I couldn’t even begin to hazard a guess as to how many people I have encountered over the years along the yellow brick road. Sometimes you encounter people you never expected to bump into let alone have an experience as brief as it might have been.
Before my memory fades to black, I want to share some of those encounters in no particular order.
Of course I was familiar with her from her role as Ann Marie in television’s That Girl and I first saw her on Broadway in Herb Gardner’s Thieves (1974), but I did not encounter her until she was appearing in Andrew Bergman’s Social Security (1986) at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with the late Ron Silver, a talented actor and Joanna Gleason and Olympia Dukakis.
I met her during the rehearsal for the 40th Annual Tony Award telecast. I was working in a minor capacity for producer Alexander H. Cohen relishing every minute of the process of putting on a major television event.
Ms. Thomas was the consummate performer. She had star quality. She didn’t have star attitude. And I had a chance to talk to her (briefly) while she was in the rehearsal studio with the other headliners for the show.
On the night of the Tony Award telecast I was “awarded” the position of helping get the cast from the Minskoff Theatre to the Tony Award party.
I was stationed in the area between 44th and 45th Streets when Marlo Thomas and her husband, Phil Donohue, came out of the stage door. She went one way and he started to go the other way. He told her their car was “this way.” Thomas shrugged her shoulders and as she passed me she said to me, “it’s the other way” and smiled. Less than a minute later they were walking back “the other way,” and I Thomas say to her husband, “I told you we were parked the other way.”
A few weeks after the Tony Award Show I was at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre where I was going to see Thomas in Social Security. Thomas had agreed to meet me in her dressing room where she told me I could drop off a script I had written.
I knocked on her dressing room door and she told me to come in. Her hair dresser was working on her hair. She had yet to have her make-up put on. She was wearing a robe…and she was eating an egg salad sandwich.
We talked for a few minutes. She took the script and I made my exit. I gave my ticket (the one I bought with my own money) and the usherette showed me to my seat in the nose bleed section. If I had been one more row back I would have been on the outside of the theatre. I thought that for people sitting in this part of the balcony they should have had flight attendants instead of usherettes.
The play was wonderful and Marlo Thomas was great. So was Ron Silver (1946-2009). I had a brief encounter with him during the Tony Award rehearsal. I rode on the elevator with him down from the rehearsal studio. We had an abbreviated elevator chat.
A month after seeing her on Broadway I got a note from her agent saying that while Ms. Thomas enjoyed reading the play she was not interested in returning to the stage right away.
Nonetheless I did get to meet someone who was nothing short of being an exemplary woman of grace, wit and kindness.
Marlo Thomas signed my informal Tony Award autograph book (right side). Also on this page: Lily Tomlin, Colleen Dewhurst, Charles Durning, Debbie Allen Nixon, Jessica Tandy, Tony Randall, Rene Auberjonois and David Birney. (Some close encounter stories about some of these actors to follow.)