Monday, December 20, 1976
Chattanooga News-Free Press
She’s Country And Proud Of It . . .
Mary Kay Place Squealed With Delight In Nashville
By Paula Schwed
It sounded like a scene from “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” when the woman who plays a stagestruck Southern sexpot called Loretta Haggers recently visited Nashville’s landmarks.
Mary Kay Place squealed with delight over Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Music City’s most famous honky-tonk. She posed for pictures beside her favorite singers, forever preserved in wax at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
And she fidgeted and fussed over her singing debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
“You’re looking at a crazed girl right now. I have hives!” she said, wringing her hands without spilling a drop of her Budweiser.
Some viewers of the successful soap opera might laugh at the idea of country fans paying money to hear Mary Kay Place sing. She always planned to be a singer, though Loretta often seems a country spoof with her puffy hairdo, baby-doll pajamas, and adoring husband.
“People who think Loretta is a putdown don’t like country music and are just seeing what they want to see,” Mary Kay Place says with a shake of her head. “My friends are country, my family is country, I’m country. Why would I put myself down?”
She grew up in small towns in Oklahoma and Texas listening to the old time country music that her uncle, grandmother, and aunt were always playing. Speech teachers made her shuck the country drawl when she decided to become an actress, but Mary Kay Place kept the memories of her childhood. She now uses them to shape Loretta’s character.
She has written scripts for episodes of “Phyllis,” “Maude,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “M*A*S*H.” The 23-year-old woman first caught the attention of “Mary Hartman’s” creator, Norman Lear, by singing, “If Communism Comes Knockin’ At Your Door, Don’t Answer It.”
He let her continue writing country tunes like “Baby Boy,” which Loretta sings on the show. She has also recorded that song as Mary Kay Place and watched it hit the top of the country charts.
Though Loretta keeps meeting with misfortune, she also records a hit tune and becomes successful.
Although Mary Kay Place is anxious to prove both she and Loretta are “real country people,” she is quick to admit she is much smarter than the character she plays.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think Loretta should be such a dumb broad, such a naive bimbo, such a Connie Shmurkle,” she says. “But that let us do a lot of script things we couldn’t have done otherwise.”
So there are some differences between Mary Kay Place and Loretta Haggers, though it’s often hard to sort them out.
Though it is Mary Kay Place who visits Nashville, she predicts the trip will provide script material “too good to pass up.”
“You know, on the show Loretta just wants more than anything to come to Nashville and find her fame and fortune. She’s been just saving and talking towards that ever since she can remember. Well, she’d just love it here and I love it here and now Charlie and I are just going to have to come.”
“I think I’m in hog heaven.”