The television star (this is one of those occasions in which “icon” can not be overused) Mary Tyler Moore died earlier today at the age of 80. I have one brief, personal memory of an encounter with her. I wish my family had saved the answering machine tape …
In our current era of Twitter and Facebook and the many other social media outlets, virtual celebrity encounters can be had quite easily. (Among my Facebook friends are the accounts of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks plays several games each night on the service.) These encounters were more rare once upon a time, the 1990s, say.
In the 1980s, Mary Tyler Moore and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, lived in Millbrook, New York, in Dutchess County. This is the county in which I was born and raised.
In the mid-1980s, my family got involved in an environmental fight against Dutchess County, our town, and IBM. (Outmatched, we did not win. It was probably never possible to win this particular fight.)
One day, I returned home from high school and saw that our answering machine indicated we had a message. I played it. “Mrs. Aldrich? This is Mary Tyler Moore, and I’d like to know if there is anything I can do to help.” She left her phone number and mailing address and some details that indicated that she had been following our fight in the media rather closely. In my memory, she recommended a lawyer. Where did she find our number? The phone book.
I do not recall if my mom ever reached out to her or if she forwarded Mary Tyler Moore’s information to our legal team for them to recruit her help; she never joined our fight, anyway.
But it was nice to know that this celebrity who was—by being on our TV every week for years—as much a part of my family’s life as my own family was a part of it was also a good neighbor. I carried that with me and always thought highly of her through the years because of it.
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