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Making it

Getting what you want in love, sex, career, family and self
Homemakers Magazine - May 1985

Wendy Dennis talks with Micki Moore, the lady who wrote the book about how to get everything you want out of life, and discovers that in life it isn’t so much the cards you’re dealt as how you play them. In the world according to Moore, everything - from a more passionate marriage to finding Mr. Right - is possible. If you’ve wondered how to get it read on...

She’s one of those women you’d love to hate. When Micki Moore, 45, strides into a room, all sleek and svelte and sultry, sophistication oozing from every pore of live-right, eat-right, do-yoga-every-morning perfect skin, you start hoping she’s going to be an airhead. It’s not just what she’s wearing today, which happens to be this drop-dead, boldly checkered crimson and grey number, shoulders padded broadly enough to give Dick Butkus pause. It’s not only the legs that seem hinged at the neck, the luxuriant heap of auburn hair, or the Mick Jagger mouth. No, it has more to do with her confident carriage, and a throaty laugh that rebounds off the walls like the sound from a compact disc.

Years ago, her son Lance (now 22) sensed there was something different about Mum. And that it was going to sell. For 25 cents a peek he offered his buddies the chance to “see Micki Moore” sunbathing in string-bikinied splendor in the backyard. Jeremy Ferguson, a Toronto journalist, was on to I too when he wrote, referring to the CITY-TV afternoon talk show she hosted for six years: “When Micki Moore coos, ‘You’re Beautiful’ out of the tube, you’d believe if you were 800 years old and had the face of a shih tzu.” The lady has style.

Still, it takes getting to know her before you’re really smitten. As a dreamy teenager, she fantasized about being an actress, a diva, or a swan in the ballet. Actress she has become, and model, and host of the now-syndicated-in- the- United States and Canada Talk Show, which enraptured almost 20,000 loyal daily viewers, and lecture-circuit speaker and comedy writer and stand-up comic in New York. She has even played the voice of shredded wheat! In her spare time, most recently, she decided to write a book about it all – Making It: Getting what you want in love, sex, career, family and self (with Helen Bullock, Methuen, 1984, $18.95).

At as cursory glance, her story has all the makings of a fairy tale. And indeed, it would be tempting to write Micki Moore off as one of those 1950’s ingénues who seem to lead a charmed existence. Beautiful, brainy, educated at Ohio State University in radio and television arts. Small-town, painfully shy Louisiana girl, daughter of Jewish parents in the liquor trade, makes good under the bright lights of the big city. At 19 she meets and marries the man of her dreams, is whisked off to Toronto, breaks into television as a production assistant, and lands her first on-camera spot co hosting an exercise show. For awhile, she lives out the rest of the pretty myth in the suburbs caring for a husband, two Barbie and Ken kids, and never looking back. It would be tempting to talk in terms of fairy tales, unless, of course, you meet Micki Moore in the flesh, or read her book, in which case the lady sets the record straight herself.

A fairy tale it isn’t. Rather, it is a chatty, inspirational-without-being-preachy paean to the rewards of grit, resourcefulness and never-say-die determination. By exposing herself, personally and anecdotally, Moore has her readers where she wants them so that she can hard-peddle the message that what counts in this life is not so much the cards you’re dealt, but how you play them. The story unfolds with as much tenacity in the face of adversity as the Little Engine That Could. It is both a practical and personal guide to trusting one’s internal radar, to building one’s self-esteem for a flying leap at the brass ring.

If it lapses at times into a kind of evangelical zeal, it’s the kind that doesn’t cloy. For what radiates throughout is the sense that all of this is being delivered by an airborne but streetwise women who has come in for a few crash landings herself.

Anyone who has ever discovered that success s due to hard work, not magic, will recognize The Truth in it. I’ve bee called an overnight success,” She writes, after regaling readers with take-it-from-me-I’ve-been-there anecdotes of doors slammed in her face, commercials she missed because she was not frumpy enough to play Little Brown Mouse Housewife. “If I am, the night is 18 years long.”

