Actress Doris Roberts, who played the endlessly meddling mother on CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond," was remembered Monday as a tireless actress, a loyal friend and someone who could make even a monster on TV be adored.
"Here's how good she was: She played the most intrusive, overbearing, noisy woman - always starting fights and whatnot and meddling in our business - and yet when I asked the fans who their favorite character was, all the time it was her," said Ray Romano, who played her TV son. "She was so good at portraying the love that was underneath."
The public memorial tribute was held at the Ambassador Theatre, where she appeared in 1972 in "The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild" with Maureen Stapleton. Roberts died April 17 at age 90.
The speakers also included CBS head Les Moonves, "Everyone Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal, "Frasier" star David Hyde Pierce and Michael Cannata, the actress' son. Messages were read by playwright Terrence McNally and actress Tyne Daly, and Barbara Cook sang "Here's to Life."
Roberts won four Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Marie Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond," receiving a total of seven nominations as best supporting actress for the sitcom, which ran for nine years.
Romano called her "the MVP of our cast" and a "second mom" who would kindly go over and whisper "fabulous" to him after acting scenes in which he felt vulnerable.
Moonves told a story of when Roberts was in a contractual dispute over salary. She called him one night with a simple request: "Darling," she said, "Do the right thing." Moonves, a tough negotiator, instantly caved.
Roberts also was known for her role in the 1980s TV detective series "Remington Steele." She appeared in a variety of movies, including "The Rose," ''The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" and "Madea's Witness Protection."
The actress began her stage career on Broadway in the 1950s, amassing credits that eventually included Neil Simon's "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" and McNally's "Bad Habits."
Roberts lent her energy for children affected by AIDS, always stopped to sign autographs, took acting classes until she was 89 and will have four movies out this year. "She never stopped," Romano said. "She would shame us with her energy and drive."
Pierce, a friend since 1992, said she was a fiercely loyal. He recalled one Emmy Awards in which he was up against "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett for best supporting actor. Roberts was sitting behind Garrett and was captured on film stunned and mouthing the word "What?" when Pierce's name was called as the winner.
"Everyone was putting on their pretend faces but Doris never put on a pretend face," he said. "I will always love her for the candor and family loyalty. Also, I want to say, Doris, that was the exact reaction I had when they told me you were gone.'"