Mary Tyler Moore Opens Up on Grief, Alcohol

By Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith

Mary Tyler Moore, who's just turned in the manuscript for her autobiography, "Growing Up Again -- and, Oh, I'm a Diabetic" to St. Martin's Press, spares herself little in the text. 

In the book, the beloved actress, who does a terrific turn as Brooke Shields' mother in NBC's "Lipstick Jungle" this season, tells of how diabetes has left her with diminished eyesight, and how on occasion, "It left me down in the dumps -- and not knowing which way to turn."

She didn't turn to religion. She notes, "I was raised Catholic, but when I became an adult I began to question its tenets -- I couldn't live with them. I knew, for example, I would be using birth control. However, I do get my strength from God's presence in my life." And with the passage of time.

"Time is a great healer," she says and begins to talk of her son's death at age 24 in 1980. "It came from out of nowhere. He was doing so well ... Unfortunately, there were terrible rumors that Richie killed himself, but it was an accident," she stresses.

"He was a gun collector, was cleaning guns, and one of them went off and shot him in the head."

Mary will also be detailing her many years of alcoholism that, she says, "started building when I was in my late teens and became my strength during the years I was on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (where Van Dyke also battled alcoholism).

She faults her dependence on alcohol for contributing to the end of her marriage to Grant Tinker and for turning her first year of marriage to Dr. Robert Levine into a troubled time.

"We would have inane arguments over dinner about things I couldn't remember the next day. Alcoholism brings to the fore hostilities and resentment -- you can't have a marriage like that."

A year after the wedding to Levine, with her husband's urging, Mary checked into the Betty Ford Clinic and followed up with AA, and now, she says, "I get my strength from myself."

Incidentally, the 71-year-old actress and 54-year-old Levine celebrate their 25th anniversary on Nov. 22. "In this case they really did say it never would last," she notes.

MEANWHILE: Mary Tyler Moore will be shooting her second "Lipstick Jungle" in a few weeks and says she has no idea if there will be more turns on the show for her. "If I have my druthers," she says, "there will be more. I love the fact my character is well-rounded and has depth." And she adores working with Brooke Shields, who, she says, "is just wonderful. I love her talent and her great sense of humor."

Source: National Ledger Sep 4, 2008