Marilu Henner

Marilu Henner Biography

Television Actress, Actress, Reality Television Star, Writer, Film Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress (1952–)
Marilu Henner is known for her acting career, particularly on the hit sitcom 'Taxi,' along with her series of health and fitness books.


Marilu Henner was born on April 6, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois, as Mary Pudlowski. She joined the cast of a university production of Grease, leading to a spot with the touring musical and other roles on Broadway. In the late 1970s, Henner earned widespread attention with the role of Elaine on Taxi, and she also starred in movies like Johnny Dangerously (1984), before making a successful return to TV in 1990 on Evening Shade. Later in the decade, she embarked on a successful career as an author, churning out best-selling guides in the realm of health and fitness.

Early Life

Actress and author Marilu Henner was born Mary Lucy Pudlowski on April 6, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois. The third of six children, she attended the University of Chicago for three years, before deciding to wholeheartedly pursue an acting career. Billed as Marilu Henner, she originated the supporting role of Marty in the musical Grease at the University of Chicago's Community Theatre.

Henner dropped out of school in 1972, in order to travel with the national company of Grease, at which time she carried on a highly publicized romance with co-star John Travolta. In 1976, she moved to New York, landing her first Broadway role in Over Here! Following a handful of forgettable stage performances, Henner made her cinematic debut as a stripper in the 1977 sleeper Between the Lines.

'Taxi' and Other Starring Roles

In 1978, Henner landed the breakthrough role of her career on a new sitcom called Taxi. As single mother Elaine O'Connor-Nardo, she sought to gain entry to the exclusive professional and social circles of the fine arts world, while holding down a job as a cab driver and fending off the advances of her dispatcher, played by Danny DeVito. The popular show, which also starred Judd Hirsch and Tony Danza, aired for five seasons.

A handful of film roles followed, including parts in Blake Edward's farce The Man Who Loved Women (1983), which starred Burt Reynolds, Kim Basinger and Julie Andrews, and the gangster spoof Johnny Dangerously (1984), with Michael Keaton. Over the next few years, Henner's body of work ranged from disappointing films like 1985's Perfect (which paired her with former beau John Travolta) to well-received comedies like L.A. Story (1991), starring Steve Martin and Patrick Stewart.

In 1990, Henner found renewed TV success on the sitcom Evening Shade. She enjoyed a four-year run in her role as Ava Evans Newton, the wife of a high school athletics coach played by Burt Reynolds. In 1994, Henner hosted her own short-lived daily talk show, Marilu. Later that year, she published a revealing autobiography, By All Means Keep on Moving, in which she candidly discussed her sexual exploits with many of her Taxi co-stars, including Tony Danza and Judd Hirsch.

In 1999, Henner played herself in the critically acclaimed film Man on the Moon, which documented the life of former Taxi cast member and famed comedian Andy Kaufman.  She returned to the stage in 2000, headlining a national tour of the revival of Annie Get Your Gun.

Reality Television

Henner has also ventured out into the realm of reality television. She served as host of the PBS series America's Ballroom Challenge (2006-09) and she competed in the first celebrity edition of Donald Trump's The Apprentice, aptly named Celebrity Apprentice, in 2008. She made it to Week 8 of the competition before getting fired, losing the chance to win the total prize for her charity, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

She returned in 2013 for All-Star Celebrity Apprentice, competing against the likes of Lil Jon, Trace Adkins and Dennis Rodman, among others. Although she lost yet again, she was able to last through Week 10 of the competition. During her second appearance on the show, Henner competed for The Alzheimer's Association.

In August 2016 Henner announced she would be part of Season 23's cast of Dancing With the Stars, partnering with Derek Hough.

Health and Fitness

Henner has written and co-authored several books, including one on child rearing titled I Refuse to Raise a Brat: Straightforward Advice on Parenting in an Age of Overindulgence (1999). In addition, she has published two best-selling guides on health and beauty—The 30 Day Total Health Makeover (1999) and Healthy Life in the Kitchen (2000). 

Henner has also published several other books about health and fitness, including 2002's Healthy Holidays and 2012's Total Health Makeover, and has offered online classes to support her total health makeover program. Outside of her bestselling books, she has taken her stance on leading a healthy lifestyle to both the government and the classroom.

Henner presented Congress with a dietary plan for children as part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2010. She has also spoken at various schools and organizations, encouraging others to speak out to the government against unhealthy living and eating habits. After the release of Total Health Makeover, Henner went on a book tour and appeared on several talk shows, including The View and Good Morning America, to further promote her healthy lifestyle lessons.


In December 2010, Henner revealed that she had highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) during a segment on 60 Minutes. The condition, also known as Hyperthymesia, allows her to recall very specific moments in her life. She went on to talk about HSAM on several programs, showing off her hidden talent.

"You say April 3, 1992, and all of a sudden the whole week starts presenting itself to me," she told CBS. "That was a Friday and I was in New York, actually. Early that week I had won $1,760 at a winner-take-all Academy Awards pool. It was a clean sweep of the Oscars, Silence Of The Lambs, Jodie Foster."

Neurobiologist James McGaugh began studying Henner's case of HSAM, along with others who have the same unusual memory patterns, in November 2009. The results were used in the television series Unforgettable for the character of Carrie Wells, a character inspired by Henner and played by Poppy Montgomery.

Personal Life

In 1980, Henner wed Frederic Forrest; the couple divorced in 1982. She has two sons, Nicholas and Joseph, with her second husband, director/producer Robert Lieberman. The couple filed for divorce in June 2001. In December 2006, Henner wed Michael Brown, whom she had known in college.

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