OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Mary's famed TV house a history of unhappy owners

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-01-17T00:00:00Z 2013-01-17T17:43:11Z OFFBEAT: Mary's famed TV house a history of unhappy ownersPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

For those of a certain age, back when they were single sorts, the first rental apartment of Mary Tyler Moore's perky character Mary Richards, on the popular CBS TV series that beared Moore's name, is easy to appreciate.

On "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which ran for seven seasons from 1970 to 1977, the lead character drives her Ford Mustang to Minneapolis to begin a new life after breaking off her engagement with her fiance.

She decides to rent an upstairs studio apartment inside a lofty three-story Victorian home.

Her noisy landlady Phyllis Lindstrom, played by the great Cloris Leachman, explains the rent is $130 a month, and that her neighbor in the smaller top floor attic apartment will be "that dumb girl" Rhoda Morgenstern, played by equally wonderful Valerie Harper.

When the show's producers were scouting around Minneapolis to find just the right space to become Mary's home as represented on the show, they struck a deal with the woman who owned the 1892 white Victorian home in the city's fashionable Kenwood neighborhood to use as the exterior scenes in episodes and the opening credits.

Not only was the series NEVER filmed inside the house. But the upstairs window with the balcony captured in zoomed-in close-ups as the window leading into Mary's apartment actually looked in to an unfinished attic space.

According to Moore, who turned 76 last month, she mentioned to me in an interview a few years back that woman who owned the house during the time the series aired, quickly grew tired of the attention her home, at 2104 Kenwood Parkway, started to attract as the show became a ratings hit.

As more and more curiosity seekers knocked on her door or stopped to asked questions, by the middle of the show's fifth season, she decided to regain her privacy. To make it impossible for the location crew to do any further filming of the house's front facade, the owner hung a huge "Impeach Nixon" banner from the balcony. To finish the season, the show's production crew built a miniature house resembling the home and used it for night exterior scenes.

A few years after Moore ended the series, the home's unhappy owner sold the house to Evan and Naomi Mauer, who were moving from Michigan to Minneapolis for Evan to be named director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1988.

The three-floor, 9,000-square-foot space, which came with 13 rooms, plus two kitchens and six bathrooms, seemed ideal for the couple, who never watched television and were not even familiar with Moore's series.

In a 1995 interview with The New York Times, Naomi, a painter, said: "The Realtor did say something about the house having been shown in the opening shots of each episode of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and that this was where Mary supposedly lived."

Soon after, the couple found they had unknowingly purchased a favorite tourist attraction which drew as many as 30 tour buses a day during the summer months.

They invited Moore and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, to see the inside of the house for the first time, while they were in town in 1996 to promote Moore's autobiography, and they stopped in for tea.

The Mauers divorced in 2004 and the house was valued at $1 million, and finally sold in 2007. And now, it's once again up for sale by the latest owner. This time, the asking price is $2.89 million.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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