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Dying Harper reunites with Mary Tyler Moore Show co-stars

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LOS ANGELES -- It turns out "The Last Show" wasn't the last. Just around the corner from the intersection of Mary Tyler Moore Avenue and Newhart Street at CBS Studio Center, actress Mary Tyler Moore and some of her former colleagues gathered Thursday afternoon for a press conference to discuss their first sitcom appearance together since "The Last Show," the title of the 1977 series finale of the groundbreaking The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Moore, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Georgia Engel and the ailing Valerie Harper reunited this week to tape an episode of White's hit TV Land comedy, Hot in Cleveland.

On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Harper played the free-spirited best friend Rhoda Morgenstern opposite Moore's prim Mary Richards.

Harper, 73, wondered if the group had come together again because of her recent diagnosis with terminal brain cancer.

"Do you guys think this was part of my condition?" asked Harper.

"Oh, yes. I do," replied co-star Leachman, who portrayed Mary and Rhoda's snooty apartment-building manager, Phyllis Lindstrom. "They had the idea and they wrote this amazing script," Leachman continued. "We're just almost in tears, we're so thrilled."

Harper recently told the Today show that in January she was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer and told she had three months to live. But, on this day, Harper was robust. "I'm kind of symptomless for this particular condition, so we're just going to see," she explained.

Harper said this reunion has been more about laughter than tears, in spite of her diagnosis. "And the tears come up, but they're part of the laughter," she noted. "Did you ever laugh 'till you cry?"

This group has reunited before, in 2007 to present at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and for a 2008 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. But this is the ensemble's first acting job together in some 36 years. Coincidentally, it's taking place on the same studio lot their Emmy-winning series was filmed between 1970 and 1977.

The actresses won't be playing their Mary Tyler Moore Show characters on the Hot in Cleveland episode, which is scheduled to air Sept. 4. The storyline has Elka (White) and Mamie Sue (frequent guest star Engel) reuniting with their long-lost bowling teammates: Diane (Moore), Peg (Leachman) and Angie (Harper). While the characters names are different, each will provide a nod to the roles the actresses played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

"(Rhoda) taught me to thank your lucky stars for a fabulous friend," Harper noted, referring to Mary Richards and pointing to Moore .

Both the first Mary Tyler Moore Show and the new Hot in Cleveland episodes are titled "Love is All Around," and that seemed to be the case at this press conference.

"We don't have to fake it," Moore said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 G2

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