I met Mary Tyler Moore some years back at our Hall of Fame dinner in New York. OK, "met" is a bit of a stretch.
I walked up while she was talking to several other people, mumbled my name, got that smile, and wandered off to the bar to drown my sorrows in some mixed nuts and ginger ale-plus. Once smitten, twice shy, darn it.
I had meant to tell her, as I actually did tell Barbara Eden at an event years before, that she was one of the first women I had been in love with. Moore was one of those TV mom's, like Gloria Henry in Dennis the Menace or Whitney Blake in Hazel or Shirley Jones in Partridge Family, that Boomer boys of a certain age were smitten with.
I was glad to hear, as CNN took a respite from Trumpland to recap her career Wednesday, that the sparks between Laura and Rob Petry were also there, but responsibly dampened, between the both-married Moore and Dick Van Dyke. He got to pair up onscreen with both my Mary's, Moore and Poppins, the lucky stiff.
They were the sitcom's version of that other TV couple, Jack and Jackie. Coincidentally, I was reminded recently after the exit of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel that I had always wished she and Rob McDowell had teamed up for a Rob and Laura parody at an FCBA Chairman's dinner. One "oh, Rob," would have brought down the house.
Moore turned the world on with more than her smile. She could dance, she could sing and she was a brilliant comic foil — Carl Reiner says the "oh Robs" were all Moore. And she had the funniest cry in television, a lip-quivering sob that was defter than Lucy's slapstick breakdowns.
Moore's impact on TV cannot be overstated, from The Dick Van Dyke Show, to her groundbreaking role as a single career woman in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, to MTM's stable of hits — Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere — with husband Grant Tinker. Check out the early 60s Grant Tinker. There is more than a little Rob Petry in the Mad Men-cool exec.
But while she is identified as an actress most with two seminal sitcoms, there were many other noteworthy roles. Check out Finnegan Begin Again with Robert Preston, which is a delight.
And she was an excellent dramatic actress. Ordinary People was the role most were pointing to in their tributes, but Heartsounds with James Garner is the dramatic role that most affected me. It is a painfully honest and unadorned portrayal of someone trying to deal with a loss both protracted and sudden.
Moore had plenty of personal experience to draw on, battling diabetes and alcohol abuse and dealing with the death of a child.
But she prevailed, throwing her metaphorical hat in the air, where, like our memory of her, it will always remain frozen at the peak.