Valerie Harper, the beloved actress best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern in two 1970s CBS sitcoms, has died at age 80. The four-time Emmy winner passed away after a long battle with cancer, as previously shared by The Inquisitr.
While Harper will always be remembered as Mary Tyler Moore’s TV sidekick on The Mary Tyler Moore Show — an Emmy-winning turn that spawned the character’s own self-titled sitcom in 1974 — the late star left behind a long list of acting credits on stage and screen, with roles opposite some of the biggest names in the business.
Indeed, there was much more to Harper than her sarcastic, bandanna-wearing Rhoda. In honor of Valerie Harper’s iconic career, we look back at some of her most surprising TV roles and appearances that have nothing to do with her signature character.
The Dinah Shore Show With Lucille Ball
Years before fans knew her as Rhoda, Harper started her career as a dancer and singer on Broadway. A big break came when she was cast in Lucille Ball’s 1961 stage musical Wildcat. Fifteen years later, the two Broadway veterans performed a song together on The Dinah Shore Show. The 1976 appearance marked a rare TV appearance with two of CBS’ most beloved sitcom legends on stage together.
The Muppet Show
Back in the 1970s, The Muppet Show was almost on par with The Love Boat for obligatory celeb cameos. Still, no one did it better than Harper. In 1976, at the height of her Rhoda fame, the actress performed a surprising song-and-dance routine with a troupe of blue Clodhoppers on the CBS variety show, per IMDB.
In 1998, Harper turned up in a surprising mom role when she played Mia Mancini, the Italian mother of Michael and Jennifer Mancini, the characters played by Thomas Calabro and Alyssa Milano. The actress appeared in two episodes of the prime time soap, “Mama Mia” and “Last Train to Baghdad,” during its sixth season. After Harper’s death, Milano remembered Harper as one of the kindest people on the set of the Fox drama series.
Sex and the City
In 1999, Harper played a well-read Jewish mother who bonded with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) over her own son’s “shortcomings.” When Carrie dated a fellow writer named Vaughn (Justin Theroux), she took issue with his quick bedroom romps. He, in turn, attributed his bedroom problems to his progressively minded mother (Harper). While Carrie did find it odd that Vaughn’s sexual inadequacies were on his mom’s radar, she befriended the woman—and had more trouble breaking up with her than she did with Vaughn.
Dancing With the Stars
A stint on Dancing with the Stars would not normally be surprising, as many celebs land there. But when Valerie Harper joined the ABC celebrity ballroom competition at age 74 in 2013, she had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Broadway beauty was partnered with Tristan Macmanus, and she won viewers’ hearts with her positive attitude and elegant dance moves as she faced the biggest crisis of her life.
Harper was eliminated third in the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars, landing in 10th place, but she remains one of the show’s most memorable contestants ever.