Why Mary Tyler Moore Once Said She Had ‘Very Few Friends’ for Most of Her Life

by Suzanne Halliburton
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The Mary Tyler Moore Show was all about a modern woman and her friends, whether they were ones she met on the job or at home in her neighborhood.

But in real life, Moore conceded she didn’t have that many close friends. There wasn’t a real-life Rhoda or Phyllis, no Murray or Lou. And she said it was a choice she made throughout her life. Her own personal thaw happened in middle age, after the Mary Tyler Moore Show was off the air. She left a safe world in Los Angeles and moved to New York to revive her life.

Moore told this to Rolling Stone back in 1980. The magazine devoted its cover to the talented actress. She was wearing a green jumpsuit as the magazine touted “America’s Sweetheart Plays Rough in Ordinary People.” Indeed, Moore played a cold character. It was her first movie role in 20 years. She received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for the role.

And Rolling Stone reran the story on Jan. 25, 2017, hours after Moore died at age 80.

Mary Tyler Moore Says She Wouldn’t Open Up To People

It’s interesting to go back and reread the comments of an actress who represented the modern idyll to a generation of young women. On the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary Richards moved to Minneapolis after a breakup, found a career in TV news and looked after herself without needing a husband or serious boyfriend. But on the TV show, her crew, collectively, had her back. She didn’t have that same crew in real life.

Moore said in 1980:

“I have become a lot more open in the past few months. I am developing a group of friends. They are not even a group. They are individual people I spend time with, and when I am feeling sad or blue or stupid, I share that with them. I feel very good about that.

“Throughout most of my life I’ve had very few friends,” Moore said. “Probably none with whom I would share those dark, ugly moments. I never really allowed anybody to get to know me. There was something in me that said, ‘If you share your darkest moments, your saddest moments with people, you’re burdening them.’ I now know that that gives them an open door to do the same with you, and so it’s a gift, to be open enough to say, ‘I really feel rotten and here’s why.”

The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran from 1970-77. The show proved so popular that it created three spinoffs. They were Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant. All three were close friends of Mary’s. Lou also was her gruff boss.

Rolling Stone described Mary Tyler Moore in much the way everyone else viewed her.

The article said: “The well-scrubbed, all-American girl whom everyone likes, that’s the ticket. Miss Popularity. Voted Most Likely to Succeed. She’s our girl.”

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