Six years ago, Valerie Harper was on the cover of People Magazine to say goodbye after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given only months to live. This came after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. Well, Valerie Harper took one of her iconic Rhoda scarves off of her head and used it to choke out that evil demonic piece of pus-covered trash that is cancer and proved those doctors wrong and lived on and continued to dance (on Dancing with the Stars in 2013) and turn the world on with a smile. Yes, I know that’s Mary, but Rhoda did it too. Sadly, Valerie’s family confirmed that she died today at the age of 80.
Valerie’s family tells ABC7 that she died this morning. They didn’t say what she died from, but last month, a family friend started a GoFundMe to help pay for the 24/7 care that she needed and that her insurance wouldn’t cover. The friend said that Valerie was in a lot of pain and taking many, many meds including chemotherapy meds. Valerie’s daughter Cristina Cacciotti tweeted this message from her father and Valerie’s husband, Tony Cacciotti.
My dad has asked me to pass on this message: “My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer.
She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. -Anthony.”
— Cris (@cristicacci) August 30, 2019
Valerie began her career in !!!SHOWBIZ!!! as most bright shining stars do: on Broadway. Valerie danced in several Broadway musicals, including Wildcat starring Lucille Ball, and in between kicking and throwing jazz hands on stages, she took improv classes at Second City. A casting agent spotted her in a show, and asked her to audition for the role of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. We all know what happened after that.
Valerie played Rhoda on the first four seasons of Mary Tyler Moore before going off to star on her own show Rhoda for five seasons. Playing Rhoda got her eight Emmy nominations and four wins.
I, of course, knew who Rhoda was growing up, but I know Valerie Harper best as VALERIE! Valerie debuted on NBC in 1986, and it starred Valerie Harper as a frazzled mom who raised her three sons, including Jason Bateman, by herself pretty much because her husband was a pilot. When Valerie rose in the ratings during its second season, the real Valerie and her husband Tony, who was also an executive producer, tried to get a raise and a bigger cut of syndication money. Shit got ugly. Eventually Valerie was fired and replaced with Sandy Duncan who played her sister-in-law. The show’s title was changed to Valerie’s Family and then renamed again The Hogan Family in season four. Valerie sued NBC for breach of contract and they countersued for libel. She ended up winning some money in damages.
After the Valerie escandalo, Valerie did guest spots on The Office, The Simpsons, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, That ’70s Show, and Melrose Place where she played Michael Mancini’s mom. I’m sure Valerie would say that playing Michael Mancini’s mom was her greatest achievement as an actress.
And now here’s Valerie singing, dancing, and busting out the splits on The Muppet Show.
Rest in peace, Valerie.