like life at this point for the arrived Victoria. At 29, she's the hit of SNL and those ubiquitous Amaretto ads where she bowls in the wrong direction. She has just finished a film, UHF, playing the whiny dental-hygienist love of co-star Weird Al Yankovich. "It's so exciting to be the first girlfriend of Weird Al," she burbles. "It's like being the first girlfriend of Michael Jackson."
Which reminds her of high school back in Miami, when she and her boyfriend "never did anything but kiss on the lips. There weren't any tongues or anything. He was a Christian boy, and we wanted to be virgins when we got married. It was so romantic."
What else to expect from a girl who went to Florida Bible College when she was 16, the daughter of a vaudevillian turned gymnastics instructor and strict Baptist deacon who didn't allow booze, cigarettes or dancing? Victoria's true love was the balance beam (she still does tumbles), at least until she transferred to Furman University in South Carolina. "I thought I'd meet a preacher and marry him and serve the Lord," she says. "But nobody asked me out."
To win attention, she auditioned for plays. Her first role? An airhead maid. "I had to eat a live daisy, petal by petal, onstage." Nevertheless, enthralled with the theater, she did summer stock in Birmingham, Ala., which led her to the Variety Arts Center in L.A., where she costarred in comedy skits with former child star Johnny (The Rifleman) Crawford. "I lived in scary slums for two years," she says of her move to L.A. "But it worked." There was the Honda ad that paid for her first moped. Then came the Carson scout who secured her future with a booking (the first of 15 to date) on The Tonight Show.
As luck would have it, Nisan Even-toff, 39, a fire-eating Russian-Gypsy magician, was also performing at the Variety Arts Center and fell under Victoria's spell. "His friends were so creative and talented, but the drugs were too much," says Victoria. So was Nisan's sex appeal. "Women loved to take their clothes off in front of him and me. He was putting out a secret ray. Now he just wears dark glasses."
"Victoria came with high moral standards, and I had to work to get there with her," says Nisan, who broke down and married her in 1984. Now baby Scarlet, 2½, makes three, and Nisan is the stay-at-home. "He loves being Mr. Mom," says the Mrs. He was also thrilled when Lorne Michaels signed Victoria up in 1985 after seeing one of her Carson tapes. "I knew SNL would be hard, but I was so excited," she says. "So was my husband. He threw up when he heard."
Still steering a visitor through her apartment, Victoria tells of the ear, nose and throat team who once suggested surgery to "correct" her voice. "They said no one would respect me in the working world if I kept it." With great foresight, she vetoed the idea. "When someone calls me a ditz, I know that they're just trying to find one word to describe a person, and that's the word for me. But I'm sure the famous dumb blonds are really happy how rich they got."
—Susan Schindehette, and David Hutchings in New York