Doris Roberts died in her sleep on April 16.
My friend Bob Williams, who runs Ranch Hand Rescue, introduced me to Doris Roberts several years ago. She was in North Texas to help him raise money for his animal rescue organization. While she was here, we had lunch at the Melrose Hotel so I could interview her for a story for Dallas Voice. I called the story Everybody Love Doris.
Everybody we passed at the hotel mouthed to me “Is that Marie Barone?” and I nodded. A few came up to her and politely said, “I don’t mean to interrupt your lunch, but I just had to tell you how much I love your work.”
She beamed as each one complimented her. I asked if that ever bothered her, if she ever preferred just to be left alone.
Roberts said something like: “She just told me she loves me and my work. How can anyone get upset with that?” But many actors do mind, but Roberts loved making people happy.
The last time I saw Roberts was at a fundraiser in Lewisville for Ranch Hand Rescue. She wasn’t quite as sharp as she had been the year before — at least until it was time for her to go on stage. She began doing an auction and the bidding wasn’t going as well as she hoped. So she stepped away from the podium and began doing a strip tease. The crowd went wild and bidding soared. Roberts was the ultimate entertainer.
As a friend, she was devoted. When Williams lived in L.A., he had a stroke. Roberts raced him to the hospital and then nursed him back to health.
Marie Barone would have done that for Raymond. But Roberts insisted she wasn’t at all like Marie. Marie was based on her own mother-in-law, she said. But that’s something Marie would have said, too. In fact, in one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond she empathizes with Debra by telling her about her own intrusively horrible mother-in-law who always sugarcoated the nasty things she had to say.
Although we only met a few times, I’ll miss you, Doris.