Valerie Harper Dead at 80

Photo credit: CBS Photo Archive from CBS Worldwide Inc.

I am saddened by the death of actress Valerie Harper at the age of 80. I saw this on Twitter. My heart is heavy by this. I remember watching syndicated reruns of RHODA (1974-1978) on WPIX – Channel 11 in New York from 12 Noon to 1 PM during the early 1980s. I never understood who Rhoda Morgenstern was but I always enjoyed watching her before my daily dose of ALL MY CHILDREN on ABC. I was amazed to see Nancy Walker on there because she was on the BOUNTY commercials as the Quicker Picker Upper Lady.

I would not learn until many years later that Rhoda originated on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW as the self-deprecating Jewish-American best friend of Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) when watching wee-hour late-night reruns on WNBC – Channel 4 around 3:30 AM. I did not fully understand until watching both shows on Nick At Nite during the late 1990s. I would learn how the one-hour episode “Rhoda’s Wedding” of RHODA was one of the top-rated television moments of the 1970s. Millions saw her marry boyfriend Joe Gerard (David Groh) with special guest appearances by Mary Richards, Lou Grant (Ed Asner), Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), Georgette Franklin Baxter (Georgia Engel), and frenemy Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). Rhoda raced from being stuck in Manhattan, taking the subway, and running through the Bronx across Grand Concourse in her wedding dress to make her own wedding. Phyllis forgot to pick Rhoda up and got a new one by all of the wedding parties with the exception of Georgette, who forgave her! I still watch and cry in anticipation at the scenes when Rhoda runs down the Bronx streets and the wedding bells rang off.

Valerie made a return to sitcom television when she starred as Valerie Hogan on the NBC sitcom VALERIE (late retitled VALERIE’S FAMILY and THE HOGAN FAMILY) in 1986. She was unjustly fired by Lorimar Productions over contractual dispute issues, so she sued Lorimar and NBC with the assistance of her husband, Tony Cacciotti, and received a countersuit and a settlement of $1.82 million in damages from the production company. Valerie Hogan was killed off in a car accident. She was replaced by Sandy Duncan as Aunt Sandy Hogan, the sister of Valerie’s widower, airline pilot Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor), and the aunt of David (Jason Bateman), Willie (Danny Ponce), and Mark (Jeremy Licht).

I was excited when Valerie made another return to sitcoms with the short-lived CBS sitcom CITY. Her on-screen daughter, Penny, was played by LuAnne Ponce, the sister of her former TV on-screen son, Danny Ponce (Willie Hogan from THE HOGAN FAMILY). I watched maybe one or two episodes before making it up in my mind that I was bored.

Valerie even guest-starred on the FOX prime-time soap opera MELROSE PLACE as Mia Mancini, the mother of Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro) and Jennifer Mancini (Alyssa Milano), in 1998. I was used to her doing comedy and never dramatic television.

I confess that I always wanted a TV reunion of Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper on THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW and envisioned his band performing “Don’t Be Cruel” by Bobby Brown. It never happened, of course! They eventually reunited on the 2000 ABC-TV movie MARY AND RHODA as their iconic characters, Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern, being career women and mothers of two adult daughters.

Valerie ended up running for the President of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in the 2001 election but lost to Melissa Gilbert. She served on the Hollywood Board of Directors of SAG.

She portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the United States national tour production of GOLDA’S BALCONY from 2005 to 2006.

In 2013, Valerie announced she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis – a rare condition in which cancer cells spread into the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain. She was given three months to live by her doctors. The mainstream corporate commercial mass media acted as if Valerie was going to pass away then with a week or two of TV tributes to her on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, EXTRA, ACCESS HOLLYWOOD, and other mass media celebrity outlets. I could not take the hastening of Valerie’s death. During her chemotherapy treatment, she danced on the 17th season DANCING WITH THE STARS with Tristan MacManus during the Fall of 2013. They were voted off early in the competition.

Valerie made it to Thursday, August 30, 2019, eight days after her 80th birthday.

RIP Valerie Harper (1939-2019)!

IT’S A DONALD THING

Donald Peebles

Friday, August 30, 2019

11:05 PM

If you would love to read and learn more about Valerie, then feel free to purchase her books TODAY I AM A MA’AM AND OTHER MUSINGS ON LIFE, BEAUTY, AND GROWING OLDER (with Catherine Whitney) and I, RHODA: A MEMOIR:

2 thoughts on “Valerie Harper Dead at 80

    1. DonaldPeebles Post author

      Good Morning! You are welcome. RHODA has always been a favorite sitcom of mine. I resonated with Rhoda for some unknown reason. I figured out years later that she had issues with food and dealt with her emotions with it. I really got into RHODA on Nick At Nite reruns during the late 1990s when all of the MTM shows were shown with the exception of LOU GRANT. I still cry and smile at the famous “Rhoda’s Wedding” episode when Rhoda raced through the MTA subway system and the streets of the Bronx to get to her own wedding to Joe Gerard. I loved how Phyllis Lindstrom got her karma after the years of being a butch to Rhoda on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. The relationships between her and Ida (Nancy Walker), Brenda (Julie Kavner), and Carlton the Doorman (Carlton Music) were hilarious and her-larious! I used to laugh at the hearty laugh from a studio audience regular – that strong ha-ha-ha!

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