December 5, 1976
Armed Forces Radio’s “Country Cookin’”
Radio Interview with Mary Kay Place and Graham Jarvis
with Lee Arnold
[Because this is a transcript of a radio interview, natural speech patterns have not been edited to correct grammar or sentence structure errors. Any factual errors (such as the host’s mistake with the title of Mary Kay’s album) are left just as they would have aired on radio.
The recording from which I transcribed the interview is the original 1976 vinyl recording. The Place interview was the “B-Side” of the Ronnie Milsap interview on the “A-Side.” The person or persons who cared for side A, apparently felt that side B was not so worthy. Therefore, there are many scratches and skips that hindered my being able to perfectly record the interview. Still, I think that I have gotten the wording about 99% correct through repeated listenings.]
Intro: Mary Kay Place’s song, “Vitamin L.”
Lee Arnold: “Vitamin L” by one of country’s newest stars, and a very well known star. We have Mary Kay Place with us, better known as Loretta Haggers. Welcome, welcome to “Country Cookin’,” Mary Kay Place.
Mary Kay Place: Well, thank you a lot.
LA: And also her husband on the show, Charlie, Graham Jarvis is with us. Good to have you with us on the show, Graham.
Graham Jarvis: Thank you.
LA: Mary Kay, I guess where does Loretta stop and Mary Kay begin, and how did she become your alter ego?
MKP: Her name hasn’t always been Loretta, but a character like Loretta has always been a part of my alter ego. I'd say Loretta stops when I leave KTLA and the wig goes off my head. But, I've done versions of Loretta in school assemblies in junior high and high school and college just forever. I was telling you earlier, I get calls from classmates saying, “I don't believe you’re getting paid real money for doing this silly stuff you used to do in high school assemblies.”
LA: There’ve been many situation comedies on television, many soap operas, that have tried and kind of fell by the wayside. Why do you think that “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” [I’ll use “MH2” to refer to the show from here on out-CW.] has been such an immense success? It's really obviously such a put-on to many people who are erudite and, you know... But, obviously, would you most imagine people would resent it, or more so than endorse it or support it?
MKP: I don’t think so. I mean, I think “MH’s” success for a number of reasons, and I’m sure Graham has some...
LA: What are your feelings on it, Graham? Why do you think the success of “MH2” came when it did, as opposed to others who maybe had tried similar format, but had failed?
GJ: Well, it’s not always funny. I mean they get a chance to do things straight for a while and then mix in comedy. I think part of it is the mixtures of style. And, I think that is a great...[record scratched here].
Intermission: “Gold in the Ground”
LA: That’s Mary Kay Place, another great favorite from her new album, Mary Kay Place, Live at the Capri Lounge. You have a great affinity for country. Did you grow up with it? Did you like it as a kid?
MKP: Yes, I did, although during high school I did go through a Beatles period where I was, like, too sharp for country for a couple of years. And, then I went, “Wait a minute. What am I doing? I've always liked this stuff.” I think I’ve gotten past my pseudo-sharp stage, and I can enjoy it again.
LA: Have the original intent after high school to be an actress or a singer, which was it?
MKP: I always loved singing my whole life, but I never really, I never felt that I sang well enough. I thought that I should be...I always had a low voice and I never understood the concept that you could change keys in a song. If I didn’t sing it in the key that it was on the radio, then it was just too high for me. [Graham laughs.] And, I thought, “It would sound so good in my bedroom,” but when I’d try it with music, uh, you know. But, I didn’t pursue it at first at all, or the acting either because the competition was incredible in Los Angeles, and it seemed fruitless. And, I figured if I’m meant to do this, I will worm my way in, in another way.
LA: You’ve done a lot of things in television besides acting. You’ve written a lot of pilots, you've written a lot of scripts for other shows, Norman Lear shows as well, contributed songs to the same. What you’re doing right now, the part that you play on “MH,” would you say that’s one of the great achievements that you sought out, as far as artistic success and personal success is concerned?
MKP: I would consider it...It’s such a comfortable character for me to play, that in terms of actual difficulty, if you were to measure the degree of difficulty, writing for me is and was much more difficult than playing the character of Loretta. Playing Loretta is fun. It's purely fun. It requires stamina because our shooting schedule is so incredibly hectic and pressured that that degree of difficulty comes in energy, not so much in acting ability.
