Mary Kay Place
Mary Kay Place
by Tom Perew
Tulsa-born Mary Kay Place doesn’t sound as Southern as her Loretta Haggers character on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and she’s quick to emphasize another difference: “Loretta doesn’t sing that well.”
Miss Place does sing well on Tonite! At the Capri Lounge: Loretta Haggers, an album she made despite reservations that “record people were after me because I was so well known from the show.”
“Baby Boy,” the song from “M.H., M.H.,” starts the album off in a humorous mood—then it becomes obvious that Mary Kay means business. “It’s very serious,” she says of the album. “Some of the songs can be taken humorously but I didn’t make a joke album, one that you listen to one time and forget about.”
Mary Kay Place is no stranger to music. She once sang “If Communism Comes Knocking at Your Door, Don’t Answer It” for Norman Lear and wound up performing it on “All in the Family.” “I practice singing in my bedroom, in the bathtub, and in my car,” she laughs, but deciding there were too many good singers around, she began work as a production assistant and wound up writing scripts for “Maude,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” and “M*A*S*H,” as well as appearing in several of these shows.
Although some of her song titles, such as “Coke and Chips,” sound slightly deranged, most of the cuts are happy country toetappers. “Ode to Fernwood” shines as a little Our Town set to music. Record producer Brian Ahen brought in his other singers, Anne Murray and Emmylou Harris and Her Hot Band, to do backup—even Dolly Parton, the queen of country beauty parlors, squeezed her foot-high hairdo into the studio. Miss Place, in turn, finished the album with the Parton-written “All I Can Do.”
Mary Kay believes, “Some songs from ‘Mary Hartman’ weren’t good enough to be on an album,” but she did include “Vitamin L,” a song that can hold its own next to “Junk Food Junkie” or “A Boy Named Sue.” Place’s warbling “You’ll get scurvy ‘less you eat them prunes” may not be Dostoyevsky, but there’s a message behind her madness.
At the Capri Lounge is Loretta Haggers’ material sung Mary Kay’s way. “A true Mary Kay Place album,” she says, “would cover slightly different territory in terms of composition.” But her musical talents are extended in her new film, New York, New York (shades of “M.H, M.H.”), where she sings four 1940-style songs, one with Robert DeNiro.
Although Mary Kay believes it spoils the fun to tell what happens on this season’s “M.H, M.H.”, she does admit, “We might see some more success in Loretta’s career.”