Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story is a new biography about sitcom icon Mary Tyler Moore, who soared to fame as the star of both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Written by Herbie J Pilato — and available now through Amazon — the book’s publisher, Jacobs Brown, has provided Closer Weekly with an exclusive excerpt from the biography’s Chapter 5, “Born Identities” — scroll down to read!
In the spring of 1966, Mary Tyler Moore appeared on The David Susskind Show to address her departure from and the demise of The Dick Van Dyke Show, as well as her relocation with then-husband Grant Tinker to New York, which she did not initially embrace. “I just hate it,” she told [host David] Susskind who, surprised by her words, in turn, wondered if she was “looking for controversy?” This was typical Susskind; he sought ratings through notoriety.
Mary’s appearance with him was reminiscent of the Van Dyke episode, “Ray Murdock’s X-Ray” (January 23, 1963). Here, Rob is placed on the spot by an infamously incendiary talk-show host. Rob’s worst fears come true as he fidgets and eventually blurts out something embarrassing. But that Van Dyke segment was exaggerated comedy; Mary’s appearance on Susskind was all too real. She initially seemed uncomfortable, unready for his typical verbal assaults. At first, she carefully measured her words, but came back swinging, never losing control. Mary addressed her relocation:
“Well, I have my own ready-made controversy at home. We just moved in or rather attempted to move into a lovely apartment that I thought would be a lovely apartment. Turns out that the housekeeper who had been on salary for three months while we were in California and whose total job it was just to see that things were dusted, and the painters got in, vanished the night before we arrived, having done absolutely nothing. Then all through the last three days painters and moving men have been bringing me cartons and saying, ‘Where should we put this?’ And I don’t have a place to tell them to put it. It’s been really frightening. I went to sit down on a stool today and the seat broke off and I ended up sitting on a steel rod and oh, well … I feel like I’ve been starring in another situation comedy though, the way things have been happening.”
At this point, Susskind interrupted her and referred to an article in Newsweek magazine. In it she reportedly had no regrets about leaving Van Dyke, because she grew weary of playing “goodie-goodie” Laura — or as Susskind phrased it, “… ordering milkshakes in public and now you can have straight scotch.”
“Oh, goodness,” she recoiled. “Now, you see? It probably took me two and a half hours to say that and they [encapsulated] it down to a point where I sounded really horribly shocking and dismal and kind of bitter about life. I assure you I’m not and … that I miss every one of the people on the Van Dyke Show desperately. They became my good friends, my only friends, really.”
She defined herself as “somewhere in between” the sweet Laura and “a wild, mad swinger.” Even though Laura Petrie was created by Carl Reiner, the character’s attitude was very often her own. With every part she played, Mary tried to insert as much of herself and her own reactions as possible, “simply because it’s easier to sustain a character week after week after week if you do it that way.”
For an even deeper look into who Mary Tyler Moore was, please check out our full exclusive profile.