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‘Rhoda’ celebrates being 60 with fans at library

The beloved actress Valerie Harper, co-star of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and star of its spin-off, "Rhoda," was at the Flushing Library last Wednesday to promote her new book "Today I Am A Ma'am."

The book - with the title taken from the name of a TMTMS episode, celebrates her girlfriends and "delivers a direct hit to the youth-obsessed culture we're plagued with," she told Qguide.

Dressed in flowing beige, she took the podium with the energetic friendliness that hasn't diminished since she was Mary's best pal and Nancy Walker's put-upon daughter. Complaining, though gently, about Hollywood's trend of pairing older men with much younger female co-stars, Harper said, "If I was cast in a Harrison Ford movie, I'd play his mother." By the way, Harper's own vibrant looks prompted an audience member to shout that she didn't look 60.

"No work done, that's it!" Harper joked.

She read the first few chapters of the slim book, which will be in bookstores soon. One anecdote was Harper telling her daughter that she'd run into a "little old lady of 60," and her daughter laughing and reminding her that she was also 60.

Harper then had the houselights turned up to engage in conversation with the invariably adoring audience. The topics ranged from the preposterousness of TV programmers catering to advertisers who seem to be catering no one older than 13, to the frightening ubiquity of plastic surgery - "The women in Hollywood aren't hiring physicians, they're hiring contractors," Harper said, though she admitted to dyeing her hair and that Tyne Daley, co-star of "Judging Amy" who'd let her own hair go naturally gray, is her hero.

Harper also mused upon the way older people are revered in other cultures and how they are discarded, for some reason, in this one.

But the talk wasn't all about age and wisdom. Harper recalled how network politics ended up canceling her show "Valerie's Family."

When asked about a piece of advice that she took to heart, Harper remembered working in a "ghastly horror movie" with Ruth Gordon, who also played the mother of Carlton the doorman in "Rhoda" and was still lively and sharp into her 80s. Gordon told her, "I was going to get old, or get older." Harper decided to get older.

Later, guest and audience repaired to a conference room where Harper graciously signed advance copies of her book, and posed gamely for photographers while audience members queued up to speak to her.

The theme song of her show with Mary Tyler Moore encouraged: "You're gonna make it after all."

Valerie Harper certainly did.

Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at timersledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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