Friday, January 27, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore's fictional newsroom had real Montana counterpart

Mary Tyler Moore's show featured an independent, confident, funny woman.


PHOTOS courtesy Larry Mayer, Billings Gazette and CBS

THE DEATH this week of Mary Tyler Moore brought a flood of bittersweet memories of the early 1970s when I was establishing my career as a journalist.
While Moore's fictional Mary Richards was fighting for the modern woman, I was a young reporter in Montana, one of many female journalists all over America doing the same thing.
Moore's friends and colleagues were painted as real humans.
The show, which Moore also produced, featured a single woman forging a career in a male dominated profession.
I was doing that in The Billings Gazette newsroom, where I signed on as a college freshman in 1968. My supervisor, Kathryn Wright, was the Gazette's first female reporter when hired  in 1942, "to cover the cops while the men went off to war," she explained.
Mary Tyler Moore in her associate producer role in a Minneapolis newsroom.
My first job was as "Society Editor,"  a title that itself reflects the times.  Women were largely perceived as housewives. If they worked, it was part-time, out of boredom, for pin money or to augment "the man's" salary. They might volunteer at the symphony or theater, planning fundraisers or galas. But the belief was that women were mostly interested in "society," sipping sherry, playing tennis, lunching with the girls at the country club, maybe venturing to take a secretarial post. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.)
Click here: more on MTM, favorite performers
I WANTED MORE -- as millions of my peers did worldwide. I lobbied for changing the "society" title to "lifestyle." That happened.
I aced a night police reporter job, so I could finish my degree by day, and covered major beats including education, city hall and county. By the late 1970s, I was writing film and theater reviews, and editing the arts and travel section. Women in the newsroom were increasing.
The show was remarkable -- fine writing, characters who were
interesting, multi-dimensional.  Many of the MTM Show writers were women.
Journalism has always attracted smart, determined women, from photographer Margaret Bourke White and daring reporter Nellie Bly to Helen Thomas, Gloria Steinem, Nora Ephron, Barbara Walters, Molly Ivins, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Jane Pauley and Gwen Ifill, who broke both race and gender barriers on PBS. They juggled personal lives, sacrificed, demanded attention and equality.
My beloved mentor cautioned, "You have to work twice as hard, look twice as good, keep trim, behave yourself, watch your language." Men, she believed, could come to work late with grease on their ties, drink like fish, cuss like sailors, turn bald and fat and be told they looked "distinguished."
MARY WAS single, recently out of a failed
Christene Meyers, 1972,
in the hairstyle of the day
Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards character in 1977,
nearing the end of the show's smash hit run.
relationship. I was single the first part of my long career with Lee Newspapers. My byline for nearly three years was Chris Cosgriffe. I liked its Gaelic ring and alliteration. I was beginning to get national attention.  So when I married Bruce Meyers in 1970, we decided I would keep my maiden name and byline. That was fine with Bruce. He was a modern man. I told the newspaper of my decision.
Phyllis, Mary and Rhoda in a studio shot, early 1970s.
The show influenced fashion as well as social attitude.

Christene enroute to
cover the Miss America
pageant in 1968.
But to my dismay, the managing editor changed my byline. When we returned from our honeymoon in the South Pacific, I had become Chris Meyers. I could have taken them on, but that would have been awkward. I picked my battles in those early days of NOW and the Equal Rights Amendment. I had bigger fish to fry.

