Hazel Frederick stands behind Mary Tyler Moore
during the famous hat toss
Hooray for Hazel
by Sandy McLendon
Who can turn the world on with her scowl?
Who can step into the shot
And make the MTM audience howl?
Well, it�s you, Hazel, you should know it.
With glasses and scarf and great big hair you can show it !
Hazel�s all around, don�t need no reasons
Hazel was a legend for seven seasons
She really made it, after all!
THE most famous TV appearance by a non-professional�ever�has to be Hazel Frederick�s.
On a cold blustery day of shopping, she walked down Minneapolis�s Nicollet Avenue,
and into history.
That day, Minneapolis police officer Rodney Homstad was performing
a strange, but pleasant, duty. A Hollywood film crew had come to town to film
some scenes for a TV show. It seemed to be something important, because they
were filming with that actress who used to be so great on The Dick Van Dyke
Show, Miss Mary Tyler Moore. Officer Homstad�s job was to escort the film
crew and the star around Minneapolis as they filmed, to protect them from interference,
and to assure anyone who needed to know that these TV folks had all the necessary
Despite the cold, things were proceeding smoothly, and the
star and crew headed downtown for some filming of a walk down Minneapolis�s
main shopping street, Nicollet Avenue, which wasn�t Nicollet Mall yet. Mary
Tyler Moore walked past Donaldson�s Department Store, striding, looking happy
for the cameras. When that was in the can, it was time to do yet another sequence,
one that no one present could know would be one of the most famous moments in
The idea was simple: Mary Tyler Moore would show how happy
she was with her new life in Minneapolis by standing in the middle of Nicollet
and throwing her blue knitted hat high in the air. It took a little doing, because
Nicollet was the busiest street in a busy town, with heavy traffic coming in
both directions. Since the idea was to capture a moment that looked like real
life, no attempt was made to control or divert traffic; Mary was on her own.
To keep passersby from realizing filming was taking place, the camera was made
inconspicuous as possible.
Moore gamely waded right into the street, managing to smile
and look upbeat even with the cold and the cars. As she reached the middle,
with traffic all around her, she chose a spot where she would not be in the
path of cars, and tossed the hat as high as she could get it, flashing a huge
smile. And then it happened.
Hazel Frederick was walking along Nicollet, coming from Dayton�s
Department Store, when she saw something she�d never seen before: a pretty dark-haired
young girl running out into the traffic in the middle of the street, taking
off her hat, and tossing it up in the air. Hazel had no idea why anyone would
do something like that, but young people did some strange things these days.
As she watched in alarm, Hazel could see the pretty girl was in a lot of danger;
the traffic was something fierce, and any kind of accident could happen. As
Hazel watched, the girl retrieved her hat, and made it to the other side of
the avenue. Since it seemed to be all right, Hazel went on her way, and thought
nothing more about it, except maybe, �Crazy kids.� She had more shopping to
do, and it was a rare day off for her.
Fast-forward a few months, to Studio City, California: a
team of film editors was assembling the footage shot in Minneapolis. The idea
was to use shots of Mary Tyler Moore to form a montage, or grouping, of scenes
that showed her character, Mary Richards, in her daily life around Minneapolis.
The montage was to end with the shot of the hat-tossing, which had turned out
spectacularly well. Mary Tyler Moore looked wonderful, and the hat toss was
exactly the right exuberant gesture. It had already been decided that the show
would have a lot of visual style, and that each episode would end with the actors
caught in a freeze-framed moment. The montage was to get this treatment, too,
and so the editors were working to freeze-frame it just as the hat swooped into
the air. If anyone in the editing room noticed Hazel Frederick behind Mary Tyler
Moore, it was probably to wish that Hazel had just kept walking, and hadn�t
stared and scowled at Moore. Scowl or no scowl, the shot was too terrific to
discard, and impossible to reshoot, anyway. For better or worse, the lady was
in the picture.
When The Mary Tyler Moore Show débuted on CBS,
the opening montage became famous. Fans soon made a ritual of catching the moment
when the older lady behind Mary Tyler Moore appeared to stop and scowl at the
actress who was having such a grand time tossing her hat. In Minneapolis, Hazel
was recognized by viewers who knew her, including her family, who were the ones
to tell her she was on a famous TV show.
Fast-forward to October, 1996: on a visit to Minneapolis,
years after The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air, Mary Tyler Moore
got to meet the lady who had been her inadvertent co-star. The occasion was
a book-signing for Mary�s autobiography, After All, at the Mall of America.
As curious as any fan about the scowl, Mary asked Hazel the reason for the stern
expression. In no-nonsense fashion, Hazel shot back: �Because I thought you
were going to kill yourself out there!� She hadn�t been disapproving, she�d
been concerned. She�d seen danger in what Mary was doing, and hadn�t
wanted any harm to come to her. Mary Tyler Moore was so charmed, she introduced
Hazel to the crowd of 5,000 as �my co-star�. Many of the people who bought Mary
Tyler Moore�s book to have it signed asked for Hazel�s signature, too. Hazel
signed as if she�d been doing it forever.
Hazel Frederick had a long and active life, one that finally
ended in a Minnesota nursing home in 1999, surrounded by her large and loving
family, at the age of 91. To the end of her days, she was famous for her impromptu
walk-on. Unusually for somebody with only one television appearance, her obituary
was picked up by news services all over the world.
It�s said that everybody who knew Hazel Frederick in her everyday
life loved her. Fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show did, too, and they
always will. � Sandy McLendon
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