NEW YORK, N.Y. – It’s best not to get into an argument about past events with Marilu Henner. You will definitely lose. The actress is hard-wired with the ability to instantly recall facts that are decades old.
“What I have is known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. It’s like a fancy name,” she says, laughing. “They don’t call it hyperthymesia anymore because that sounded like a disease.”
Henner, who found fame with the sitcom “Taxi” and went on to star on Broadway and television and write books, has basically superior recall. Her nicknames growing up were “Memory Kid,” ”Memory Girl” and the computer “UNIVAC.”
“To this day, my siblings will say, ‘Marilu, do a week from our childhood.’ And I’ll just pick a random week and go through all the days that we went through,” she says.
Her skills include correctly identifying the day of the week for any given date. Ask her what day was, say, Aug. 9, 1975, and she’ll instantly say “Saturday” and tell you about her 24 hours.
So when the 66-year-old stopped by The Associated Press, we talked about some key dates in her life — both upcoming and in the past.
AUGUST 13, 2018
That’s Monday — when Henner officially opens the musical “Gettin’ The Band Back Together,” her seventh Broadway show. She plays a former rock ‘n’ roll wild child who helps her son re-form his old band and compete in a Battle of the Bands. One of Henner’s songs is the hysterical Act One closer, “What Would Joe Perry Do?”
“I’m still doing movies and still writing books, I’m still doing television things, but this sort of dropped in my lap and there was no way I was going to pass it up,” she says.
The show is a musical rarity on Broadway — a show not based on existing music, a TV show or a film. “It’s original music with an original story and it’s so great,” she says. “It’s just great to once in a while see something that’s original.”
MARCH 24, 2014
A key moment in how she got the part. Henner was attending the opening of the Broadway play “Mothers and Sons” on that day — “it was a Monday night” — and she spied friends elsewhere in the audience. She wandered over before the show started and, as she did, caught the eye of producer Ken Davenport, who was spearheading the development of “Gettin’ The Band Back Together.”
He instantly knew he’d found the actress who could play his mother character. Daveport sent her the script, they had lunch in Los Angeles and he offered her the part.
Davenport naturally confirms Henner’s memory of the event and says she’s perfect in the role: “The amazing thing about Marilu is that she transcends all mediums. Anytime she walks in a room, people want to be around her,” he says.
JULY 5, 1978
It’s been 40 years since “Taxi” first aired and that’s the date when the actors all met for the first table read — Henner, Tony Danza, Andy Kaufman, Jeff Conaway, Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito, who played the hated Louie De Palma. The role Henner played — Elaine Nardo, a mother of two children — was originally written for a 33-year-old Italian New Yorker with a teenage daughter. Henner, a then-25-year-old of Polish and Greek background, won the role because “they felt like I could hold my own with the guys.”
The show would win 14 Emmys and Henner appeared on all 112 episodes. “Now, Wikipedia says it’s 114 but two of the episodes are retrospectives so we actually shot 112, just to set the records straight,” she says. (Remember, you don’t want to have an argument about the past with her.)
SEPTEMBER 12, 1978
The date “Taxi” first aired — “a Tuesday,” she reminds us. Henner, who was dating John Travolta at the time, was with her “Taxi” co-stars in New Orleans to watch the boxing bout between Leon Spinks and Muhammad Ali at the Superdome on Sept. 15. (“Ali won, of course.”)
“After the fight I’m walking down the street with the guys from ‘Taxi’ and people started honking and yelling ‘Louie!’ and ‘Nardo!’ — things like that,” says Henner. “And I thought, ‘My life’s about to change and all of our lives are about to change.'”
On the prospect of a reboot, Henner demurs, citing in part the deaths of Conaway and Kaufman. “People say, ‘What about a reboot?’ and I go, ‘Well, I think everyone is kind of busy with other things and stuff,'” she says. “It would be kind of strange to have everybody still working in the garage.”
JANUARY 3, 2008
That’s the day she first appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” alongside Omarosa and eventual winner Piers Morgan. She was fired in the 8th week but would return for “The All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” in 2013, lasting until the 10th week.
She says she would have been shocked if she was told that four years later Donald Trump, her old fake boss, would be president. “Trust me, I had a blast on that show. He was fun. I experienced the whole thing a certain way and now it’s so different. So I want to say, ‘What’s going on?'”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits