Last week I had the opportunity to interview the legendary Marlo Thomas when she visited Chicago to promote her new book - Growing Up Laughing, My Story and the Story of Funny. For the full interview, read my story at Make it Better by clicking here.
I've interviewed lots of cool people, but Marlo Thomas was my first big deal celebrity and I was a little unsure how to proceed. I knew I was to meet her at the Four Seasons but didn't know how to actually connect. Did she use a code name? Would I go up to her room? And could I call her by her first name? I hoped I wouldn't be impossibly awkward.
I needn't have worried. Because thanks to Marlo (yep, it was okay to call her that) the whole experience was completely relaxed. Her assistant phoned me to tell me that we'd meet in the lobby restaurant, and sure enough, Marlo simply walked in, alone, at the appointed time.
She'd already had a jammed morning with TV show appearances and a live video chat on her new website, marlothomas.com, and she was hungry. She ordered a diet coke and a chinese chicken salad. I stuck to the diet coke because I needed to take notes. After swapping iphone apps (Marlo introduced me Dragon Dictation - check it out!) we began talking in a down to earth way about her very extraordinary childhood and groundbreaking career.
Many of us know of Marlo Thomas as the charming and perky Ann Marie in the 1960s sitcom, That Girl. But when preparing for our meeting, I was reminded that she has also been a leading feminist for her entire life.
That Girl was the first show on television centered around a single woman, living on her own and pursuing a career. In the early 70s Marlo challenged traditional gender stereotypes by creating Free to Be... You and Me, a children's album, book and TV special featuring songs and stories from many of her famous friends. With her friend Gloria Steinem, she founded the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Over the years she has performed in films, on Broadway, and on some of the hippest shows on television (Friends, Ugly Betty). She's a devoted spokesperson for St. Jude Children's Research hospital, founded by her father, comedian Danny Thomas. Now, with her new book and website, she continues to show a remarkable staying power and relevance that few celebrities can claim.
But most of all, she's a genuinely nice person who wants to connect. As she told me,
"My dream for my website is that I will begin conversations that engage a large group of women and they will talk to each other, not just to me. And that's what's happening and that's what I find exciting. As I look back on all my projects I'm constantly trying to get people engaged. I want to build communities, I just find it so much fun."
You can order Marlo's book by clicking on the cover, below. And definitely check out her new website: marlothomas.com. It's Forty Fabulous!