When I was a kid, my family watched the Dick Van Dyke show every week. For years now, every night, Tananarive and I have watched an episode of the show, and after watching them all about five times, went to the Mary Tyler Moore show and relished them as well. Mary was a perfect foil for Dick: elegant, sexy, funny, with chemistry to burn, and such obvious intelligence and talent and charm that you never, ever doubted that these two belonged together–that he was in fact lucky to have her.
She was an icon of the women’s movement, her MTM show giving us the first unmarried business woman with her own show. She was ambitious, capable, and sexual (never more than once a season, as I recall…but Rhoda was a party animal!) and when you realized that she produced her own show, that that personae was who she really was.
In the middle 70’s I worked at CBS television as an usher/tourguide and sometimes worked her show, which was filmed out in Television City. But my very favorite memory was in the 1976 Affiliate Convention, when each male usher walked a female celebrity up to the stage. Mine was Mary. She was so gracious, a warm smile for me as she extended her arm, and I tried not to trip over my feet. An inclination of her head and “thank you” was more than enough as I left her on the stage. For just a moment I had touched a childhood crush (who DIDN’T adore Mary?). It’s been painful to watch her growing increasingly fragile, and the last appearances on the Golden Girls, one with Valerie Harper, I was aware that she probably had trouble walking…so a more favored memory of her later days was in the otherwise regrettable “Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited” where we watched Rob and Laura in retirement, each still dancing and enjoying life. That’s how I want to remember her.