Intermission: “Baby Boy”
LA: That’s the big hit from Mary Kay Place, known as Loretta Haggers on “MH2,” she’s with us today along with Graham Jarvis, who’s Charlie, and that’s her big hit, “Baby Boy.” How’d you get to write that?
MKP: [In Loretta’s characteristic drawl] Well, I wrote about my Baby Boy over here right now, Graham. [Back to MKP’s normal speaking voice] There was, we had a segment in the show where Loretta was gonna have her first hit record, and they had some song, I don’t remember what it was now, and I said, “Now, you know, I think that the most appropriate hit record for Loretta to have would be about Charlie,” who we’ve set up in the script that we call “Baby Boy.” So, I went home and I wrote it.
LA: A lot of things in this business happen by accident and as a result of your doing this song on the show, you’ve got yourself an album now and a whole new career. Aside from Mary Kay Place the actress, it’s now Loretta Haggers the singer as well now. Do you envision...
GJ: Let me say that, yes, by accident, but I read somewhere that, I think it was Eddie Cantor said years ago that you work like crazy to become an overnight sensation. You have to be ready for it when it happens, and I think Mary Kay was. I think that’s part of it.
LA: Would you like to do Vegas someday? Do you see yourself doing an act in Vegas as Loretta?
MKP: No, I would definitely never do it as Loretta. I mean, if I do it, it will be as Mary Kay Place. And actually, I won’t ever record as Loretta anymore. But, a show in Vegas appeals to me at some point. I certainly don't have time now because of the schedule of the show, but I like entertaining, and so, that would be fun.
LA: One of the best places to break in an act of your sort is at a country music nightclub, and I understand you worked at the Palomino.
MKP: Oh, yes. It was very exciting. I mean, I’ve been to the Palomino a lot as a cl...
LA: As a fan?
MKP: Right, as a fan, but, to actually get up on that stage was, needless to say, terrifying, but also really exciting. And, as I said, Loretta, it's much easier at the Capri Lounge, let me tell you, than it is at the Palomino.
Intermission: “Streets of This Town”
LA: Mary, I guess many supporting stars on the series, such as yourself, have kind of surfaced as the reason that people watch. It's amazing how people who started out as supporting stars have become really the main attraction. I can think of instances like Barney, Don Knotts, who played with Andy Griffith on “Mayberry R.F.D.” and “The Andy Griffith Show,” Fonzie, Henry Winkler, who was originally a supporting role to Ronnie Howard and even J.J. Walker, now on “Good Times.”
MKP: Mmm, hmm.
GJ: Mary Tyler Moore.
LA: Mary Tyler Moore, exactly. There are so many instances like that. Does that cause problems with the rest of the cast at times, or a bit of tension?
MKP: I don’t think the rest of the cast, or myself, is really aware of what you just said that much. We’re all really working together and we, it seems like we’re either on the stage or in our dressing rooms all the time and we don’t even hardly get out enough to know how popular...if one character’s more popular than the others. So, I think it would be disaster if the actors...
GJ: So do I. I think that it would really hurt the show if we got into that.
LA: I know you’re involved so heavily now with country and because you like country music so much, you grew up with it. Who are some of the people who you’ve been influenced by over the years?
MKP: Oh, my goodness, there’s thousands. I, of course, love Hank Williams and always have, and I am from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for instance, Bob Wills is from Tulsa. I went to high school with two of his kids. And, I like, I love Dolly Parton and her writing and her talent. I love Kitty Wells. You know, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn and all that. Lefty Frizzell...
LA: Are you...
MKP: Countless. Emmylou Harris. I mean, you name ‘em, just about.
LA: Mary Kay Place and Graham Jarvis, I want to thank you both for coming by and visiting with us at “Country Cookin’.” As they say in the country, “When you’re in town, y’all come back and say, ‘Hi.’”
MKP: [As Loretta] Well, Lee, hon’, we thank you now.
LA: [Laughs] Thanks for being with us. Much, much luck.
MKP: Thank you.
Outro: “All I Can Do”