Mary Tyler Moore got her break as Laura Petrie on
"The Dick Van Dyke Show." It laid the groundwork
for MTM's character, Mary Richards.   
MOORE'S CHARACTER, dress and attitude were way ahead of her times.  She called "Mr. Grant" on his chauvinism and challenged him for a raise when she discovered her salary was less than her predecessor's. "Why is that, Mr. Grant?" she asked. "Because he was a man," the Ed Asner character replied. 'It has nothing to do with your work."
My "Mr. Grant" was Doc Bowler, a genial, sharp, old-school newsman who patrolled the newsroom like a general inspecting his troops.  Bowler's second in command was George, in charge of evaluations and pay raises. I approached him after discovering two of my male colleagues earned more than I did -- yet I'd been in the newsroom longer and received stellar evaluations. George took a puff of his pipe (everyone smoked in those days) and asked: "Your husband makes a good salary, doesn't he?" I was dismayed. What did that have to do with anything. "He's an assistant professor," George continued, "and you don't have children." he said. "So you're doing just fine."
Mary Tyler Moore found true love in her
third marriage to Dr. Robert Levine.
Christene with her late husband,
Bruce Meyers. He passed in 1992.
Christene with Bruce Keller,
her partner since 2007.
I eventually got the raise. I had to appeal to Doc Bowler and write a letter outlining my reasons for the request.  When I speak to female college students today, they are amazed at the pay discrepancy and byline change. "That's outrageous," said one young 20-something recently. "What did you do?"
I WORKED for change, as Mary's fictional character and millions of other real live women did.
Her character gave us courage, confirming that we were on the right track. Moore's show was among the first to address birth control, homosexuality, sexuality.  When Bruce and I decided to marry, we merged households.  That was highly frowned upon by my bosses, whom I reassured that we were planning to marry. "Good," said one, "but make it soon. People are talking." So much is acceptable now that was verboten then: not taking the man's name, equal pay for equal work, living together before marriage -- or even if marriage isn't planned. We were light years from same-sex acceptance and the notion of pregnancy outside of marriage.
Christene, 2015
Mary Tyler Moore, 
MY COLLEAGUES at the Montana newspaper were a western version of the colorful denizens of Mary's newsroom -- the photographer whose specialty was provocative pretty-women shots, the eccentric columnist who liked a nip on his rounds, the union printer who asked me after three years of marriage why "there's no bun in the oven." Again, dismay. "You need one kid, to take care of you when you're old," offered Chuck.
Our sports editor, Norm, a fine writer and now a famous Las Vegas columnist, was my pal, my Murray. Later, after Norm left, Roger, another brilliant writer, became my newsroom buddy. We were all rebels, hard-working and irreverent. We didn't have anyone as blatantly sexy as Sue Ann Niven but there was plenty of suggestion and innuendo. I dealt with inappropriate touching (my rear was pinched dozens of times), boob squeezers, and sources who offered information in return for sex. Now, they'd be sued, fired or at the very least reprimanded.
Mary Tyler Moore's signature hat in the air.
WE'RE WISER for having known sassy Mary Richards and her savvy creator, Mary Tyler Moore. When I interviewed Moore in 1980, for "Ordinary People," she said her two hit TV shows ("The Dick Van Dyke Show" and MTM) paralleled her life. "I am those women," she laughed. "If those characters felt real to others, it's because they are so very real to me." She also confessed to wanting to be a professional dancer (she was wonderful.) "Behind that successful actor is a failed dancer," she told me.
MY PERSONAL life paralleled MTM's. She had three relationships, her last with a much loved younger man. She suffered great personal loss and forged onward. She kept her humor and grace, though she didn't become what she originally thought she'd be. (As a kid, I wanted to be a conductor.) She kept her head high, integrity intact. She never stopped laughing or giving, producing more TV shows, inspiring others. Hat's high in the air for you, Mary. You made it, after all.

Bruce Keller (and Cookie, at the camera this time) packed up recently
for a week in Malaga. They'll tell why it's become a favorite city. 
UP NEXT: We've returned to a favorite port of southern Europe, lovely Malaga, an inviting city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. Instead of a glamorous high-rise resorts, we chose a splendid parador, high above the yellow-sand beaches and next to a Moorish citadel which gave our delightful Parador Gibralfaro its name. Come with us to the Alcazaba -- and more, remembering to explore, learn and live and follow us Fridays when we post for the weekend.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Intriguing, endearing theater takes the chill out of soggy January days

In the title role of Marjorie is Dee Maaske, whom we've followed in two decades at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The versatile Maaske moves skillfully in OSF's Repertory format from contemporary drama and comedy to the classics.
It is a treat to have this globe-trotting talent in California for the run of "Marjorie Prime" through Feb. 5.

