By Jane Wollman Rusoff
City & Shore PRIME
Marilu Henner is best known for playing a part-time cabbie on Taxi, but she has a vibrant 45-year stage, screen and writing career as well.
Apart from two hit TV series, Henner – nicknamed “Perpetual Motion” – has co-starred in some 50 movies and is the author of nine bestsellers about health and fitness. This summer, she’ll be singing and dancing in her seventh Broadway show, the musical comedy Gettin’ the Band Back Together, opening Aug. 13.
But first, the Chicago native will keynote the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches Foundation’s Women in Leadership Awards Luncheon April 18 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
Not only is Henner, 65, notable for her creative accomplishments, she has the rare ability to retrieve specific memories of nearly everything she’s ever experienced.
We asked her about childhood vacations in Miami Beach and her long-time friendships with two famous locals.
What do you like about South Florida?
Miami Beach was my mother’s absolute favorite place, every spring our family of eight would drive from Chicago to celebrate Easter there and stay two weeks. We sent for brochures from the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc but mostly ended up at the Holiday Inn. Every day we’d have breakfast at Maisel’s, across the street. We just loved the whole feeling – the smell – of Miami Beach. In my family movies, the happiest we all look is when we were there.
Sum up your experience co-starring on Taxi for five seasons.
We had 112 shows and 112 parties. I just couldn’t wait to get to the set every morning and feel as alive as Taxi made me feel.
Any standout memories of Danny DeVito, who played the bullying dispatcher?
His acting was seamless. He’d write his lines on little scraps of paper because their going through his body, made them his. He’d be talking to you [out of character] – but then he did a line, and it was like part of the same conversation.
What are your best memories of the romances you had with Taxi costars Tony Danza and Judd Hirsch? You wrote about those in your autobiography, By All Means, Keep on Moving .
I had wonderful relationships with both of them. We’re all still really close friends today.
You worked with Burt Reynolds in two films, co-starred at his Jupiter dinner theater, played his wife on TV’s Evening Shade for four seasons, appeared together at the Kravis Center’s opening and co-starred in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents he directed. Did you two have a romance?
We had instant chemistry. The first time I ever laid eyes on Burt, we were butt naked in bed [for a film scene]. But our relationship was professional only. We were never free at the same time.
Tell me about your long relationship with John Travolta.
It was on and off for 13 years. Johnny and I met when we were in the national company of Grease, and we really bonded. Later, we shot a film in Miami, Chains of Gold. My character gets stabbed, and Johnny’s character finds me and sobs over my ‘bleeding’ body.
For a TV special, you were filmed giving birth to your second child [with ex-husband and director Robert Lieberman], and the delivery was shown nationwide. That certainly was unusual.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital, they put me on the table. I had the baby in only two pushes. My son Joey is the most impatient person I know because he spent no time in the birth canal!
Your current husband, Michael Brown, has been cancer-free for 14 1/2 years after being diagnosed with bladder and lung cancer. But he’s had no chemotherapy nor radiation. What enabled him to go into remission?
He did immunotherapy, supplementation, rebounding, skin brushing, chelation therapy, went completely vegan, got rid of all the mercury fillings in his mouth, and did visualization and stress management. He just stayed on it and stayed on it, and continues to. He’s a miracle, my husband.
You have a very rare ‘Highly Superior Auto-Biographical Memory’ [H-SAM], a.k.a. hyperthymesia. You can retrieve memories, including specific dates, of virtually everything you’ve experienced in your life. Has that helped you?
It helps me pay attention to red flags – like, ‘I’ve been down this path before. How did I handle it the last time?’ And I never lose anything. My kids always say, ‘Our mom is notorious for going, ‘Where are my sunglasses?’ But all of a sudden, she’ll stop – it’s like a movie is rewinding in her head. And then she goes, ‘Oh, of course, they’re in the bathroom!’”