Mary Tyler Moore at 75

Hard to believe, but today is the 75th birthday of Mary Tyler Moore. As the leggy assistant on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, a Happy Hotpoint elf and especially as Capri slacks-stunner Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, the Brooklyn-born actress turned the world on with her smile long before The Mary Tyler Moore Show (seen nightly at 11 p.m. on Comedy Gold). That’s the show that defines her as ’70s chic. It is interesting to watch now if just to catch a glimpse or two of Moore’s flinty edge behind the toothy wholesomeness of Mary Richards.
I’ve encountered Moore on a few occasions over the years on TCA press tours. She and Van Dyke felt the love from critics when they reunited to promote The Gin Game in 2003. The two even sang and danced a bit in the hallway leading into the press tour session.
Memorable, too, was her appearance at the 2000 TCA press tour party to promote the ABC TV-movie Mary & Rhoda. The movie (penned by Canadian Katie Ford) was disappointing but Moore and hubby Robert Levine still dutifully worked the press deal. I remember shaking her hand, finding that a bit awkward and reading later that she prefers not to do that. Oops.

Moore before Van Dyke. Photographer Gene Trindl
told me the assignment was to shoot the girl with
the gams who had been fired from Richard Diamond

ABC had a sword and sandals epic on its schedule that season and had the Pasadena party venue decked out in an Arabian Nights motif. A live camel was out in front on a lawn and Moore, a big animal rights activist, fearlessly marched up, threw her arms around its neck and posed for pictures with the beast.
I remember standing next to Levine at the impromptu shoot and he was basically holding his breath.
One day I’ll get around to transcribing an interview I did with Moore’s old Van Dyke Show co-star Rose Marie–who hates Mary Tyler Moore. This apparently goes back to the ’60s sitcom, a project Hollywood veteran Marie thought she’s play a larger role on before being upstaged by this kid from Brooklyn and her Capri slacks.
At the time that I spoke with her, Marie was still steamed about a TV Land award event where she and Van Dyke and Moore and Carl Reiner took a bow for the series. Moore apparently sobbed from the stage, “If only Rhoda could be here to see this!”
“Rhoda?” seethed Marie to me on the phone. “What the hell did she have to do with The Dick Van Dyke Show!?”

Rehearsing The Dick Van Dyke Show

Much has been written about how The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a game changer in its depiction of a young single woman trying to make it on her own. There is something intriguing still about Mary Richards’ sex life on that show. It is cool how she was never really paired with a man on the series, but just kept working the room. Not in a slutty way as depicted today on name-any-sitcom. Richards was more of a secret storm, and that’s what kept the dudes keen.
That Minneapolis setting was a bonus, too. It made Richards almost Canadian. If you can make it in snow, you can make it on your own.
Moore has battled type 1 diabetes for four decades and is open about her struggles with alcoholism, working things out on at least one occasion at the Betty Ford clinic. (She goes into detail in her most recent autobiography.) She’s endured three husbands, the early, tragic death of her only son and has outlived two siblings. Earlier this year, she underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma.
The girl has spunk. Happy birthday, Mare.

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