Actors Dee Maaske and Steve Froehlich form a charming
couple -- with a futuristic theme -- in "Marjorie Prime."


NorthCoast Repertory Theatre offers a small welcoming theater venue
with pretty places to stroll or sit and sip between acts or before the show.

and theater marketing departments

WE SEE hundreds of plays each year, many of them terrific.  Every now and then, though, one comes along and the result is magic.
"Marjorie Prime" is such a play. It is a true jewel -- to be admired and shared for its sparkle and staying power. To be returned to, savored.
The flawless production at NorthCoast Repertory Theatre north of San Diego is worth planning a trip to San Diego.
As Marjorie's daughter and son-in-law, terrific acting
is delivered by Elaine Rivkin and Gergory North.
This smart and tender play, is everything good theater should be -- provocative, troubling, ultimately reassuring and with moments of lightness and levity.  Provocative because, like all good art -- whether symphony, story, photo, dance or poem --   it demands more than a single exposure. Troubling because it offers the possibility that our increasing interaction with technology can produce unsettling consequences.  Reassuring, because it poses hopeful answers to the questions we all have about the future.  It considers the possibility that all future technology will not necessarily improve human relationships, but that somehow love and human connections will continue to have importance.
WE WERE introduced to the play last year at the Mark Taper in Los Angeles and were thrilled when playwright Jordan Harrison was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. The young talented talent gets credit for beautiful writing, but other critical elements must coalesce to make a production magical.
The "Marjorie Prime" poster and graphic hints at the
theme -- that artificial intelligence might produce a
 human looking creation to keep the bereaved company.
Veteran director Matthew Wiener creates a believable future in this story of "primes" -- humanoid lifelike robots who speak with patients in the form of lost loved ones thus providing comfort and companionship.
COMPLEMENTING Wiener's deft and subtle direction is a terrific ensemble.  Playing the title role is one of our favorite actors, Dee Maaske. We've followed her career for two decades at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where she is in top form whether in Shakespearean tragedy, contemporary drama or slapstick. (Her Marjorie has a humorous, ironic edge.)  Among our other favorite Maaske roles are "All's Well That Ends Well," "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Noises Off."  This versatile actor commands attention.  Her Marjorie is poignantly drawn, yet funny and flirtatious.  She makes us think, reflect. Supporting her are three fine actors who capably convey the plays shifts and subtleties.
NORTHCOAST REP is a lovely venue. We enjoy
Shaina Knox, left, as Eliza, and Lance Arthur Smith
are backed by an all-aces cast in this royal flush
of a revival of the Lerner and Loewe classic.
time at the outdoor tables with a glass or cuppa, and always sample a warm fund-raising chocolate chip cookie (one is $4 and ample to treat two or three.)
Without theater in my life, I'd surely wither. "Marjorie Prime" is a bouquet of delights, a play-lover's play with grace, beauty and intelligence. 
Other theatrical gems in the San Diego jewelry box:
* "My Fair Lady" at the Welk Resort. A spirited, finely tuned revival of the time honored 1956 musical chestnut about a flower girl turned lady. Top performances, great production numbers. 
* "Our  Great Tchaikovsky." Perennial favorite Hershey Felder channels another brilliant musical talent. By San Diego Repertory Theatre.
*  "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." at the Lyceum downtown. Produced by New Fortune Theatre Co. This fiery and mannered story is set in 1780s France featuring "the game" of love, revenge, betrayal and cruelty. Fine performances.
* Wherever in the world you see theater, don't overlook the smaller venues -- Intrepid Theatre and Diversionary Theatre present fresh, new and original work, cutting edge, intriguing, in intimate settings. intrepidtheatre.org 

