Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Marilu Henner

   Whoa... the above looks like a lot of work.
      It is my great pleasure this morning to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my very favorite actresses, Elaine O'Connor Nardo herself, Ms. Marilu Henner!
   Mary Lucy Denise "Marilu" Henner was born at a very early age in in a little known town called Chicago, which I'm told is in the great state of Illinois, the third most populous city in the United States. By a strange coincidence my own father, Roman Richard, was born there as well. I'm told many are. Her name at the time was Mary Lucy Denise Pudlowski, and she is of Greek and Polish descent. Her father and his brothers changed the family surname from Pudlowski for business purposes; hence, the Henner name, borrowed from an obscure baseball player. The third of six children, a sort of middle child, she took her first dance class at age two, so we have another dancer here. Her mom, Loretta, was president of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Arts and ran the Henner Dance School for 20 years. Marilu began teaching dance herself at her family’s studio when she was 14 and choreographed shows at local high schools and colleges.
   Apparently in middle schools in Chicago cranium measurements are mandatory. "When we measured heads in the eighth grade, mine was the biggest."
   She attended Madonna High School in Chicago. I was unaware until today that Madonna has her own high school.
   She attended the University of Chicago for three years, before deciding to pursue an acting career full time.
   Bob Costas interviewed her to discuss her hyperthymesia affliction. Hyperthymesia is a condition in which an individual possesses a superior autobiographical memory, meaning they can recall the vast majority of personal experiences and events in their lives. Marilu says she can remember the details of her everyday life since she was 11 years old. When Costas randomly asked what she was doing the day Neil Amrstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon, July 21, 1969, a Sunday, she told him she was losing her virginity... in a shower at home.
   I just watched it on T.V.
   Being a dancer sure came in handy in 1971 when Marilu became the first lady to play Marty Maraschino in the musical "Grease" at the University of Chicago's Community Theatre. When the show was discovered it moved to Broadway, and she was asked to continue playing the role; however, she chose instead to play "Marty" in the national touring company alongside John Travolta, who played "Doody," and with whom she had a well publicized affair. In 1976, she moved to New York, landing her first Broadway role in "Over Here!" Following a handful of forgettable stage performances, she made her cinematic debut as Danielle, a stripper in the 1977 film "Between the Lines."
   She appeared in two T.V. movies and as the Pizza Shop Waitress in an episode of the television series "The Paper Chase," and the 1978 film "Bloodbrothers," with Richard Gere, before landing the role she is best known for, that of Elaine Nardo, in the successful sit-com "Taxi," that originally aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC and from 1982 to 1983 on NBC, for a total of 114 episodes. Marilu was nominated for a TV Supporting Actress Golden Globe Award for her work on the show.
   "Taxi" had a remarkable cast of which three of the actors, Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd went on to successful careers in motion pictures (as well as Marilu). DeVito and Lloyd had worked together before in 1975s "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest," which you may recall was the second film to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay) following "It Happened One Night" in 1934, an accomplishment that was not repeated until 1991 by "The Silence of the Lambs."
   Tony Danza went on to star in another popular sit-com, "Who's the Boss," the year after "Taxi," was canceled. Jeff Conway had starred in the film "Grease," with Travolta, the same year "Taxi," first aired, continued a spotty acting career, possibly due to substance abuse. I actually saw him live on stage once as the lead in some Christmas Play in Pasadena while I worked for the Salvation Army. Sadly he and comedian Andy Kaufman are no longer with us, Conway passing away in May of last year, and Kaufman in May of 1984.
   "He was like the bad boy in school that you just can't help enjoying," Marilu said of Andy.
   In her autobiography, "By All Means, Keep on Moving," (1994) Marilu discussed her romances with her costars Judd Hirsch and Tony Danza. What can I say... she likes to keep busy.
   Here's an entire episode of Taxi featuring Marilu entitled "Coma As You Aren't," in two parts:
   And a classic scene, Rev Jim's driving test:
   And Lullaby on Broadway:
   She was the leading lady in the 1982 film "Hammett," which also starred her first husband Frederic Forrest, whom she had married in 1980. They divorced two years later. In 1983, Marilu starred opposite Burt Reynolds in "The Man Who Loved Women," directed by Blake Edwards. Reynolds then asked her to join the cast of "Cannonball Run II" later that year. She was the female lead in n the 1984 film "Johnny Dangerously," with Michael Keaton.
   She worked with Travolta again in 1985s "Perfect." In 1990, Henner returned to TV, and Burt Reynolds, in the sitcom "Evening Shade." She enjoyed a four-year run in her role as Ava Evans Newton, Reynolds wife. That year she also married again to the Canadian director Robert Lieberman, with whom she had two children, Nicholas Morgan and Joseph Marlon. They divorced in 2001.
   In 1991 she appeared opposite Steve Martin in "LA Story," as Trudi, a role for which she received a nomination for an American Comedy Award as the Funniest Supporting Female in a Motion Picture.
   She also appeared in Noises Off (1992), one of my favorite comedies, and in "Man on the Moon" (1999), a film about her Taxi co-star Andy Kaufman, portrayed by Jim Carrey. She played both herself and her Taxi character.
   "I loved Andy. I got to be so close to Andy, towards the end especially. I got to know him better then than I did when we worked together on the show."
   Marilu has been a guest on "Match Game" and "Hollywood Squares." She provided the voice for Gotham City socialite Veronica Vreeland in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1999), reprising the role in the animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998). In 1994, she hosted her own daytime talk show, Marilu, for 165 episodes.
  Both of her parents died in their 50s, which prompted her to live a healthier lifestyle (she is a vegetarian), and write about it. She has written eight books on diet and health, the most prominent being "Total Health Makeover," in 1998.
   She married her ex-college classmate, Michael Brown, on December 21, 2006, at her L.A. home.
   On December 19, 2010, Marilu appeared in a CBS "60 Minutes" episode, in which she spoke about her amazing memory. Here's the clip:  
   And here's a link to her official website:
   And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her and her family continued good health and fortune, and a very happy birthday!
   Happy birthday Marilu!

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