The book is honest – so honest, in fact, that it may rattle a few feminist sabers. For if Micki Moore knows nothing else, she knows what lies in the hearts of women. With a straight-shooting candor, she just sets about telling the female of the species how to go for it – a career, crackling sex, a more passionate marriage, or Mr. Right. Throughout the book are Yes Yes lists and No No lists, one of the more hilarious of which records suggestions from friends on how and where to kink up a dreary sex life. Here and there she drops a deadly one-liner, some of which deserve to be preserved in needlepoint and hung in the kitchen or office of any woman who has ever suffered pain in a relationship with a man, or has pursued a dream because of fear of risk. Two of my personal favorites: “When a man tells you he’s no good, believe him.” “Everyone gets butterflies; the trick is getting them to fly in formation.”

There’s Micki explaining that her achievements have resulted, almost to a one, because she took, with the naiveté of her youth, ridiculous gambles. She confesses that she, like every other woman, has had similar struggles. Unlike many women, however, she doesn’t wait to “find answers in a teacup.” “If there’s a place to stand, where things will fall into one’s lap, I haven’t found it yet.” she says.

There’s Micki sharing the pain of her divorce, which, at age 33, left her a single parent with “the rug pulled out from under her” financially, and all her dreams shattered. “I had had this perfect little gorgeous gold chain of a life and then suddenly it had all these tiny little knots in it. It took me a very long time to undo all those knots.” But undo them she did – unlike many men, who, she feels, “close off the taps.” “The only time men take a look is when they get that last supper in the fridge. Then they run around and seduce every woman within a 20-block radius” Moore’s post-divorce program, against almost everybody’s better advice, was to stretch herself financially to move from the suburbs to a townhouse downtown where she would be closer to agents, producers, auditions and career opportunities. (“When I shift gears, it’s usually Mack-truck style”) Then in another oh-hell-why-not gamble, she tripped off to London for the summer to study acting. “If you have an idea,” she says “You’ll get nine opinions on why you’re going to fall flat on your face. You are the authority of your life.”

There she is again, philosophical about the problems that ensue when a middle-aged woman attempts to date a younger man: “He was pleasant company, but how long could it last between two people when one is worried about his exams and the other is worried about her kid’s braces? He also didn’t have an enormous amount of money which made it awkward; he used to put our dates on his father’s credit cards, and in the end I decided his father couldn’t afford me.

Finally, there’s Micki gushing shamelessly about the rewards of holding out for that loving, equal relationship – which she finally discovered and clearly treasures with businessman Leonard Simpson.

So what was it that turned an agonizingly shy Southern belle named Miriam Meisel with a drawl as thick as the corn syrup in a pecan pie, into this comet called Micki Moore? How did such a child, the middle one, raised to be gracious and polite, pick herself up by her bootstraps and turn herself around on her own? For Moore a sensitive, dreamy kid who spent a lot of time living in her head, Shreveport, Louisiana, offered to few choices, and even fewer role models of happy women. So she read voraciously about career women, always searching through articles to see if they had kids – “I couldn’t imagine life without kids” – and held fast to her dreams. “If you have solid convictions, you can do anything.” Of course, it helped growing up in a household where all children were expected to strive for a good education. At 17, Moore graduated from high school second in her class with A’s in every subject except – oh, happy failure – typing. After university and marrying, she took diction lessons, pounded on producer’s doors, fired off program proposals, enrolled in acting classes – and never gave up. Then it was on to roles in several movies, which she describes as “D or maybe B-minus” and hustling television commercials to pay the rent. And the rest, as they say is history.

When Moore, at 37, auditioned for host of You’re Beautiful, she walked on camera with a grease pencil and some trendy pop psychology from her files about moustaches and men. To fill in dead air, she calmly penciled moustaches on her guests, and then in the final wrap-up, drew a Don Ameche special on herself. (Ironically, Moore had previously pitched the show’s concept to several producers, who insisted that “housewives” would never identify with her sexiness.

