She’s a gum chewer, a chain smoker, and an obsessive dieter. Outside of that, she’s perfect. Everybody loves her, but no one really knows her. “If there were anything wrong in her life,” a close friend says, “she would be the last to inflict it on anyone.”
When I first talked with Mary Tyler Moore, she had not yet separated from her husband, Grant Tinker. “I’m totally happy,” she told me then. “My life is perfect. I guess it’s the old Puritan ethic — the idea that everything evens up in the long run. I keep waiting for some giant sandbag to fall.”
We spent time together on the set of her television series, but never at the big new house in Malibu she and Grant had moved into a short time before, a house filled with Emmy awards and 20 needlepoint pillows made by Mary Tyler Moore herself. (She showed them to the architect and told him to build a house to match.)
Not many people see the house, and I am sure that if they come, they don’t just drop in casually.
The show’s cast members are all friends, whose birthdays Mary marks in a special book and takes pains to celebrate, whose lost dogs she worries about, whose children’s pet frogs she examines on the set, and someday, I am certain, there will be a party at the Malibu house, and Mary will be gracious and welcoming and sociable, but she will not, I’m equally sure, drink too much champagne and take a friend aside and tell her secrets.
“My husband and I are very private people,” she said, not in the way some stars announce they’re Very Private People as a prelude to Telling All.