Vicki Lawrence had a hit single with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and played Miley Cyrus' grandmother on "Hannah Montana." But the irony isn't lost on the comedic actress that she is now the same age as Thelma Mae Crowley Harper, the cranky sexagenarian character for which she's best known. "I was in my 20s when I first started playing her on 'The Carol Burnett Show,' (before playing her on my series)," says Lawrence, who still performs a two-woman show (as herself and as Mama) on tour. "And here I am now at 64! I'm finally the right age to play her." "Mama's Family: The Complete Series" (MamasFamilyDVDs.com) is available on DVD.
Q. Where would you go away on vacation with Mama?
A. (Laughs) Can you even imagine? It wouldn't matter where I'd want to go because she'd get her way. She'd probably want to go to a bed and breakfast in the Midwest. Maybe the Mall of America to see all the stores, and then a trip to Branson; she might enjoy that.
Q. What city holds special meaning for you?
A. Sydney, Australia. That's where (my husband) Al and I fell in love.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. We go to Hawaii. That's where we go to unwind and decompress. When the kids were little, we did do a lot of stuff on vacations. But we're on the road a lot these days, so when we're on vacation, we like to sit on the beach and catch up on our reading.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. My dad planned a road trip every summer, so we always did the road trip. We did the Eastern Seaboard and learned about the history of the United States. We did a lot of those road trips, all the mandatory stuff that you should when you're a kid, like Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon and the Sequoias and the western coast. I don't think that road-tripping is as big a deal these days and that's a shame. I'm not sure that the kids today are getting the history of the country these days. When I hosted "Win, Lose or Draw," it was always fascinating to me that no one knew where anything was when they had to draw a destination. People would draw the United States and then put an arrow from Washington, D.C., and that was supposed to indicate China! One contestant was supposed to draw Baked Alaska, and she put a cake on top of North Dakota, instead.
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. The world is a lot smaller now. We look at our goddaughters and traveling abroad for them is like what used to be my trips to San Francisco (from Inglewood, Calif.). It's so easy for them and in many ways that's kind of cool. Travel unites the world more.
Q. Did your children travel with you?
A. Yes, my daughter especially. I always considered it a great learning opportunity as well as fun. I actually haven't traveled a lot aboard, but she has. She spends a lot of time in Kenya. After she did her undergrad at Stanford, she took youngsters abroad to Kenya with her organization and fell in love with it. She and I put two girls through high school. She speaks Swahili. She is absolutely amazing. She got certified to scuba dive while in Egypt when she was in her 20s.
Q. What trip will always stand out in your mind?
A. I went to Vietnam during the Vietnam War to visit all the troops. We would fly into a hospital and serve mess to the guys and we ate whatever they were eating. Then we slept there and flew out the next day to little bases where there were maybe 10 or 20 guys. Then we flew to another hospital. They told us that was the safest place for us to be. It was an amazing trip. It was a phenomenally beautiful country. I remember hanging out of a helicopter with a gunner thinking, "This is so beautiful. Why can't the war just end?" I got the worst sunburn of my life there. Me and two other girls were there for three weeks with Johnny Grant. We had some time off and were surrounded by a nice reef, and the three of us fell asleep and got burned. We had to help each other get dressed. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Every freckle on my body is from that trip, but it was an amazing trip and I met incredible people.
Q. What is on your travel bucket list?
A. My dream vacation is to someday get a 100-foot yacht with a crew of two or three people to help us. I'd like to invite two or three other couples — our best friends — and sail around the Mediterranean for three or four weeks. I'd love the ability to say, "Fire it up! Let's go to Monte Carlo, please," or sail to Greece.
Q. How about a cruise?
A. No cruise ships! That's grounds for a divorce! (Laughs) I have no desire to do that. We're sailors. Al's the captain.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I love to have a candle that smells like home. I love to have some good chocolate, because I like to have a piece at night, because it makes me feel not so deprived. I carry my own tea. That's pretty much it. I'm all packed and ready to go at all times.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)Copyright © 2015, CT Now