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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 permits.
   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 TV history.
   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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  Article copyright ©2002 by Sandy McLendon. Site copyright ©1998–2002 by JY&A Media. All rights reserved. This site is not connected with ABC, News Corp., Twentieth Century-Fox and MTM Enterprises Inc. or their divisions. Site broadcast from San Antonio, Tx.