There were small packages of Kleenex at each place setting at the party that Grant Tinker gave for his wife and her friends.
The wife's name is Mary Tyler Moore. And her friends were the cast, producers, writers and crew of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show." They had just finished filming the 168th and final episode in the seven-year run of one of television's best and most popular comedy series.
Tinker, who runs MTM Enterprises, or the caterer or the MTM vice president in charge of tears could have saved the money. The packages of Kleenex were not needed. Tears had come earlier in the day during the run-throughs and, finally, during the last filming. That was viewed by the most exclusive audience that Tinker could muster - the immediate relatives of those who had worked in front of and behind the cameras to make the series the glory that it has been.
Earlier in the day, Moore, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Gavin MacLeod, Eddie White and Georgia Engel waited around the set for the arrival of two former colleagues, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman. Each had gone from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" to become the star of her own series.
Moore's dressing room on the set was full of flowers. Her hair was full of rollers. She wore a T-shirt and tight-fitting blue jeans, and looked sexy. Asner and Knight stood by the coffee machine making small talk. Knight offered to fortify a visitor's cup of coffee with a little brandy, and looked disappointed when the offer was declined with thanks.
MacLeod talked about going to Bermuda in March with his wife to do a night club act. Knight talked a bit about his plans for a Las Vegas act in which he will read the news while dressed in top hat, white tie and tails, surrounded by leggy chorus girls. Asner talked about the hairpiece he had to wear as the slave-ship captain in "Roots."
Leachman and Harper arrived. There was much hugging and kissing and compliments to leachman on her clothes, which resembled Bruce Jenner's warm-up suit. Harper had gifts of necklaces for all the women, and key rings for all the men. They sat around a table, eating a huge cake sent to Knight by his publicity firm with an inscription that read: "To Ted Knight, a gifted comedian and wonderful client, go our respect, our admiration and our affection."
Director Jay Sandrich called all the actors and cameramen and the electricians to begin the final run-through before the filming of the final episode of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Up in the studio bleachers sat Tinker and all the gifted producers and writers associated with the show: executive producers Allan Burns and James L. Brooks, producers Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels and writers David Lloyd and Bob Ellison.
When Moore came through the doors of the WJM-TV newsroom, she broke up in laughter. The producers had put two American Indians at the newsroom desks as a way of easing any tension. After everyone stopped laughing, the Indians retired to the bleachers and the final run-through continued.
It went smoothly and hilariously - and sadly - with tears in everyone's eyes when, at the end of the final episode, Moore stood in the newsroom and introduced her cast. They applauded one another, and then everyone in the bleachers gave them a standing ovation. Later that evening, the cast, crew and invited audience went to another sound stage. Everyone drank a lot, laughed a lot and watched funny outtakes from previous episodes, when someone in the cast messed up the lines. The Kleenex packages remained untouched on the tables.
You can see the final show on CBS, March 19. I will not ruin it for you by telling how the series is brought to an end. Watch it for yourself, and then understand how much you will miss the show. There's only one word of caution that should be offered, if you do watch it. Keep an opened box of Kleenex by your side.