Mary Tyler Moore's fictional character Mary Richards broke
ground for real-life journalists and other career women.
UP NEXT: With the death of Mary Tyler Moore this week, our Friday post features a tribute by Cookie (Christene Meyers). She interviewed Moore in 1980 and was a faithful fan of her groundbreaking 1970s Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meyers was forging her own newsroom career during the show's Emmy winning run, and she reflects on the ways in which Moore changed the world for working women. Next week, we'll feature Malaga, an inviting city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. It lured us for eight magical days. Come with us to the Alcazaba -- remembering to explore, learn and live and follow us Fridays when we post for the weekend. We hope you're enjoying our original take on travel, the arts, nature and occasionally, breaking news in the entertainment world.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Changes at Sea World include a natural 'encounter' for Orca lovers

SeaWorld's popular Orca show will no longer be part of the offerings at the internationally famous nature and
amusement park.  In its place, visitors will enjoy a more natural viewing of the killer whales and their life and habits. 
Trainers and audience alike were misty eyed at the finale of the killer whale
shows at SeaWorld.  A completely full house filled the stands to bid adieu. 

The new Orca show will offer an opportunity to 
view the beautiful creatures in a more natural setting.


The final Orca shows attracted thousands of tourists and San Diego locals.


MY PARTNER BRUCE Keller, whose photos illustrate this blog, has long been a fan of SeaWorld and its internationally famous Orca encounters.
He credits these beautiful killer whale shows with spawning his fascination with the ocean, and encouraging his lifelong pursuit of sea adventure.
So we were part of an enthusiastic audience for the final weekend of the traditional Orca shows.
For more than a half century, they have fascinated a worldwide audience of millions.
Keller, left, and Cookie, spent the weekend at SeaWorld
with its magnificent dolphin and whale exhibits.
THE SHOWS entertained crowds with what some considered "unnatural" behavior.  Precisely performed  "tricks" and playful antics exhibited the intelligence and strength of the whales in their interaction with humans.  Positive re-enforcement and rewards of food taught the whales to swim with humans, dive and breach on cue, slip up onto a viewing platform and more. Not everyone gave the shows "thumbs up."
SeaWorld listened to critics and responded to public opinion.
 "Society is changing and we’re changing with it," a spokesman said, "finding new ways to deliver on our purpose to inspire guests to take action in protecting wild animals and wild places."
THE NEW exhibits will no longer feature the Orcas performing in a stadium environment. Instead of "performance," the exhibit will focus on the animals' natural behaviors. The new program is being developed by SeaWorld experts and consultants to offer a new way for people to
The Orca show featured the intelligent killer whales at play, performing
tricks learned over a period of months and years to illustrate their
beauty and speed, graceful behavior and intelligence.

connect with the ocean’s most powerful predator. SeaWorld calls it "Orca Encounter," and promises viewers the opportunity to witness the magnificent creatures and their natural behavior set against an expansive infinity screen. SeaWorld promises to bring the whales' story to life with "exciting, immersive detail, designed to give viewers a deeper appreciation of Orcas." The exhibits will teach viewers about the Orca's hunting techniques and complex communication codes, a spokesman said.
ORCA FANS will learn about the Orcas' important family structure, with opportunities to watch the whales bond, play and eat. The new exhibits will be open by summer of this year, with a goal to "excite the sense of wonder and help viewers feel the connection between whales and our oceans..''
 SeaWorld has not collected marine mammals from the wild for decades. It also ended its breeding program, but will continue its highly regarded rescue program which has saved hundreds of birds and sea creatures from fishing lines and human-caused injury through the years.
THE TEN ORCAS at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent most of their lives in human care. Their names are Corky 2, Kasatka, Keet, Ulises, Orkid, Nakai, Kalia , Ikaika, Shouka, and a young male Makani, born to Kasatka on February 14, 2013.
These majestic Orcas will not be caged or released into the ocean. They could not survive there, having no skills in competing for food. They would also not survive unfamiliar diseases, and have no experience with environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats.
SeaWorld fans came out in full force to pack the houses
for the final Orca presentations. A new encounter is planned.

