Today (December 29, 2022) would have been the 86th birthday of actress Mary Tyler Moore. I am only aware of this because her name was trending on Twitter and I clicked over to see why.
In addition to learning it was MTM's birthday, I also found out there is a statue of her in downtown Minneapolis near the spot where she famously threw her hat in the air during the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
As I went further down the rabbit hole, I became aware of the name Hazel Frederick.
Hazel just happened to be in the right place at the right time on that fateful day in television history when a production team went out among the citizens of Minneapolis following the actress who would bring arguably her most famous character, Mary Richards, to life in living rooms all over America for almost a decade.
The full account is reported here by Sandy McLendon, but the gist of it is a Hollywood film crew (along with MTM) came to Minneapolis to film background shots and inserts that could be used in the show to reinforce it took place in the Midwest versus a soundstage in Los Angeles.
The crew camouflaged the camera as best they could and sent MTM on her mission to walk through the bustling crowd of commuters on the sidewalk and make her way to the middle of the busiest street in town where she would doff her cap and throw it into the air with a big smile that showed just how happy Mary Richards was to be reinventing herself and starting her new adventure.
The shot turned out perfectly and went on to become one of the most historic moments in television history, but it wasn't until after the show debuted on CBS that anyone seemed to notice the random woman in the background who had seemingly stopped to scowl at Mary's hat-throwing exuberance.
Hazel Frederick, MTM's accidental co-star in her show's opening credits, was quickly recognized by her friends and family who called to tell her that she was now a TV star.
It wasn't until 1996 during a book tour for Mary Tyler Moore's biography (titled After All) that she actually met her surprise co-star in person and was able to ask her what many had wondered over the years... Why the look of disdain over her public display of enthusiasm? Hazel shot back the response "Because I thought you were going to kill yourself out there!"
Turns out Hazel wasn't having a bad case of the Mondays -- she was worried about the crazy lady who stopped in the middle of the street to play a game of catch with her hat.
Hazel passed away in 1999 at the age of 91 while living in a Minneapolis nursing home. She had become so well known for her single walk-on appearance on a TV show that her obituary was picked up by news outlets all over the world.
It's a lesson to remember...
Now matter how small of a role you feel you may be playing in the world, just being present and aware at the right place at the right time could be the reason you're gonna make it after all.