It’s not just that I loved Mary Tyler Moore. It’s that I needed her, especially when I was a confused little person growing up in the 1970s with no desire to be a housewife and very few models of women working in TV, which already was what I wanted to do. There were the beleaguered mothers in my neighborhood and the office secretaries perpetually bemoaning their single-girl status with a thousand unsmiling war stories, and then there was MTM on her eponymous show, living in a cute-as-pie pied-à-terre with no husband telling her to make dinner and no apparent regrets. Mary had the greatest best friend in America–who wouldn’t want to live downstairs from wise-cracking, warm-hearted Rhoda?—and Mary loved everyone she could, including her gruff boss (oh, Mr. Graaaant!) and simpering coworkers. She was gorgeous and hilarious and idiosyncratic and sharp, a vision in pantsuits and clever retorts and triple-take stammers and and just the best, best legs. She organized her medicine cabinet alphabetically and served cognac and coffee and didn’t pretend to be dumber than she was, even if she did suffer too many fools. (Even at age 6 I felt this strongly.) She was made for TV–movies never quite captured the scope of her down-to-earth elegance—but she also made over TV. Through Mary, we all got used to women who lived alone joyously–ones who presided over a newsroom unapologetically, who knew how to be good friends with women and men, who Long Tall Sallied everywhere with compassion, confidence, and clarity. Continue Reading →
Carol Burnett is undeniably the unsung foremother of TV comedy. While Lucille Ball deserves praise galore for her groundbreaking 1950s sitcom, big-eyed, big-jawed, big-hearted, big-italics Burnett was one of the first women on TV to lead a regular variety hour. Emerging in the early 1960s as a star on Broadway and “The Garry Moore Show,” she signed a contract with CBS who tried to pigeonhole her into a sitcom. Instead she launched the smash “The Carol Burnett Show,” which lasted eleven seasons–a feat even now on network television–and helped make the careers of such golden girls as Vicki Lawrence and Bernadette Peters while resuscitating such secretly hilarious sirens as Shirley Temple and Rita Hayworth.
Now eighty-three, Burnett has written her third memoir, In Such Good Company, a tell-all about the show that entertained home audiences from 1967 to 1978. Stuffed with juicy tidbits about new and old Hollywood (you’ll adore tales of Carol Channing’s diet of whale blubber), the book is so frank and funny that it inspired me to hunt down some of the skits she describes so vividly. Continue Reading →
I’d planned to ignore the #firstsevenjobs hashtag floating around. Then I realized I couldn’t even remember my first seven jobs because, a true Capricorn, I’d been working since before I hit double digits and had done everything from posing nude to working as a TV actor before I turned 20. Sorting out the list proved more entertaining than doing a crossword, so forgive the length and (nonhumble) brag. One thing’s for sure: I missed my calling. Given my early proclivities, you’d think I’d be a coke-addled billionaire by now.
1. Leaflet distributor. At age 9, sick of begging my parents for an allowance when it came straight out of my mother’s limited food budget, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I marched into all the local businesses in West Newton Square and asked if they wanted someone to distribute leaflets on their behalf. Two businesses bit, and, soon enough, I was slipping leaflets advertising a thrift shop and deli under all the car windshields and welcome mats in the area. Yes, I was that arsehole.
2. Babysitting entrepreneur. At age 11, I decided the leaflets weren’t cutting it—they only yielded five cents a page—so I started a mini-babysitting business in which I mined my leafletting skills to build my “company” from the ground up. In retrospect, it is appalling that so many Newton, Massachusetts parents entrusted their precious charges to a gum-snapping 11-year-old who did not like kids. When I could not handle all the work that came my way, I began to hand the jobs entailing too many boys (all those huge Boston Irish Catholic families!) over to Michael Anderson, who promptly poached most of my gigs permanently. Oh, Michael. Twenty years later, I was the best man in his Oregon wedding. Continue Reading →