The show began as a kind of video version of Cosmopolitan magazine –“ultimate cute,” Moore says, looking back. It moved quickly from soft lifestyle coverage to taking a candid look at what concerned women, whether it was mother-daughter dependency or premature ejaculation. Moore became a sort of Phil Donahue in drag, covering the landscape of human relationships and sex like a roving correspondent, daring to ask the impossible questions – but always with a soft, humorous touch. (viewers still flag her down on the street to ask her how to find the G-spot.) She drew name celebrities like Margaret Atwood, Margaret Trudeau, Irving Wallace, and Erica Jong, did her homework, which often involved reading eight books a week, then got them to relax and chat. Part of the secret of the show’s success was Moore’s willingness to put herself on the line first. Game for anything, she posed in a playboy bunny costume (then talked about how it squished her liver), parachuted from an airplane, and lifted barbells. Eventually she even began doing a few heavy-duty political interviews. Asked a puzzled Gordon Liddy, strolling with his host toward the set before the taping: “What am I doing on a show called You’re Beautiful?”

That Moore had to learn grace under pressure while on the show is, to say the least, an understatement. Gay Talese, fresh from researching Thy Neighbor’s wife in the massage parlors and sexual communes of the nation, turned to her during the first 60-second commercial break and straightforwardly invited her to bed. Aware that in mere seconds she’d have to complete the interview, she simply hailed the director to request a half-hour break. The director responded, “Are you crazy? We’re going live to tape.” “Sorry, Mr. Talese,” She replied, with infinite politesse, “No time. The show must go on.” In the end, the grind of eight to ten weekly tapings, and the feeling that she was starting to smile “only from the neck up” clinched her decision to leave. Before leaving, however, she earned an Actra nomination for best TV host – and the program had inspired a hilarious SCTV parody.

To her friends, who are as varied as the dimensions of the lady herself, Moore is just Micki – down-to-earth, giving, compassionate, and always there. “She’s just the opposite of what you’d expect from a showbiz person,” Says Ron Lieberman, lawyer and close friend for years. “There’s not a stuck-up bone in her body.”Liberman remembers the time he was battling food poisoning and she showed up at his door with chicken soup. To Colleen Kosoy, another close friend, she has been both a mentor and a role model. Without judging, Moore propelled Kosoy into capitalizing on her own talents and finding work doing party consulting. “I always had excuses but she always said she expected more of me. Micki is the sort of person who will spend 15 minutes in the middle of a tennis game doing an exercise with you so that you can improve your shot.” Kosoy also remembers Moore’s incredible humility when she landed the interview show. “She called to chat and then at the end of the conversation, in this tiny little voice, she told me she was going to be doing the show. If that had happened to me, I assure you I would have called all my friends and said, ‘You’ll never believe it – I’m going to be a star.’ But not Micki. As a friend she’s never changed a bit.” Moore’s worst failings, according to those who know her well, seem to be that’s she’s a lousy drunk, that she can’t stay up past 10 o’clock at night, and that her quick mind seems to lead to a slightly short fuse. Even son Lance comes in with rave notices. The two have had their share of parent-child sturm und drang but, says Lance “As mothers go, I couldn’t ask for any better.”

Before she met Leonard Simpson, Moore dated several high-profile men, many of whom were scared off by her posture and presence. Simpson, the man with whom Moore has lived for four years, and whom she firmly believes she found only because she finally stopped sending out signals that she was looking, however, clearly adores her. “She very thoughtful and supportive. She makes you get in touch with feeling you didn’t even know you had. Though Moore and Simpson, two empty-nesters who met at a tennis club, take their relationship very seriously, they have no immediate plans to marry. “Maybe I’ll make my mother happy one day.” She laughs, “but in the meantime one hesitates to tamper with a good thing.”

Still, in her professional life, tamper with a good thing she did. She wrote the book, she says, hoping that she could get other women in a “holding pattern” to capitalize on their own dormant potential. With the book now in her wake, it’s going to be a little bit of this and a little bit of that for awhile. – acting, the lecture circuit, then if the gods smile upon her, maybe a show of her own again, this go-round in prime time. There’s no reason to believe that the gods won’t be kind. But if they happen to throw a couple of thunderbolts her way, she’ll probably just put on her dancing shoes, grab an umbrella and belt out Singing In The Rain until they comply. “You can’t clamp life into place,” She muses. “Fate has a big hand in it. I control what I can, and then I don’t look backward.”

Whatever the gods do have in store for Micki Moore, the record shows that so far she has managed to thumb her nose at them in a pretty saucy manner: “I will never be a little old lady in a rocking chair talking about what I should have done and could have done. I have lived my dreams.”

Wendy Dennis
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