At SeaWorld, they will continue their long, healthy lives with loving care of a dedicated veterinary and specialists. SeaWorld's long respected goal continues: to "inspire generations to be conservationists around the world." The hope is that the new “live documentary”-style presentation and expansive infinity screen will help visitors gain a deeper appreciation and respect for Orcas and that they will leave the park with determination to help preserve these majestic animals.
Find out more about SeaWorld's plans for its Orcas at

"Marjorie Prime" is on tap at Northcoast Repertory
Theater and San Diego's variety of theater offerings makes
it worthy of a plane ticket to escape the rain and snow.

A bevy of theatrical treasures enlivens the bleak and dreary days of winter nationwide. In San Diego, a glut of theatrical riches! A splendid production of "Marjorie Prime" is on tap. This fascinating play at Northcoast Repertory Theater delves into the futuristic prospect of human looking robots as an antidote to loneliness.  Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Northcoast's production is up through Feb. 4. We previewed a sold out opening SRO performance of this fascinating show. Welk Resort has a wonderful production of "My Fair Lady" and New Fortune Theatre has a sizzling production of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" at the Lyceum.  Call your favorite box office wherever you are, or head to San Diego -- worth an airplane ticket from snow country.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends when we post a new piece with our unique twist on the arts, travel and the natural world.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Think big -- take that trip: usher in the New Year with a plan to go somewhere, do something new -- stretch!

Keller and Cookie both love Rome, but had never been there together.
Now they've visited Italy together a half-dozen times and Rome is a semi-annual tradition, here at Trevi Fountain.
Keller and Cookie climbed the Auckland, New Zealand, Bridge last year --
 after she conquered her fear of heights on the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. 
Sky's the limit in this new year, with planning, energy and determination.



HAVE YOU always wanted to climb a bridge hundreds of feet above the water?  Have you had your heart set on a trip to the Galapagos? Yearned to hike the Himalayas? Ride a bike in Vietnam? Traverse the Great Wall and get close-up to the Terracotta Soldiers?  Kiss your lover then throw a coin into Rome's Trevi Fountain?
Biking in Vietnam was a dream of both of us. This past
year, we made it happen with planning and patience.
WHAT THE heck are you waiting for? No one is going to put you on a magic carpet and whisk you to an exotic location you've longed to visit. No one is going to teach you to play the saxophone or do a sexy tango with your partner.
If you want that tattoo, get it, baby. Promised yourself a cruise before you sail into the beyond?  Book it, Dano! Now's the time.
YOU ARE driving the bus.
If your family gathered for a funeral and talked about a reunion -- "we should all get together at a happier time" -- why not make that happen this year?  Think a summertime gathering in someone's back yard or cabin.  If you're separated by states and oceans, meet at a half-way point. Or consider Christmas at the sibling with the largest home? (You can work out the details later.  Get everyone to commit to the dates NOW.)
Time to indulge your alter ego?  Cookie's tattoo is ready for the new year.
Keller sports his new look -- if only in fun for a few hours.
WE ASSOCIATE the turning of the new year with resolutions. For me, it's a time to look at the globe, give it a spin and see where I'd like to be.
Without sounding too much like the old Johnny Cash tune, "I've Been Everywhere," I actually have been around the old globe a few times. You may be the armchair variety or a for-real globe-trotter.  Either way, try  fresh ways to approach travel?
*Is there someone you'do like to share your knowledge with? A favorite niece or nephew, an aging or widowed auntie?
*If you are alone and reluctant to travel solo, look around your circle of friends, considering the groups and outlets you have. There may be someone equally interested in traveling, just needing a nudge.
Tango lessons for 2017?
Most cruise lines and many tour agencies will work with single travelers to pair them with other singles. Or if money is no object, you can pay the single-occupancy premium. Chances are you will hit it off with someone on the tour or ship and plan your next trip together.
In this reporter's humble opinion, there's no excuse for not taking the leap, making the first step toward adventure.
WE TOOK a bike trip through Vietnam last year -- thoroughly delightful. Again, planning -- sometimes two years ahead is necessary.
I am not an accomplished biker but the group guide found a bike that made me comfy and didn't  have 75 gears.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth awaits a visit from you.
I had never considered myself an athlete-- and still don't-- but my partner talked me into climbing Sydney, Australia's famous bridge. While I nearly fainted at the prospect, I summoned my courage and did it. The thrill of accomplishment boosted me into a surprising new level of daring. I booked two more climbs, to the astonishment and pride of Keller!
I will never be an Olympian, but I conquered an old fear and discovered that I love bridge climbing.
AS FOR teaching old dogs new tricks, Keller had never considered himself a singer. As his tit-for-tat nod to my climbing bravado, he picked up his chorister's score and last year sang in choral groups I accompanied. I can climb. The boy can sing!
We both love Tango, that sensuous dance of Argentina. So we signed up for tango lessons.

