Attorney Jacqueline Dixon, then President of the Tennessee Bar Association, presents the 2012 Liberty Bell award to Victoria Webb on behalf of the Nashville Bar Association. Victoria worked for 25+ years as a Paralegal/Volunteer Coordinator for the Nashville Bar Association’s Pro Bono Program and then for Legal Aid Society when it administered the Program. She retired from that work in May of 2012 after receiving the Liberty Bell Award at that year’s NBA Law Day luncheon celebration in Nashville, TN. Her acceptance speech after Jackie’s introduction/presentation may be viewed here in another video.
She was born Gisèle Marie Louise Marguerite LaFlèche in Winnipeg, Manitoba,] and studied violin and voice at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Toronto, Ontario. She had at least two Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio programs, Meet Gisèle, where she played hostess to Jack Benny, Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Fred Astaire, James Stewart, etc. and Gisele and Mr. Cable, before moving to Los Angeles, California, in 1951 to replace The Andrews Sisters on CBS radio’s daily Club Fifteen, starring Bob Crosby, where she alternated as regular vocalist with Jo Stafford. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1955.
MacKenzie recorded albums and singles on various record labels, most notably Capitol and RCA, Everest, Mercury, Liberty Sunset, Cricket Playhour (Pickwick). In 1953 she reached #6 in the UK Singles Chart, with her rendition of “Seven Lonely Days”. Her biggest selling song was “Hard To Get” in 1955. She was also an accomplished classical violinist, who studied at The Toronto Conservatory of Music and performed many comedic musical duets with mentor Jack Benny. She remarked that Benny was so enthusiastic about his own violin playing that at each break in rehearsal he would get his violin and they would play duets.
In an often-played clip, she and Benny perform a violin duet of “Getting to Know You”, in which she breaks their synchronization several times to add some extra musical flourishes, to his mock irritation. Finally, he breaks in with a lengthy (and stereotypically mediocre) flourish of his own, and evokes audience laughter with mock indignation: “Fool around with ME, sister
She was in frequent demand as a very popular guest performer on just about every television show, including The Jack Benny Program, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, The Bell Telephone Hour, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Eddie Fisher Show, The George Gobel Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show. She appeared too in the NBC legal drama Justice, based on cases of the Legal Aid Society of New York titled “Hard to Get” which resulted in her hit record of the same title, and made her the only regular performer on television “Your Hit Parade” to get to sing his/her own hit record on the show. She also appeared frequently in Las Vegas venues and in numerous North American concerts. She did a European tour with Benny.
In the U.S., she replaced the Andrews Sisters as a regular vocalist on “Club 15” and her guest appearance on Mario Lanza’s “Coke Time” resulted in Lanza inviting her to join his show’s cast every week. Bob Crosby and Mario Lanza. She also hosted a radio show entitled Airtime at the same time she was appearing on TV’s Your Hit Parade.
In 1952 and 1953, she toured with Benny, who recommended her for Your Hit Parade. During her 4-year tenure on that show, “Hard to Get” became a hit. MacKenzie announced in 1957 that she would not be returning to the show for another season under any conditions, which resulted in the sponsors and producers of the show to reorganize the show, and long-time regulars Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, Russell Arms and Raymond Scott were dismissed. She went on to star in her own Saturday night variety program, The Gisele MacKenzie Show, in which she played hostess to such guests as Benny, Boris Karloff, Ronald Reagan and folk singer Jimmie Rodgers. She returned to television in 1963 as Sid Caesar’s 4th television wife on The Sid Caesar Show, in which she did comedy with Caesar and sang a song each week. 1963 saw the release of her first of a series of children’s albums, “Gisele MacKenzie sings Lullaby and Goodnight”. The album sold very well and resulted in two more for Cricket Play Hour Records (Pickwick): “Gisele MacKenzie Sings and Tells the Adventures and Travels of Babar the Elephant” and “Gisele MacKenzie Sings and Tells Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland”.
In 1986 MacKenzie was temporarily recast as Katherine Chancellor on the Soap Opera The Young and the Restless. Starting in 1955, during her summer breaks from Your Hit Parade, MacKenzie added musical comedies to her resume musical theater by starring in such classics as Annie Get Your Gun, The King and I, and South Pacific. She turned expanded her acting credits in the 1990s, making guest appearances on television series including Murder, She Wrote, Boy Meets World and MacGyver
MacKenzie has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 1601 Vine.
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