Rhoda Changed My Life: An Interview with Camille CategoriesConversations · Share

Rhoda Changed My Life: An Interview with Camille

Camille LaCognata was born in NYC. As you can infer from her last name she was the child of an Italian American family and grew up in a neighborhood strongly Jewish as well as Italian. She spoke a specific language in a very specific voice. Around age 22 she moved from the cocoon of the “neighborhood” to a totally different world: California. The change was overwhelming, made even more so by her feelings of displacement, feeling like an outsider. Her new colleagues teased her about her pronounced New York accent and while it was harmless ribbing, it made her feel insecure. This insecurity was painfully magnified when she had a telephone interview for a job and the HR rep told her she “sounded illiterate.” Wow.  One person’s prejudice wrapped in absolute rudeness.

A short time after Camille’s relocation, the Mary Tyler Moore Show made its debut. Suddenly that New York accent became popular, became cute—Rhoda and Mary were so darn likeable. Camille describes this show as life changing for her in that her accent became more accepted and mainstream, thanks to the media—one of many instances in which the media is responsible for a sea change in public opinion. Because of Rhoda and other shows set in NYC, this accent was widely heard, and Jewish terms became part of the lexicon. I use words like schlepp, kvetch, nosh, schmooze all the time and never even think about where they originated. But Camille is very cognizant of language and accent because it truly affected her life deeply. 

The story is even more meaningful in that years later, Camille got to meet the actress. Valerie Harper was performing a one-woman show in Los Angeles and Camille had the opportunity to greet her after the performance and tell her, in person, how her character finally gave her someone to relate to at a point in time where she felt like a stranger in a strange land. Interestingly, Valerie has no accent at all, that was pure Rhoda.

Cherie R. Blazer
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Cherie is a late bloomer Boomer, born at the tail end of the Boomer generation. She was playing with Barbies while her older sisters marched on Washington and fought for equal rights, but watched and learned. Now she is an empty nester with a whole new future to explore and share at www.BoomerConnections.com! As “Philosopher in Chief” Cherie merely wants to change the world with this blog: to encourage those of us in the midst of our “second act” to look at life with new eyes, open to a life filled with new beginnings rather than endings, and to apply all we have learned to a way of living that is more meaningful and profound. There is SO much to live for, up until the very end.

2 comments

  1. HI, Camille,
    My experience was a little different. When we moved to CA in 1972, I guess I had a pretty heavy NY accent, but I wasn’t really aware of it until everyone I met would immediately comment: “Oh, you’re from NY!” Well, I decided I had to be a little more mysterious than that, so I made an effort to lose my accent, and gradually people stopped commenting. I wasn’t ashamed of being from NY, but I wanted people to hear me rather than categorize me.
    That HR person was so unbelievably rude to you. At this point in our lives, we could probably laugh or make a quick comeback; but at a younger age, we would have been devastated. I’m sorry you had that experience and it’s accompanying affect.
    Lynne Guttilla Clarke
    PS. Congratulations on the website. Thoroughly enjoy it.

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