June 23, 2008 3:00 PM
There goes another one: Dody Goodman died Sunday at age 93.
I am too young to remember Dody on Jack Paar’s incarnation of “The Tonight Show" (thank God I’m still too young for something), so to me she will always be Louise Lasser’s daffy mother, Martha Shumway, on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” (And, as for so many others, the ditzy school secretary in the 1978 movie “Grease” and its sequel.)
Created by Norman Lear, “Mary Hartman”—set in the fictitious small Midwestern town of Fernwood—isn’t mentioned much anymore, but it was great fun at the time, if a bit too ambitious (a five-night-a-week soap opera spoof designed for late night—grueling for the cast and crew as well as the viewer).
Dody was in good company on the show—the cast, which bordered on bizarre, also included Phillip Bruns (as her husband, George) Victor Killian (as her father, who was also the local flasher), Debralee Scott (as her other daughter, Cathy, who once accidently left her illegitimate baby in the clothes dryer at the laundromat). Others were Greg Mullavy (as Mary’s husband, Tom) and Graham Jarvis (as Loretta’s husband, Charlie). Notably, Doris Roberts guested for a stint as faith-healing evangelist Dorelda Doremus.
Mary Kay Place famously started out as an assistant to Lear, who cast her as country-Western singer Loretta Haggers, Mary’s next-door neighbor and best friend, a role in which she became a sensation. (Poor Loretta stunningly committed career suicide during her big break, an appearance on Dinah Shore’s talk show, when she talked about all the nice Jewish people she met in L.A., then commented, “I can’t believe they’re the same people who killed our Lord.”)
Here’s a promo for the series, which ran from 1976-77 (it became “Forever Fernwood” after Lasser departed):