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Ex-`SNL' star Victoria Jackson is now live from Miami

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MIAMI - Her daughters call her the ''fun mom,'' the one who cracks jokes, stands on her head, knows the latest celeb gossip and, yes, can be extremely absent-minded. (So please yell at her to take the chocolate chip cookies out of the oven before they burn.)

More than a decade after moving from Hollywood and New York to become a mom in the 'burbs of northwest Miami, comic actress Victoria Jackson, 46, has found her niche as a wife, mom and entertainer.

''It's not easy to juggle being a mom and keeping your toe in the business, but I am a glutton,'' says Jackson who gained national fame as a "Saturday Night Live" regular from 1986 to 1992.

``I try to shove as much happiness into every day I can.''

Just in the last year, Jackson has appeared in two romantic comedies, "Shut Up and Kiss Me!" (her part was filmed in Fort Lauderdale) and "Her Minor Thing," directed by Charlie Matthau, son of the late actor Walter Matthau. She has also mugged on the game show "Hollywood Squares," won the nanny part on the "Nickelodeon Romeo!" series for two seasons and became one of the celebs on VH1's latest "TV Celebrity Fit Club."

For the latter, she jokes she got paid to lose 20 pounds: 'I told my agent, `Let's go for that one!'''

Being one of Hollywood's few openly evangelical Christians has also helped her. She appeared a dozen times on ABC's "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" as the token religious conservative. ''Thank you for standing up for Jesus in Hollywood,'' one fan e-mailed her.

Now, as the voice for the animated character Moon Mouse, she is busy helping promote the latest DVD, "Mango Helps the Moon Mouse," in the award-winning series "The Wheels on the Bus," which also features The Who's Roger Daltrey.

In the DVDs, Jackson speaks in her trademark high-pitched little girl voice as the intrepid mouse who is on a galaxy-wide mission to find cheese to take back to other Moon Mice.

''She has the perfect voice,'' says Tim Armstrong, executive producer of Our Happy Child Productions.

Jackson is also fun to work with, he says. ''She always had some kind of comic running commentary,'' he says. ``Besides getting such a good person and celebrity we were entertained.''

Jackson says it has been tricky balancing her career and family life, especially since she returned to South Florida in 1992 to marry her high school sweetheart, Miami-Dade cop Paul Wessel. Their daughter Aubrey is now 11 and Scarlet, Jackson's daughter from an earlier marriage, is 19.

Jackson says she flies around the country to perform her stand-up comedy routine. For movies or TV work, she heads to Los Angeles, where she keeps an apartment. She doesn't get many assignments in Miami, she says.

Jackson has depended on her mother, Marlene Jackson, or mother-in-law, Mattie Lou Wessel, to watch her daughters while she is gone and her husband is working. Scarlet helps out now that she is older.

Jackson takes her daughters to assignments when she can. All three spent one summer in Vancouver where the "Romeo!" cable television series was shot. Her husband goes with her, too, when he can get time off from flying a police helicopter.

He and Jackson both grew up here. Jackson's father, Jim, was a school teacher who taught gymnastics in the afternoons. (At 77, he still teaches.) Jackson remembers spending long hours in the gym, practicing handstands, flips and jumps.

She and Wessel met in seventh grade and dated their senior year while students at Dade Christian School in Northwest Miami-Dade.

Wessel later followed her to Furman University in South Carolina where Jackson had won a gymnastics scholarship. At 19, they became engaged.

But they drifted apart. Wessel earned his bachelor's degree in political science and went back home to join the police force.

Jackson dropped out of college and headed for Hollywood. ''It was the only time in my life I could do it,'' she says. ``I didn't want to regret that I hadn't done it.''

She started getting bit parts, including one in a Supercuts commercial that Wessel later saw in Miami.

''That's Vicky,'' he remembers saying. ``Cool. She's going places.''

By then they hadn't seen each other in a few years. They both married other people.

In her comedy act, Jackson jokes that her first husband was ''Satan,'' a fire-eating, piano-playing performer who opted to stay at home with their daughter Scarlet.

''I was the breadwinner,'' Jackson says.

By then, she had appeared 20 times on the Johnny Carson show. (She remembers the late Carson laughing as she stood on her head reciting poetry.)

That led to producers choosing her to join Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey and the late Phil Hartman to re-energize the flagging New York-based "Saturday Night Live" in 1986.

The show took off with critics saying the new "SNL" regulars were ``probably the best ensemble the program has seen since the originals left.''

Jackson went on to appear in the Diana Keaton movie "Baby Boom"; Dustin Hoffman's "Family Business," director Lawrence Kasdan's "I Love You to Death" and four other movies.

She could afford to buy two homes, a Mediterranean villa nestled in the hills of Hollywood and a rustic barn-like farm house on two acres in Connecticut where, she says, ``Scarlet could watch deer in the back yard.''

After six years on "Saturday Night Live," Jackson decided to leave. She wasn't appearing in the show's skits as much as she wanted.

She had been promised her own sitcom, but that fell through.

By then, her marriage was on the rocks. She ended up getting custody of Scarlet after agreeing to pay alimony to her ex-husband. ''I never believed in women's lib,'' Jackson cracks. ``But after paying alimony for seven years, I really don't believe in it.''

Jackson hadn't forgotten her first love. She found Wessel, who was also divorced, through his family. The first time he called her, they talked for hours.

Jackson agreed to sell her two homes and move back to South Florida when they married in 1992. Wessel adopted Scarlet.

''He's Superman,'' Jackson says. ``He chases the bad guys in the air and then comes home and cooks, cleans the house and does the laundry.''

''It's a great marriage,'' her husband says. ``She is the love of my life.''

Not that they don't have their moments.

He would also like their comfortable pool home to hold less. It is overflowing with hundreds of knickknacks, paintings and pictures that Jackson can't imagine living without.

For her part, Jackson wishes they could move out to Los Angeles where she could act in a sitcom and still come home at night.

Wessel, though, says he can't leave his job here.

That leaves Jackson a frequent flier.

Their daughters admit their home life is ''different.'' But they wouldn't trade their lives for a more conventional family set-up.

''We travel more and see more things,'' says Scarlet, now a college student.

Plus, their mom introduces them to celebs, such as Adam Sandler.

''She's more cool than other moms,'' says Aubrey.


(c) 2005, The Miami Herald. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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