Mary Hartman and Dennis the Cop Find Love Off Screen
By Harry Altshuler
There’s a triumphantly happy love story on the set of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
The two people involved, Louise Lasser and Bruce Solomon, might even, just possibly, live happily ever after.
Hey! That doesn’t sound like the typical handiwork of the show’s scriptwriting team. Trouble, tough luck, and absolute disaster are more in their line, night after night.
But that’s all right; this has nothing to do with the script or the fictional “Mary Hartman” and “Sgt. Dennis Foley.” It’s Louise and Bruce. And it’s for real.
“I maintain a policy of not discussing my personal life. I don’t even tell my family about such matters,” Louise Lasser, reached by phone at the Hollywood studio where the show is taped, insisted primly.
And then she told Midnight: “I will only say that I love Bruce very much, respect him as an actor…but I don’t know what the future will bring.”
Solomon, 31, admitted through a studio spokesman, “I care very much for Louise…but neither she nor I are making what you call plans.”
The fact is, according to those in the know, the two have been pretty quietly dating for a number of months. Many of their friends have scarcely noticed.
One friend of Louise commented: “She keeps such long hours on the show that I haven’t seen her for quite a while. When she told me about herself and Bruce, I was surprised.”
They first met in the perfectly obvious way, during rehearsals for their show.
“They didn’t date, they didn’t have time,” a friend confided. “The only time they were alone together was during lunch in the studio commissary. You would see them sitting talking at a table in the corner and you knew they weren’t just going over lines.”
Louise doesn’t go to Hollywood parties—not for lack of invitations, but as a matter of personal choice—so the two were rarely seen together socially.
When they did manage a date, it was usually in Westwood, near UCLA, for dinner and a movie.
They did show up together at a small gathering given by Louise’s ex-husband, comic Woody Allen. The dinner party in Allen’s Beverly Hills home included agent Sue Mengers and husband Jean-Claude Tramont, as well as Raquel Welch.
Once when illness forced Louise to cancel a planned trip to Chicago for a meeting on the Equal Rights Amendment, Bruce stood in for her. He made the speech she had planned to deliver. It included a word of praise for Norman Lear, producer of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”: “Lear has done well in using women’s abilities.” Which doesn’t speak badly for Louise herself.
Though he’s not so well known as Louise, Bruce Solomon is coming into his own on the show. He was born and raised in Miami, then moved to San Francisco and picked up a master’s degree in speech therapy.
He could have practiced speech therapy, but instead became involved in local theater groups. In one of them, the Barbed Wire Theater, he was the only cast member who hadn’t served time in prison.
Then two years ago, a friend invited him down to Los Angeles to meet some TV and movie producers. One of them gave him his first television job in a segment of a now-forgotten series called “Tenafly.” After that he appeared in “Barney Miller” and “Harry O.”
The original director of “MH, MH” was Joan Darling, who had once taught Solomon acting in San Francisco. Casting the pilot, she revised the part of Sgt. Dennis Foley from a middle-aged desk sergeant, to a younger more personable man, and called in Bruce.
When the pilot was being filmed, Dennis ad-libbed as Mary visits the police station, “come back sometime.”
“I will!” she answered. It opened up possibilities not even the scriptwriters had foreseen, and Solomon was on his way to national renown as Dennis Foley, the sensual sergeant. Plus something intensely personal besides.
Neighbors sometimes see the two of them strolling hand in hand on the beach near Louise’s Malibu home. “If they hadn’t met on the show, they’d surely have met somewhere,” said a friend who frankly feels they belong together.
“Both are trying to find themselves, to see where they fit in. Both hate the celebrity game.
“They’re deeply in love,” the friend observed. “But Louise once said love causes as many problems as it solves. That’s why she and Bruce are taking things one step at a time.”