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Emmy queen Mary toppled by costar Cloris

August 20, 2006 |  9:00 pm


Poor, poor Mary Tyler Moore! For many years she once reigned as dual queen of the Emmys: her self-titled 1970s TV show held the record for most victories by a series (29) and she racked up the most wins among performers (7). A few years ago "Frasier" overtook her series record, ultimately claiming 37, and her individual accomplishment got topped, too, but that defeat had to hurt the most because she was bested by her former costars. Nay, make that former employees.

When Mary's show went off the air in 1977, she reigned supreme with six awards. Then, one year later, Ed Asner, who had portrayed her ole bully TV boss, won for his spin-off series "Lou Grant" and tied her tally. Two years later he won again and pulled ahead. Mary endured the insult till 1993 when she won best supporting actress in a TV film for "Stolen Babies," thus tying him again and that's how they remained — as Emmy's co-monarchs — for years.

But then Cloris Leachman — who played budinsky Phyllis on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" — started butting in.

She snuck up slowly on her former costars. Back in 1973, she won for TV film "A Brand New Life," then picked up two for Moore's show, then another for appearing on Cher's variety program. Later, she was Emmy'd for hosting the Screen Actors Guild Anniversary show in 1984, then again for a guest part on "Promised Land" in 1998. That put her primetime tally at 6, but her total score was really 7 — just like Mary and Ed — if you count the Daytime Emmy she won in 1983 for her performance in the children's drama "The Woman Who Willed a Miracle" and, of course, you must count Daytime Emmys, even if they are bestowed by the separate New York-based TV academy with the tacit, tag-along cooperation of the L.A.-based sister org.

In 2002, Cloris won another Emmy for portraying the monstrous grandma on "Malcolm in the Middle." Theoretically, she could claim Emmy supremacy, but primetime snobs might pooh-pooh that daytime chunk of academy gold and Mary and Ed could feel a bit better, if they went along with that.

However, last Saturday night Cloris pulled off her ultimate Emmy coup, claiming a ninth TV prize — her eighth in primetime — at the Creative Arts gala, thus finally surpassing her ole costars by every Emmy measure.

What's her big Emmy secret?

Backstage, Cloris told reporters, "I'm 80, and if your heart doesn't stop beating and you stay with it, I guess that's what can happen."

Watch out. Cloris could win again this Sunday for her supporting role in HBO film "Mrs. Harris."

Photo: Emmy's biggest champs among performers: Cloris Leachman (9), Mary Tyler Moore (7) and Ed Asner (7).