Soap Opera Time Magazine
A Mary Hartman Special: “Loretta” in Concert!
We attend Mary Kay Place’s nightclub debut—and a real country barbecue afterwards!
The hand-written invitation from Mary Kay Place pretty much set the tone of the evening. In her best “Loretta Haggers” scrawl and drawl she’d written:
I’m just thrilled, pleased as punch,
and beside myself to be able to invite y’all to the Palomino Club to hear my brand, spankin’ new Columbia record album. I don’t mean to sound conceited, but if I do say so myself, this record is personally chock full of your basic good’ol toe-tappin’ and knee slappin’ country songs, and I’m gonna get to sing live and in color some of my favorites. Can’t hardly wait to see you.
Love, your pal,
Mary Kay Place
But nothing, not even Mary Kay’s down-home, hand-written invitation, could have prepared us for the scene that took place at L.A.’s most famous country-western club, The Palomino, the night Loretta/Mary Kay launched her singing career “live and in color!”
While a boisterous audience stomped, whistled, hooted, and cheered, Mary Kay (looking cute in her checkered shirt, jeans, and boots, but without her usual “Loretta Haggers” wig) belted out several cuts from her first album (simply titled Mary Kay Place) [sic] including the two she’s written for “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”—“Baby Boy” and “Vitamin L.” On hand to back her, during her first outing in the nightclub arena, was the Hot Band (country-western singer Emmylou Harris’ band). As Mary Kay put it: “She was ever so precious to loan ‘em to me.”
While a camera crew rushed around the saw-dust flavored night spot, filming the performance (for future segments of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” as ell as the late-night news show), Mary Kay attempted to find some compromise between the “superstar” she was pretending to be and the novice she felt like. After her first number she confided: “I’m so nervous the mike is shaking in my hand. I’m afraid it will just go flying out at y’all in the audience. I guess it’s in the Lord’s hands tonight!”
The packed house roared their approval. Sitting close by, “Days of Our Lives” star Patty Weaver (Mary Kay’s best friend) and husband Larry Stewart yelped and whistled, agreeing throughout the evening that she was doing “fantastically well!”
Other television stars on had to launch Mary Kay’s C&W career were Mac Davis, Tom Smothers, and Graham Jarvis (“Charlie Haggers”). Graham also served as impromptu MC, introducing his television wife with the kind of love and support he’s always shown Loretta. “And don’t y’all forget the big BBQ, drinkin’, and carousin’ that we got scheduled for you after the show!” he shouted as he beckoned Mary Kay onto the stage.
And what a BBQ it was! Hundreds of hip and hick looking people helping themselves to beer and booze, BBQ steak, salad, potatoes, cole slaw, corn, everything! There were outdoor BBQ tables everywhere to accommodate the huge turn-out, and when Mary Kay finally joined the crowd for some “good eatin’,” a large cake in the shape of a guitar was brought out.
Pushing our way up to her (she was literally mobbed by well-meaning friends and fans all eager to assure her she’s not just pretending anymore, she is a superstar!), we found her exhausted but candid as usual:
“To be perfectly frank with you,” she said, loosening her bright red country scarf, “I’m a total wreck! I mean, I’m bananas. Hon, I tell you, maybe if I do this kind of thing a few more times it will get easier, but right now, here, tonight…I’M A WRECK!”
Watching the mob circling Mary Kay, we couldn’t help wondering what it must be like for her. After all, it would give anyone pause to realize that it was only a little over a year ago that a young girl left her secretary job to become a writer, then an actress, and now a singer. Even with “the good Lord on my side,” that’s a lot of distance to go in such a short time.
. . .
Mary Hartman’s best friend Loretta Haggers lives a Stella Dallas existence—country-western style. Determined to make it big as a Nashville recording star, last season she and her balding, baby-boy husband, Charlie, set out for Grand Ole Opry land, armed with faith, hope, and a suitcase full of fresh-cut demonstration records. But, as luck would have it, Charlie and Loretta’s car smashed head on into a station wagon full of tipsy nuns—and Loretta wound up in a wheelchair, possibly crippled for life. So, she sought out the services of a fraudulent faith healer—who of course didn’t heal her—but eventually Loretta walked, anyhow, just in time for another embarrassing misadventure.
When her first single, “Baby Boy,” climbed to the top of the music charts, she won a guest-appearance on the Dinah Shore show. But Loretta made an unwitting anti-Semitic slur on the air—and her brand-new career instantly went up on smoke. Meanwhile, the Haggers’ life savings weren’t doing much better. You see, Charlie’s disreputable ex-wife had just returned to Fernwood. A real con artist, she managed to milk the gullible couple out of several thousands of dollars, by convincing Charlie that he had actually had a long, lost son whom he’d never seen (and who needed clothes, food, and pocket money). The boy’s existence, of course was a total fiction—but Charlie and Loretta didn’t realize that until the ex-Mrs. H had already skipped town.
Then along came widower Merle Jeeter and his little son, the Rev. Jimmy Jo—a religious whiz kid who claimed to have a hotline to God. Loretta not only got sucked into Merle’s highly questionable “Condos for Christ” business venture, she also found herself cornered by his lecherous advances. One night, Merle made a pass at her in his motel room, and Charlie arrived—shotgun in hand—just in time to save her. Unfortunately, though, Charlie’s gun misfired—and he shot his own testicle off! Then, to add tragedy to trauma, shortly after that, Little Jimmy Jo accidentally electrocuted himself—and died—while watching the six o’clock TV news in his bathtub.
What lies ahead for her in the lopsided, luckless life of Loretta Haggers? Well, with all her sorrow and sufferin’, she’ll never run out of songwritin’ inspiration, that’s for sure!