I'm Mary Tyler Moore and I am . . . an actress, an animal lover, the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the wife of Dr. Robert Levine, and . . . I don't want to give away the whole story from the very start. Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways to end that sentence, and I don't think I've come close to living through all the possibilities, thank heavens. But what I do know is that in every role I am a devotee of laughter and tears, committed to expressing the nuances of each.
For our purposes here, though, I am going to write about who I am in relation to diabetes. I'll start in 1969, the year I was diagnosed with type 1. It was a time of transition for me: It was three years after The Dick Van Dyke Show had ended. That show had catapulted me from a nervous chorus girl from Studio City, California, to a famous actress (quite a head-spinner and life-changer). And it was a year before The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted.
In that interim period, Dick was kind enough to ask me to join him in a television special called "Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman," warmly spoofing the couple we had played on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob and Laura Petrie, and their marriage, with which the public had become so very smitten. Little did I know at the time that the special was to be the launching pad for my future--my career, my loves, my disappointments, heartbreaks, challenges, and successes. Thanks to Dick's genius and his generosity in sharing the spotlight with me, the show was a great hit. And afterward CBS asked me to think about what I'd like to do in a series of my own! Wow, really? Oh, thank you, God, thank you! Thank you, Dick!
My second husband, Grant Tinker, a successful network vice president whom I'd married in 1963, left his post to become the King ofCamelot, MTM Enterprises, which produced some thirty pilots and series over a dozen years, many winning multiple Emmys and the praise of critics as well. Of theseshows, mine was the first. Thank you, Grant, thank you!
But despite, or maybe because of, the thrill of our accomplishments together, I realized later that I had not been captain of my own ship--not even co-captain. I see now that it was a pattern that had long manifested itself in my personal relationships, my working life, my early marriages.
I married for the first time right out of high school, leaving the complicated but protective, even totalitarian, environment of my parents' unstable home for the adventure of "wifedom" and motherhood. I was eighteen, my husband was the very kind twenty-eight-year-old boy next door, Richard Meeker. And since he had a job (cranberry sauce sales manager) and his own apartment (as I said, next door), I accepted the invitation to get married on the condition that we move at least four blocks away from my parents. Now that was an independent step, wasn't it?
I had just graduated from Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood, California, and had no preparation for real life.
I didn't even type! That was because, as I entered high school, my mother said, "Be sure you take a typing course in case this show business thing doesn't work out." Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mother! Watch me never take your advice!