JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: What a shock it was to read of the passing of Mary Tyler Moore. She was such an icon, such a central fixture in the public imagination, it seems hard to believe she could get old and die like regular mortals. That lanky, elegant figure, that swoop of brunette hair, that distinctive voice and million megawatt smile - all tied together with perfect comedic timing and the ability to convey a whole monologue in one glance.
She had a five-decade long career, but The Mary Tyler Moore show is what she'll be most remembered for. It's hard to imagine now how revolutionary it was to see a single career woman holding her own back in the early seventies. Mary Richards dated, but her life wasn't about finding a man. It was about her job, and her coworkers and friends. The show touched - lightly, amusingly - on sex, birth control, equal pay and equal opportunity, but it was Mary herself, happy and fulfilled in an office instead of wearing an apron at home, that changed perceptions and showed a different kind of life to millions of girls and young women. It feels like all of us have lost a beloved, flag-waving, feminist aunt.
Reds, what are your memories of Mary Tyler Moore?
Jenn: As a Gen-X, latchkey kid, I feel as if I was raised by Laura Petrie ("Oh, Rob!") and Mary Richards ("You've got spunk!) and I couldn't have asked for finer role models in my after school rerun watching TV time. Laura Petrie was so funny and charming and hip, while Mary was smart and clever and valued her people. As I watched her, I really believed that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. What a gift for a young girl to have. What an impact to make on several generations of women. Mary Tyler Moore really could turn the world on with her smile.
HALLIE EPHRON: As a Baby Boomer, I desperately wanted her hair. That perfect flip. Of course I watched the show every week. And when I came to New York to meet with my editor for the first time, and came up out of the subway to see the Flatiron Building looming over me, it was Mary I channeled (even though I knew I wasn't in Minneapolis)... if I'd been wearing a hat I'd have flung it up in the air. "You're gonna make it after a-all!"
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, I cannot begin to tell you. A woman in television? Huh. I was actually working at my first TV station in 1975 and in Indianapolis--so you can imagine how hilariously must-see that show was! And the people were perfect--I still don't know how they completely understood and portrayed the types and the dynamics. It makes me shake my head with nostalgia just thinking about it--I was in exactly the same milieu at the time it was on. We all got courage from Mary! She was so tough and vulnerable at the same time--I love when she got spunky. How did that go--didn't she hate being called spunky? And my mother :-) got the two of us completely conflated.
RHYS BOWEN: Oh how I envied that hair! Especially when she was Laura Petrie and it flipped up in a way mine never would. I enjoyed her as Mary Richards much more because I'd worked for the BBC and I'd met some of those characters. However at the BBC I have to say that on the whole women were treated absolutely equally so it was a shock to me to find that women in other jobs were not treated like men. I was glad Mary was a role model for young women demanding equal treatment and respect.
But I'll always remember Mary for her role in Ordinary People--what a stretch for someone who had played adorable comedy. We've had a horrible twelve months of loss of our icons, haven't we. Enough, grim reaper!
INGRID THOFT: I have to admit that I wasn't quite old enough to watch "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when it was first on air, but I do remember catching the occasional rerun and thoroughly enjoying it. Like Rhys, I remember MTM best for her role in "Ordinary People." She gave a tour de force performance as the brittle, unforgiving mother, evidence of her extraordinary range. The other thing that comes to mind when I think of MTM? She married a man fifteen years her junior at a time when women just weren't doing that sort of thing. Her choice of spouse was another instance in which she was blazing new paths and proving that anything men could do, women could do, too.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I grew up on Dick Van Dyke. It was my parents favorite show, and that was the only night that we were allowed to eat in the den on TV tables--what a treat! I think my dad had a big crush on MTM--she was his ideal woman. Recently I saw two episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show that had been colorized (did anyone else see those?) and her comedic timing was just brilliant. The Mary Tyler Moore show didn't make as much of an impression on me--those were years when I didn't watch much TV at all--but I watched enough to see my own role differently when I went out into the work world. Groundbreaking.
LUCY BURDETTE: I loved both of those shows too, but like Rhys and Ingrid, ORDINARY PEOPLE is the performance that sticks in my mind. (One of my all-time favorite movies.) After I saw it, I remember telling my father (who was married to an emotionally withholding woman) that he must go see it too. He must have heard something dire in my voice because he snuck off to see the movie without the wife. I think Mary Tyler Moore helped him get out of a lousy relationship!
READERS, what do you remember most about Mary Tyler Moore?