Viva Beck, half of the husband-wife team who won a national audience for their quirky and charming “Viva and Jerry’s Country Music Videos” on Twin Cities public access TV, has died.
Beck suffered a stroke and died Monday, according to “Viva and Jerry” manager Hanna Jungbauer. She was 79.
“The city is a little less lustrous today,” Jungbauer announced Tuesday night on Facebook.
As middle-aged newlyweds, Viva and Jerry started their cable show in the early 1990s and remained in production for more than 20 years, Jungbauer said.
“It combines Jerry’s love of country and Viva’s love of spoofs,” Jungbauer posted on Facebook.
Jungbauer attributed the bare-bones show’s popularity to the stars being “two people in love,” people Minnesotans could identify with.
“Their little show brought them to recognition among the giants,” Jungbauer wrote.
The couple went to New York for appearances on talk shows and put their decidedly Minne-SOH-tah accents and wacky back-and-forth out there in playful banter with hosts Jon Stewart and Maury Povich.
“My next guests, the king and queen of Minneapolis cable access, ladies and gentlemen,” is how Stewart introduced them.
Povich packed his stage with those he crowned “America’s Public Access TV Stars,” and Viva and Jerry bounded out to rousing cheers and applause from the audience.
“Just to be able to entertain and just get out there and do it, Maury,” was how Jerry explained what motivated the couple. “If I just made one person in the audience laugh today, my life is complete. I love it.”
While the “Viva and Jerry” show went out of production a few years ago, reruns still air on Fridays and Saturdays on public access in Minneapolis, Jungbauer said.
Jungbauer’s announcement traced Viva Beck’s life from living in a tent camp in her native Estonia as a child in the 1940s to moving to the Twin Cities and eventually meeting butcher Jerry Beck, “a chatty farm boy with black hair,” at the Cardinal Bar in Minneapolis.
“She would say, ‘That night he stole a kiss and that was the end of me,’ ” Jungbauer wrote.
“To her, people were people,” Jungbauer explained. “She made everyone feel like a celebrity. She looked forward to going places, not because of the event (State Fair, Grand Old Days, etc.), but [for] who she may run into there and what goodies she would bring.”
Viva especially embraced the annual Open Streets festivities on Lyndale Avenue S., where the couple made their home.
“If you were ever out and ran into her,” Jungbauer wrote, “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.”
Along with her husband, Viva Beck is survived by daughters Mary Vander Linden and Stacie Olson; and grandchildren Alex Vander Linden and Emily Otis.
The public is invited to a celebration of her life from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Cardinal Bar, 2920 E. 38th St.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482