The great Valerie Harper stopped by the show this morning and spoke to Howard at length about life as a sitcom icon, how she’s beaten death (so far) and was, generally, one of the nicest guests in show history.
As you know, Valerie starred as Mary’s best friend Rhoda Morgenstern on the classic TV sitcom ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’. It’s a show that’s got to be on most lists of the top ten sitcoms of all time, and Valerie was one if the show’s most beloved characters.
That wasn’t always the case. At the show’s very first taping, the studio audience hated the show, particularly the Rhoda character. The creators had the brilliant idea to give Cloris Leachman’s character’s daughter, Bess, a line where she lovingly called Valerie ‘Aunt Rhoda’. The manipulation worked and the audience fell hard.
Valerie was paid just $700 per episode for the first season of the show, but her character became such a hit that that CBS offered her a spin-off at the end of season one. Valerie was totally new to TV and thought she was being fired when the offer came in, not knowing what ‘spin you off’ meant. She declined the offer – once it was explained to her – and said it was too soon to go out on her own.
Howard’s stylist Ralph called in to gush about what a huge fan of the Mary Tyler Moore Show he was and ask if Valerie was annoyed that she was the hottest one on the show and was constantly referred to as frumpy or fat. Valerie said she felt that way about herself, so it spoke to a truth about women and their self-image.
In 1974, Valerie was finally ‘spun off’ into her second hit sitcom, Rhoda. The show was such a hit that it actually beat Mary Tyler Moore for its first two years. Valerie described that, once her character got married and settled down, she became difficult to write for.
Valerie said 52 million viewers tuned in for Rhoda’s wedding, and Howard admitted that he was one of them. ‘I masturbated to that episode,’ he joked.
Howard asked if Mary was jealous that Rhoda beat it in the ratings? ‘Mary owned the show!’ Valerie replied.
Valerie starred in the sitcom ‘Valerie’ which became ‘Valerie’s Family’ and then ‘The Hogan Family’ after Valerie was fired.
Valerie sued Lorimar for firing her and for insisting on a short-term agreement without ever committing to a long-term contract, which she said was illegal. Valerie won big money, but was replaced by Sandy Duncan on the show. She didn’t seem to have any regrets or ill-will, however, and was thankful that we all got Jason Bateman from the sitcom.
In January of 2013, Valerie announced that cancer had spread to her brain and she was given three to six months to live. She insisted on staying positive and has an inspirational attitude about her condition.
Howard joked at the time that she would last longer than Jay Leno’s career, and he was 100% right. Jay is out, Valerie is still very much here.
In the beginning, Valerie cried, but her husband Tony convinced her not to attend the funeral before the funeral. She grabbed life by the balls, and decided to keep on trucking.
She even appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and Howard couldn’t believe anyone in America could vote off a beloved terminally-ill TV star. Valerie said they did what they should have done, she didn’t do the dance steps correctly.
Valerie is enjoying life with her family. She takes ten pills one day per week, which leaves her a little out of it for that day, but then she’s up and running. It hasn’t affected Valerie and Tony’s sex life, either. She joked that he looks at his watch during the act and thinks ‘what’s she doing still hanging around?’
@sternshow love love Valerie Harper! Thank you! I grew up w Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda! They seriously made a huge impact on my life! ❤️❤️❤️— cheryl davey (@aerobiccheryl) April 16, 2014
Valerie said she has been responding very well to treatment, and there is no real reason why she’s beaten the odds, but these things do happen. It appears as if things are going in the right direction, and Howard was hopeful that Valerie would live at least another hundred years.
Just in case, however, he asked her to give him a secret word so that if he outlived her, he could contact her through a psychic and he’d know for sure it was the real Rhoda. Valerie didn’t hesitate and wrote one down for him.
Check out Valerie’s guest spot on the Hallmark Channel show ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’.
It’s been almost a year since we’ve heard from Sternac (an homage to Carson's Carnac), but he stopped by today to once again wow the audience with his amazing ability to hold a sealed envelope up to his turban and divine the answer to the question within.
The envelopes, Sternac promised, had been kept in a place no one ever goes … Janice Dickenson’s vagina.
He held them up, one by one, and here is what he discovered:
Hello Kitty (How does Lisa G greet her significant other each night?)
Robin Thicke (Why won’t Batman be the bottom in the relationship?)
Ukraine (What did the kids called Howard Stern at school?)
NSYNC (Where does Ronnie Mund wash his ass?)
Of course, with a gift as powerful as he has, Sternac is easily agitated and has been knows to throw the insults around. At least they’re always spot on.
May you suffer an emergency and the only person available to call 911 be JD!
May you have a number one radio show and have to sit next to Benjy!
May every beer you ever taste go through Richard's ass first!
May your wife spend a weekend on Simon Cowell’s yacht without birth control!
And just like that, he was gone.