My sister Misha, center, was the driving force behind a family reunion.
She invited us all to Atlanta for her birthday more than a year ago.

We also made a list of performers we love--
including Tony Bennett, who topped both our lists.  We have seen him in concert four times now, twice with Lady Gaga. Do a Google search on your favorites. Make it happen. With planning and budgeting, you can.
If money is a concern, find ways you to make your dream happen. If you eat lunch out, start packing it.
If you are a clothes horse, head for the thrift store not the department store. If you've always wanted a tattoo, you're not getting any younger. There are many places to have one done safely. Start with a temporary one.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga can be in your
concert line-up.  
If you're trying to save money to indulge your dreams, here are a few easy tips gleaned from year of packing my lunch to work at the newspaper. (To afford room service in hotels, later.)
Picture yourself enjoying a sunrise in a new city,
then work it out so it will materialize!
*By-pass expensive coffees out and keep teabags and coffee at work.
*Watch the heat bill. Layer up to save bucks.
*If you spend big dollars at the beauty salon, color your own hair.
If someone you know has a talent you wish to learn, ask.
Here's Keller sailing. He taught Cookie the ropes, too.
*Eat beans and rice and turkey burger instead of filet. Buy in bulk.  The idea is to set goals and decide what you need to do to make them happen.
THESE POINTERS are not new or original. To paraphrase Mark Twain, we are all borrowers.
Make a game plan that suits you, gleaning from those who inspire you.  Make it happen. 
Maybe you have hidden treasures in your house. Will you ever use the sterling silver?  Maybe a trip would mean more.
Is there someone in your family who could help you organize a reunion? A retired teacher, someone recently alone and looking for a project?
Let your imagination go.
Line up the trip. Book the concert series. Call the music teacher.  If your partner has a passion you have yet to share, jump in. I never thought I could be a decent first mate but I can "come about" now with the best of them!
So here's to stretching, making the first move towards transferring  the dream into the reality column.
Happy new year. Make it HAPPEN, friends. 
Gear up your bus into a new world of adventure  and remember to explore, learn and live with
Thousands bid adieu to the beloved Orca shows at SeaWorld.
A new show is being prepared and will feature the magnificent animals
in a more natural environment, without the tricks but with lots of information

NEXT UP:  It's the end of an era at SeaWorld where  SeaWorld's internationally famed killer whale shows are getting a re-do. The whales will remain at SeaWorld, in a new show which will do away with the tricks beloved by millions, and introduce a new spectacular venue in which the magnificent creatures can be observed in a more natural environment. Check out where we deliver a fresh look at travel and the arts around the world.