Flashback Friday: Homeowners Grew Weary of Mary Tyler Moore Show Attention 45 Years Ago

May 25, 2018 03:00 PM

When a film crew arrived in Minneapolis to shoot location shots for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on May 25, 1973, it ran into an unexpected hiccup.

The Kenwood neighborhood home, which had been used for the exterior shot of Moore's character Mary Richards' home since the show debuted in 1970, was draped in "Impeach Nixon" banners.

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A fake "For Sale" sign had been placed out front.

It was a gesture of protest by activist Paula Giese, who owned the home along with her husband Clayton.

The banners reflected both Giese's political leanings (Watergate was dominating the headlines), as well as her weariness with the fact that the home - located at 2104 Kenwood Parkway between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles - had become a regular tourist stop.

"They were really active people when it came to politics on the left side of the spectrum," recalled Arvan Reese, whose parents were friends with the couple from their days in Chicago. "Paula, especially, was very active in Native American causes. But really, I think they just got sick of all the tour buses coming by, and people coming up to the door and wanting to take pictures."

Giese confirmed as much when she spoke with the Minneapolis Tribune on that day 45 years ago.

"The last straw came last Sunday, when this old couple from Michigan rang our doorbell at 9 o'clock in the morning and wanted us to show them around the house," said Giese, who told the newspaper she was under the impression her home was being shot for a "documentary or something" when she first granted permission for it to be filmed.

The banners took the crew, led by associate producer Lionel A. Ephraim, by surprise.

He said the couple seemed to have no problem with their home being used when they were first approached, but that attitude changed over time.

"We had talked with the couple who owned it, and told them we'd like to do this, and they had absolutely no issue with it whatsoever," recalled Ephraim, who went on to work on programs like the "Bob Newhart Show" and Mary Tyler Moore spin-offs "Rhoda" and "Lou Grant."

"As time went on, I think some people asked them if they were getting residuals for us using it. And we had to explain to them that there were no residuals for filming a home. But they understood that and we got past that.

"I think what really became an issue for them was that the show became so popular. And they had visitors coming around to look at the place all the time. People would knock on their door and ask if Mary was there. And they'd have to tell them that Mary didn't really live there. I can see how that would start to drive somebody a little nuts."

That's why, when the show's staff asked to shoot additional shots on the property, the couple said no.

"They wanted nothing to do with it," Ephraim said. "We understood that. And we just thought we'd just stay on the street and get some shots - not going on their property or being disruptive. But they must have gotten wind we were going to be there. And that's when the banners went up. So we just went on our merry way."

Ephraim credited interest in the home to the show's popularity. It was set at fictional television station WJM in Minneapolis. Moore's character had moved to the Twin Cities after breaking up with a boyfriend (Ephraim said the show's creators originally wanted to make her a divorcee, but the network nixed that).

"That show was a ground-breaker in so many ways," he said. "I remember when they first put it on the air, they scheduled it for Saturday night. And everybody thought that was the kiss of death. Because Saturday was not a television-watching night. People went out. But the show became so popular it changed viewing habits for a lot of people.

"I can remember being at a surfing beach. And people were bringing little generators and TV sets. Just so they could watch the show on Saturday night when they were away from electricity."

The Gieses stayed with Reese's family when they were in Chicago, and even once made the trek down for a gathering at the Reese family farm in Missouri in 1976.

However, he said the show didn't come up much.

"We knew about it, but I don't remember them saying much one way or the other about the show," recalls Reese, who now resides in Toronto.

"I do remember asking them about it once, and getting what was - at best - a tepid response."

Eventually, the final two seasons of the show - which aired until 1977 - depicted Moore's character as living in a high-rise apartment in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood (the buildings with the multi-colored panels that still exist today).

An episode from Season 6 was titled "Mary Moves Out."

Moore herself paid a visit to the old home (which has passed through several owners since the Gieses, and last year sold for a reported $1.45 million, according to the Star Tribune) on a trip to the Twin Cities in 1996.

"I didn't realize it was on the corner like this," said Moore, who died last year. "It's wonderful."

RELATED: Mary Tyler Moore Dead at Age 80

But "wonderful" was not a word the Gieses would likely have applied to their own experience with the show.

Reese said they got what they wanted when the character found a new address. Paula died in 1997 and Clayton in 2011.

"They just got tired of it all and wanted them to stop showing the house," Reese said. "So they hung up the banners. That was their desired route for making it happen."

Ephraim said controversy over the use of the house did not dampen the show's connection to Minneapolis. 

A statue of Moore now stands on the Nicollet Mall in the spot where her character famously tossed her hat during the show's opening credits.

"I remember filming the scene," Ephraim recalls "I had a sheepskin coat on and it was cold out. It was lunch time and everybody broke to eat. All of a sudden, the locals started coming out of their offices to go to the restaurants and they had no coats on at all. It was amazing. I was freezing out there.

"It was such a great location for us. It was apart from both coasts. It was really the heart of America. That's what it was supposed to represent. And it worked out really well. We had a great time shooting there."

Credits

Frank Rajkowski

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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