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Remembering MTM

Bad sight of the week so far is a newspaper picture of Mary Tyler Moore attending the opening of something or other in New York. 

Actually, there are several pictures, the photo editor apparently afraid that printing just one might have persuaded us that it was a poor shot, or a trick of the light. You remember pretty, perky, lovable Mary Tyler Moore, or MTM as she became known at the height of her fame as a television icon in the 1970s.  The once darling, iconic face has become a grotesque parody of what it was then, and I suspect that it has nothing to do with her age, given as 74. 

As my wife would say, “she’s definitely had something done”. 

Millions of American television viewers loved her as the wife in the Dick Van Dyke Show.  Hundreds of millions around the world adored her in the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The persona that the network producers created for her was irresistible: she exuded squeaky-cleanness, common sense and grit, always selflessly devoted to colleagues and friends.  In short, the kind of contrived personality some of us simply can’t stand. 

She was a worthy successor to Doris Day, her predecessor in the 1950s as America’s sweetheart, who a critic once described as “wholesome as a bowl of corn flakes, with about as much sex appeal”.   

I’d go along with that, never having been counted among those who succumbed, either to MTM’s charming on-air disposition or her supposed physical beauty.  The perkiness I found wearing, the back-of-the-throat voice grating.  The sound emerged from a mouth so capacious that whenever she smiled, which was most of the time, at least on camera, the surrounding features virtually disappeared, like the sun in an eclipse.

Now, the elfin look that so many irresistible, has been swollen and distorted – by what, one can only speculate.  Stress, or tragedy, or surgery might account for it.  A car crash, perhaps.  Anything, I’d venture to guess, but advancing years.

MTM’s publicist, explaining several egg-like lumps on her face, says she tripped over her dog.   That wouldn’t have caused the gravity-defying upward-slant of those Wildenstein eyes.

There is no point in asking ‘why they do it’ – we know the answer.

The result is what matters, and in Mary’s case the result is frankly monstrous. 

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