Nowadays, most people know Marlo Thomas as the National Outreach Director for St. Jude’s Hospital where children with cancer can go and stay and receive treatment without paying a cent. St. Jude’s was founded by her her father, comedian Danny Thomas and she and her two siblings, Tony and Terre took over the cause upon his passing. Or, some may remember her as Rachel Green’s mother on the show Friends.
But for some of us, myself included, we know Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie from the 1960’s show That Girl, a show she created by the way, when women were only known as actresses, not a behind the scenes anybody! The storyline was about an independent woman, living alone, looking for stardom in New York City. Ann Marie, along with boyfriend Don Hollinger and her father Lew Marie each week would find themselves in comedic messes they would have dodge. The show was so popular back then that Ann Marie’s hairstyle, make-up and clothes would have their own twitter account today!
In Growing Up Laughing, her memoir of sorts, she tells funny stories of growing up as Danny Thomas’ daughter, having dinner on Friday nights surrounded at the table by her dad’s “friends”, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and George Burns.
She also chronicles her father’s rise to fame as well as how her mother put her own dreams on the backburner in order to raise their family and travel with Danny when he was on the road with his stand-up act.
Growing up in Beverly Hills in a house full of laughter, even when being scolded was blissful. Although her father travelled quite a bit, as did her mother to keep him company, there were nightly calls, and anticipation when they knew he was coming home. So when Thomas decided she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps, he was not too pleased. He felt as a woman and as his daughter too much would be expected of her. But, in pure Marlo Thomas fashion, and future That Girl, she decided to listen to her inner voice. And when she came off the stage after starring in Mike Nichol’s Barefoot in the Park in London, the first person she saw was her dad, with a huge bouquet of flowers and an enormous smile on his face!
She chronicles how she met and married her husband, Phil Donahue, although she never thought she would get married. One story relates her conversation with Gloria Steinem the only other single woman in their group when she realizes she wants to marry Phil. She also tells the story of finding out her father has died suddenly and trying to get back to California to be with her family.
If reading about her was not enough, scattered throughout the book are interviews she did with upcoming comedians at the time. Remember, the book was written in 2010, which means Thomas could certainly see talent. Some of the interviewees were Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Kathy Griffin as well as some of her dad’s old buddies such as Don Rickles.
Throughout the book there are terrific, funny, interesting pictures not only of her father and his friends, but family as well.
Some memoirs seem to dwell on the person’s unhappy upbringing, or how they were able to remove themselves from terrible situations. Growing Up Laughing is not one of those. It was quite refreshing to read an autobiography in which the story is so full of family, love and of course, laughter!