Valerie Harper, currently polishing her one-woman show on author Pearl S. Buck, has won four Emmys (three as supporting actress in a comedy and one for leading actress in a comedy) for the same character, Rhoda Morgenstern. On “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Rhoda was the overweight kid from New York who somehow found herself dressing windows in Minneapolis. But by the time Harper starred in her own spinoff series, “Rhoda,” she was back home in the Big Apple, slim and gorgeous. The viewing public tuned in to see Cinderella with a Bronx accent snare a gorgeous husband and Harper won an Emmy for her own show, beating former co-star Moore in the process.
“You’re excited, worried about falling as you are going up (to the podium), and thrilled all at once,” Harper says. “Lucille Ball and Bob Hope presented my first award. As I accepted, I said, ‘Remember me, Lucy?’ And she just smiled. I had been in the chorus of ‘Wildcat’ 10 years earlier. Her eyes got bigger and rounder than usual. I’m not sure she remembered me, but it was a wonderful moment for me to receive the award from her.
“For the first few years Mary (Tyler Moore) was overlooked. She was so good, I guess it looked effortless. But a fabulous year was when Mary and I won together for the ’72-’73 season.