Cloris Leachman died Wednesday at the age of 94

Products in this story are independently selected and featured editorially. If you make a purchase using these links we may earn commission.
Advertisement

Late actress Cloris Leachman and her costars on The Mary Tyler Moore Show remained tightly bonded, decades after the show wrapped in 1977. 

Leachman, who died Wednesday at the age of 94, met up with Valerie Harper, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White and Georgia Engel on a 2013 episode of the TVLand sitcom Hot In Cleveland

Leachman was "exactly the same" as she was while on the 1970s sitcom — "being funny and crazy" — aside from the moments when the actors broke character, Sue Cameron, a former Hollywood Reporter columnist who spent time on the Mary Tyler Moore set and attended the event, tells PEOPLE. 

"Everybody was near tears most of the time," she says. "But there was a moment when they were all sitting around a table — the next scene was going to be just all of them sitting at a table in a restaurant — and they had to reset lights and none of them got up from the table." 

"All of them suddenly started talking, and they were all themselves then. They weren't in character," the longtime journalist adds, describing the moment as "extraordinary." 

Georgia Engel
Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion
| Credit: Rick Rowell/ABC via Getty Images)

"There were no laughs. It was very sincere. It was kind of like a goodbye, reminiscing thing. It was so moving," she says. "It was a moment that was one of the most stunning in the entertainment industry that I've ever seen."

Just before the show began filming, Cameron says the women also shared a touching moment together backstage "in a small ante room next to the makeup area," during which they all grew emotional.

"Valerie and I went in there just to kind of rest before the show. And one by one, they all came in — Mary, Cloris, Betty and Georgia Engel. And it was quiet," recalls Cameron, who chronicled her four-plus decades covering Hollywood in her book, Hollywood Secrets and Scandals. "And then Mary looked at Valerie and said, 'I love you, Valerie.' And Valerie started to cry, and Mary started to cry, and everybody in there is crying."

She adds, "then there's a knock on the door and everybody goes, 'Okay, makeup retouch. Let's go.' And they all walked out of there and did a show."

Leachman starred as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Snobbish and biting, Phyllis managed the apartment where Mary and Rhoda Morgenstern (Harper) lived — and often clashed with Rhoda. Phyllis also had a tense relationship with Sue Anne Nivens (White), who had an affair with Phyllis' husband.

Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Cameron shares that Harper, who died in August 2019, was "assigned" to Leachman, who she notes was "a true eccentric."

"She was the Cloris wrangler," she says of Harper. "She was the only one who could really control Cloris. Cloris really was a genius, both in acting and everything in life — she was extraordinary. But she was completely eccentric, a true eccentric. And I say that with great kindness." 

"She never missed a line. She was spot on. She was a total professional when the time came to be that, but she was just very eccentric," she adds.