Last night was one of the most amazing nights of my life. I met Mary Tyler Moore.
I am a huge fan of classic TV (so much so that my Bat Mitzvah theme was Nick @ Nite TV shows, like Lucy, Bewitched, Taxi, Newhart, and of course, The Mary Tyler Moore Show). So, when I found out that the Mary Tyler Moore would be speaking at my local Y (and signing books, which meant face-to-face time!), I rushed to get tickets.
When Mary first stepped on stage, the crowed erupted, though I swear I was the loudest, especially since I was squealing too.
The title of Mary's new book, Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes, is exactly how she spoke -- yes, she talked about Diabetes, but it was always in the context of the rest of her life. It showed that she doesn't let the disease take her over her life.
Mary discovered her Diabetes while in the hospital after suffering a miscarriage. A routine blood test showed that her blood sugar was 750 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), as compared with the normal level, 70 mg/dl - 105 mg/dl. She said that the doctors were "startled I was walking around as if I were part of the human race."
After learning the news, Mary rebelled. She continued to smoke and drink, and directly after returning home from the hospital, she drove to a store, purchased a dozen donuts, and proceeded to eat all twelve while sitting in her car in the parking lot.
Mary told a lot of stories, ranging from family to work, including this one about mistaken identity. At the premiere party for the movie Hairspray, Mary was trying to make her way up the stairs to another section of the party. Since she no longer has depth perception or peripheral vision to her Diabetes, she usually needs help on stairs. So, she grabbed her husband Robert's hand and they made their way up. At the top, Mary turned around to talk to him, and realized it wasn't Robert. Whoops!
Mary also spoke about her son, Richie, who died of an accidental gun shot wound when he was in his 20s. She said she felt a sense of guilt, and wished she had either become a mother and then tried to become an actress or vice versa, but not at the same time. "It doesn't work as well as being there," she said. Plus, it was hard for her son to watch his mom -- who wasn't home -- as Laura Petrie, the ideal mom, mothering a child his own age, who was also named Richie.
Though Mary says she's extremely responsible with her insulin -- and never let it affect her work on Mary Tyler Moore -- she did have a mix-up the night prior to her talk at the Y. She has two sets of insulin she takes before bed -- a small amount of the fast-acting and a larger amount of the long-lasting. Mary accidentally switched the two bottles, causing her to wake up in the middle of the night perspiring and shaking. She staggered into the living room where her husband was, and called out, "I'm loooooow" in her famous Mary voice.
After speaking for almost an hour and a half, it was time for the book signing. I ran to get toward the front of the line, with my copy of her book and the first season DVD of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in hand. Unfortunately, Mary would only sign copies of her book and there were no photos allowed.
Even so, I felt myself getting nervous as I went to approach her with my book. And believe me, as an Entertainment Editor, I don't get nervous around celebrities. But as the words started to come out of my mouth to speak with Mary, I felt myself stutter! Somehow I managed to let her know that I became a journalist because of Mary Richards. She asked me where I write (yay, iVillage!), and then it was all over. I picked up my signed book and left.
The entire situation was an eye-opener. I had always loved Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards. So, when an older version of Mary Richards first came on the stage, part of me felt sad, since it wasn't the flipped hair, hat-tossing Mary Richards I had grown to love. And yet the essence of Mary -- the laugh, the voice and the humor -- still shone through. I loved it!