The late Mary Tyler Moore had a rich and rewarding career and, in the immediate aftermath of her passing, is being remembered as a feminist icon—someone who, on her self-titled show, not only “turned the world on with her smile,” but who lived alone and was career-focused. That self-determination influenced a lot of women, but one specific woman really took the Moore mantra and ran with it.
Oprah Winfrey was and is a diehard Mary Tyler Moore fan. The super-rich television host and executive has said she spent years modeling her life after Mary Tyler Moore’s television persona, from the “O” over her fridge in her apartment to her vest/pussy-bow ensembles. She didn’t just want to model herself after Mary, Winfrey says. She wanted to be Mary.
All of that came to a head in 1997, when, under the guise of a show about Winfrey’s favorite celebrity women, the Oprah staff surprised Winfrey with a drop-in appearance from Moore. As you’ll see in the clip below, Winfrey was genuinely surprised to meet her idol, something that caused her to both burst into tears and begin to sweat profusely.
Moore, Winfrey says in the clip, has “no idea what [she’s] meant to” the talk-show host, saying “There’s many times in our lives when there are those of us who only had the television for inspiration, and you were one of those women who was a light. You know, Maya Angelou says there are some people who have a certain way of being in this world, and that’s what you brought to this character.”
The whole thing is incredibly charming, especially considering how in control—both emotionally and professionally—Winfrey appeared to be over the long run of the Oprah show. It was one of Winfrey’s favorite moments from the show’s 25-year, 4,561-episode run, and it meant so much to her that she even reflected back on it as the show was coming to its end in 2011.
If you want more Oprah/Moore content, it’s worth checking out the episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 2008 when Winfrey not only reunited the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but also built a mock-up of the WJM newsroom on her set.