You Can Have the Town

“Saw her walking thru the crystal court/she made a scene by the revolving doors…”The Hold Steady, “Party Pit”

We motored into Navarre, Minn., in our blue-green Chevy station wagon one snowy, cold January in 1971.

She came down to Minneapolis from a town up north, with everything she owned in a white Ford Mustang.

My father would be starting a new job with the University of Minnesota.

She left her friends, family, a dead-end relationship, then landed a plum gig at WJM-TV.

I was a shy kid trying to make new friends.

And she, of course, had spunk.

Say it with me now…

“…And I hate spunk.”

How Will You Make It On Your Own?

Mary_and_Rhoda_1974My first memories of Minneapolis blended with a sit-com that aired on Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m.

When I was a couple years older, in 1975, my new Minnesotan friends and I rode the 51 bus downtown from Minnetonka, hanging out at the IDS Crystal Court.

We skulked around the science fiction section at B. Dalton Bookseller, dug deep for quarters outside Baskin Robbins for ice cream cones, and … rode the escalator up to the skyway level to gaze at where we supposed Mary Richards lunched with her date at Basil’s, the restaurant overlooking the Crystal Court.

If you watched the show, you assumed that’s where it all happened. You know, a parallel universe, not unlike some bizarre Star Trek episode.

At the time I had more in common with Phyllis Lindstrom’s precocious daughter Bess than anything like the newsroom characters of cantankerous Lou Grant, circumspect Murray Slaughter, or ever-gullible Ted Baxter.

After school, I was in thrall to TVGilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family—all the bizarre, otherworldly family situations, completely distant from my own life.

But the Mary Tyler Moore Show was happening in my new backyard.

The regular episodes were filmed in Los Angeles, with only Reza Badiyi’s iconic title montage shot in Minneapolis. Badiyi created the cap-tossing freeze frame, taken in the middle of Nicollet Avenue Mall near the intersection with Seventh Street.

The people on the street, in that opening montage, were the people we saw as we waited for the bus that would shuttle us and our ice cream cones back to the suburban safety of Minnetonka.

Who Can Take a Nothing Day?

It was one of Mary Richards’ default boyfriends, Howard, who put it all into perspective for me.

When feeling pressured about a long-term relationship, he argued his case to Mary: “I gotta have my freedom—I gotta! I get the desire to jet up to Duluth—one phone call—that’s it! I get the urge to spend one weekend in…St. Paul…”

He snaps his fingers. “It’s done.”

Sure! This was the place to be!

Looking through those broad picture windows of Mary’s apartment D at 119 North Weatherly (aka Lake of the Isles Boulevard), the seasons changed with startling clarity: in some episodes Mary kept flowers on the balcony, behind which the dark green summer leaves glowed in the humid night air.

Mostly the setting was winter—snow drifting down outside, the Foshay Tower hulking gloomily in the distance (which natives would know to be geographically impossible—but hey, what the hell, it’s Hollywood), tree branches just at loft-height, laden with ice.

So, what was there to do in Minneapolis in the 1970s?

Well, if you were older, you’d hit one of the ubiquitous “fern bars” satirized in Richard Guindon’s cartoons.

When I attended the University of Minnesota, my friend Therese and I often met over margaritas at The Haberdashery on Seventh Street.Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 11.34.45 PM

Our family regularly ate at The Jolly Troll buffet in Golden Valley.

Could I imagine Mary Richards there?

Well, no, not particularly—although it wouldn’t surprise me if Murray and Marie Slaughter could be found ahead of us in line for the Jello desserts.

Why Don’t You Take It?

So, I’m hoping there’s a somewhat logical progression to all this.

I mean, if some post-millennial Mary Richards were to arrive in Minneapolis, and had the town to take all over again, what would we advise her to do?

Get out of the office more.
Urge Lou to have power lunches at Manny’s. While Ted might be at Aveda getting a manicure, Murray could be doing research at the new library (hours limited, unfortunately).

Cultivate your friends.
So Rhoda does window dressing? A lot of young theater troupes need set dressers. The pay might not be up to Mary Richards’ standards, but at least Rhoda gets to keep her creative integrity. After a hard day’s work, loosen up with cocktails at the Marvel Bar. C’mon, Mare! You owe it to yourself. And to Rhoda.

Hook it up.
Okay, so meeting men is a problem, then as well as now. But there are options for an awesome single woman like Mary Richards. Ever heard of Tinder?

Get on social media.
And while we’re at it, why not try Twitter? It’s a great way to get ahead of breaking news, which is sure to make you an even bigger star over at WJM-TV.

Time to ask Lou for that raise!

~ by completelyinthedark on April 10, 2015.

One Response to “You Can Have the Town”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    RIP Mary Tyler Moore. Reposting this seemed like the right thing to do and brought back so many happy memories. Cheers, MM


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