April 4-You Can Have the Town

by Lenny Hughes

We had a stellar weekend, starting March 30 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Lewis and John caught a show the night before in a little comedy club, possibly a nostalgic return to their early days.

Those ancient shows were likely more subdued than the raucous enthusiasm the crowd threw at them Thursday night at the Pantages Theatre.

Next day, we cruised through farm country to Minneapolis for a two-day stint at another Pantages Theatre, in the flashy-neon broadway district in the heart of downtown.

Again, the crowds were great. John brought down the house from the start with his Hillary/Trump blond wig, and ended with his furious imitation of Lewis Black flipping out at an airport security line.

And of course, Lew had them screaming with "his special message of love," as John puts it.

Pantages Theatre


John doing Lew

Lew in Minneapolis

Zeke and I sold a ton of merch, but I had one main goal in mind even as we approached the Twin Cities the first day.

A Quest: I had to find the exact spot where Mary Tyler Moore throws her hat into the air.

What do you think about when you hear "Minneapolis"? The Twins on Opening Day? The Vikings? The late Prince's Paisley Park?

The State Theatre, where Lewis Black's "In God We Rust" was recorded?

Not me, boy. For me, Minneapolis is all about the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

TV casts a mystical spell on a city.





I'm sure most scenes in television are filmed in California back lots in places like Burbank and Universal City, but phoney as they can be, they still manage to confer a peculiar reality on the actual locations they represent.

Last year in Boston, I had to head straight for the Cheers bar. In San Antonio, I hit the Alamo with visions of Fess Parker's Davy Crockett. In New Orleans, I had to see NCIS headquarters (which turned out to be a parking lot off St. Ann Street).

And a couple years back, in Los Angeles, I found the Holy Grail of Tee Vee locales: the stretch on Sunset Boulevard where 77 Sunset Strip had its fictional offices.

Naturally, I had to comb my hair at the place Kookie parked cars while "the most exciting people pass you by."

New Orleans NCIS HQ


Just standing on the same spot you saw on your Zenith week after week at the opening credits of your favorite show can make the hair on the back of your neck tingle. Makes you feel like "you can have the town...."

So on a warm, sun-speckled Saturday afternoon, I set off on foot, like so many tourists before me; though I'm sure they lacked my existential urgency. I was out to discover The Real Thing. It would be like Kierkegaard's leap of faith into a religious realm.

I think that's what the city had in mind when they erected a bronze statue of Mary flinging her cap from her outstretched arm into the heavens above.

It was right on the corner of Nicollet Mall and South 7th Street, in front of the former Dayton Department Store, which you can see at the opening of the show as Mary turns her head and grabs her hat.

I arrived, panting, found the building (originally the old Westminster Presbyterian Church), and frantically looked around for the statue, when who should I see, but another pilgrim on a quest.

John Bowman.

"The statue's gone-they tore up the street," he said. He told the crowd the night before, "I can't believe you were in such grief after Mary Tyler Moore died, that you started tearing the place up."

Far as the eye could see, Nicollet Mall was churned into rubble and roped off from pedestrians and traffic. Banners hung from barricades with pictures of the statue flinging a hardhat from its hand and sporting the sentiment, "We're going to make it after all."

I hope it doesn't mean they're going to make more garish modern buildings with mirrored facades.

John's search


After all

With Mary's venerable building in the background, John checked his cellphone and found they had temporarily moved the statue inside, a block or two away.

He said he also told the audience he wanted to attend Mary's funeral, but he was afraid he couldn't stop laughing. He got little response.

Apparently, not many of them remembered the old Chuckles the Clown episode.

John headed back, and I pressed ahead.

I found a statue, but I was pretty sure it wasn't Mary Tyler Moore.

Wrong statue

Took a detour to James and Mary Laurie Booksellers closer to the Mississippi. Mr. Laurie showed me a picture of himself when Mick Jagger dropped in and bought some valuable 17th-century Italian prints and spent a couple hours (and a few thousand bucks) in the place.

Running into a celebrity has an effect similar to the heightened reality of visiting a locale made famous by books or the media.

At the bookstore

Back on Nicollet, I finally found the statue, tucked into the corner of the Minneapolis visitor information center. It didn't look a lot like Mary Tyler Moore. The base asked the rhetorical question, "Who can turn the world on with her smile?" And the plaque declared the statue had been donated by the TV Land television network.

Seemed a little anti-climactic. I'd like to return when the statue's back in its proper street corner.


Back home

Making it all seem worthwhile

Now, this weekend, it's on to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Maybe I can find WKRP.