If I had to put a number on it, I’d say about 60% of the reason I wanted to work in television as a little kid was due to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was an active Nick at Nite watcher in general (I just recently saw Bob Newhart out shopping and couldn’t get enough, almost died) and MTM and the subsequent spinoff Rhoda were some of my favorites. In most things, I’m not usually as attached to the main character, but I loved Mary Richards.
But more importantly, I LOVED Rhoda Morgenstern. Rhoda was Mary’s best friend, played by Valerie Harper.
I mean, I always think I’m the main character in my own story and loved Mary Richards but Rhoda was probably closer to who I was and who I wanted to be. I’m a sucker for brash New Yorkers and that’s exactly who Rhoda was. I obsessively watched Rhoda and you better believe I was glued to my TV set when Mary and Rhoda came out in 2000.
Rhoda was the inspiration for my Halloween costume in 5th grade which was, naturally, a gypsy.
I would have done anything to just go as Rhoda Morgenstern but I don’t think anyone in my 5th grade class would have understood, so I just thought of any situation where I could wear a head scarf.
When Valerie Harper announced very publicly, that she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, the first person I contacted was my mom. She loved these shows too (I think it helped that she actually was like, alive when they were first on) and was half the reason I was so interested in them when I saw them on Nick at Nite. We just emailed back and forth about how sad we were to hear the news, and “did you see what Ed Asner said about it?”
After surviving lung cancer in 2009, Valerie Harper was diagnosed with this rare brain cancer in January of this year and her doctors estimate she has three months to live.
I can’t imagine what this might be like on Valerie Harper and her family and the only thing I can offer up is that Rhoda Morgenstern and therefore, Valerie Harper has impacted my life in an enormous way and I wouldn’t even know how to thank her for that.
Mary and Rhoda had a female friendship I could get behind. I can’t even think of anyone else in my history of TV watching that comes close to them. They were enemies and then fast friends and I can’t think of anyone else I’d have rather learned about life and friendships from.
Rhoda gave me a style to emulate (in 2008, my mom famously described my Thanksgiving dinner outfit as “very Rhoda Morgenstern” – naturally it was a long vest over a bright blue long sleeved shirt with a scarf and long necklace), taught me to speak my mind and showed us all how to have a friendship, for crying out loud.
We love you, Valerie Harper. I either want a Rhoda or to be Rhoda. I’m really not picky.