As Mary Richards’s lovable and self-deprecating best friend Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Valerie Harper, too, turned the world on with her smile. Viewers could relate to Rhoda, native New Yorker and struggling working girl, who was unlucky in love and insecure about her weight but who always kept her sense of humor. Valerie was an unknown actress when she won the part that made her famous, and by the time Rhoda, her popular spin-off show, ended, she had won four Emmys and a Golden Globe. The role was groundbreaking. On-screen, she represented a self-reliant new identity for women of the 1970s while off-screen she fought alongside feminists Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug for equal rights, among other issues that were important to her. Valerie’s showbiz journey has taken her from Broadway, where she performed as a dancer and eventually found herself onstage with Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason, to Hollywood, where she went down in history as one of television’s best-loved characters, and back to the Great White Way, where she recently won a Tony Award nomination for her critically acclaimed role as Tallulah Bankhead. Her inspiring story is laced with triumphs and a few transformative obstacles along the way, but she remains upbeat and funny throughout, always confident that no matter what, she’s going to make it after all.
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“Valerie, don’t overdo.” This parental reprimand was the constant refrain of my childhood. One more jump off the diving board when my fingertips were shriveled and my lips blue. One more turn on the swings when my palms were long since shredded by the metal chains as I tried to propel myself higher. One more twirl around the living room to “The Blue Danube,” even though my legs were already covered in rug burns. One more. One more.
I was also always looking for something to eat. When I was two years old, I bit the tail of our neighbors’...see more
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