Did you know that: Late-blooming actress, model from Williston, North Dakota, ‘landed her first starring role’ when she was 93 years old
What would an 83-year-old grandmother and widow, born in Williston, N.D., know about “sex in the city?” For Mimi Weddell, obviously enough to land a juicy role on an episode of the popular HBO series.
It was one of several television shows and movies in which this vivacious elderly lady appeared. Although most of her roles were small, they were memorable. This late-blooming actress and model was listed as one of the 50 “most beautiful New Yorkers” by New York Magazine in 2005 when she was 90 years old. In 2008, when Mimi was 93, she “landed her first starring role” when she was featured in the film documentary “Hat’s Off.”
Marion “Mimi” Louise Rogers was born Feb. 15, 1915, to Harold and Helen May (Stevens) Rogers. Her parents were married March 14, 1914, in Medford, Mass., and later that year, they learned that the Great Northern Railroad was looking for workers. Harold was hired as a fireman for the railroad, and the newlyweds moved to Williston.
Harold found the railroad work laborious because his previous experiences were as a stenographer, bookkeeper and sales clerk. In 1917, with many young men entering the military because of World War I, Harold and Helen Rogers and their two young children born in Williston moved back to Medford. Harold was hired as a glue salesman.
“In her youth, Mimi dreamed of being an actress and a model,” but because Harold Rogers bounced from job to job, living in several different locations, the family lacked the financial stability for Mimi to pursue her dreams. In the 1920s, her parents divorced, and Helen went to work as bookkeeper for a department store in Quincy, Mass. She then owned and operated a restaurant in Braintree, Mass. Since Mimi was the oldest of four children, she was responsible for much of the housework and taking care of her younger siblings.
After graduating from high school, Mimi attended college for one year and then went to work in Boston as a secretary for a stockbroker. On June 21, 1941, she married Paul Mackey Collins, a broker. The two divorced later that same year. “Following the divorce, Mimi moved to New York City. There she was hired by the New York Times, working as an assistant to the paper’s fashion editor.” The editor was Virginia Pope, known as the “Dean of Fashion Editors.”
Pope paid attention to detail; exuded pride, charm, and confidence; and was indefatigable in all of her endeavors. A large part of Pope’s personification was her selection of hats. She “always wore a rakish hat” that beckoned people’s attention. Soon, Mimi also began wearing hats that caused her to be noticed. One of those who took notice was Richard “Dick” Q. Weddell, head of RCA Victor’s classical division.
Dick began his career in music as a lyricist. His biggest hit was the fox-trot song “I’ll Stand By,” recorded by Rudy Vallee in 1931. He was hired by the music company Lyon and Hardy as their “record news critic,” where he caught the attention of RCA. In the early 1940s, Dick was hired by RCA to manage their “Red Seal,” or classical music, division.
Mimi and Dick were married in 1946, and for the first time she felt financially secure enough to pursue her dreams. Although Mimi had done “a little modeling and acting” while she was with the Times, she now took acting, modeling, singing and dancing lessons.
In 1954, RCA started embracing new technologies. Younger people were brought on board and Dick was terminated. He was hired as sales chief by Caedmon Records in 1958 and as advertising manager by Westminster Records in 1960, but Dick’s income was significantly less than what he made at RCA.
Despite the bleak looking future, Mimi employed her motto, “Rise above it.” She “pitched in, doing office temp work and periodically she got modeling jobs.” When Dick was hired as an art dealer with the David Findlay Galleries in Manhattan, their income reached an all-time high. This allowed Mimi to resume her lessons, purchase a large collection of expensive hats and lease “a big apartment in Manhattan’s prestigious Upper East Side.”
In 1980, when Dick became ill and could no longer work, Mimi decided to find work that paid well. She believed acting and modeling were the keys. Despite being 65, Mimi was determined she would be successful.
Mimi typically put in
“14-hour days at cattle call auditions,” and her hard work and determination paid off. She received third billing in the low-budget vampire movie “Dracula’s Last Rites.” In 1981, she received sixth billing in the comedy horror spoof “Student Bodies.” After mourning the loss of her husband, Mimi returned to her auditions. She gained national recognition for her “print and television advertisements for Burberry, Juicy Couture, Louis Vuitton, and Nike” and for her photo spreads in Vogue and Vanity Fair.
Between 1985 and 2005, Mimi had a number of small, but memorable, movie roles. In Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” she is seen standing in line with the star, Mia Farrow. In “Heartburn,” she is the snoring woman in the wedding scene. And in “Hitch,” she is observed choking on an olive. Mimi is best remembered for one television episode of “Sex in the City,” where she played the “classy grandmother” of Stanford Blatch, the homosexual friend of Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker.
At the age of 93 in 2008, Mimi was taking acting lessons, exercising and making the audition rounds. Her busy routine was captured on film in the documentary “Hat’s Off.” Mimi died Sept. 24, 2009.