Marilu Henner was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her maternal grandparents were Greek and her paternal grandparents were Polish. She took her first dance class at age two, went on to teach dance at her family’s studio, and choreographed shows at local high schools and colleges until leaving the Chicago area during her third year of college. While a student at the University of Chicago, Henner originated the role of “Marty” in the Kingston Mines production of Grease in 1971. When the show was discovered and moved to Broadway, she was asked to reprise the role; however, she chose instead to play “Marty” in the national touring company alongside John Travolta, who played “Doody.” Additional Broadway credits for Henner include Over Here!, with Travolta; and, revivals of Pal Joey,Chicago, Social Security, and The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. Her first film role was in the 1977 sleeper-hit Between the Lines, co-starring then-unknowns Jeff Goldblum, Lindsay Crouse, John Heard, and Jill Eikenberry. Her next role was opposite Richard Gere in the 1978 film Bloodbrothers.
Henner gained national prominence with the role of Elaine Nardo in the situation comedy, Taxi!, portraying a single mother working as a cabbie who aspired to a life in the New York City art scene. She received five Golden Globe nominations for her work in this iconic series. Shifting her attention to movies, Henner was the leading lady in the 1982 film Hammett directed by Wim Wenders, produced by Francis Ford Coppola. In 1983, Henner starred opposite Burt Reynolds in The Man Who Loved Women, directed by Blake Edwards. Reynolds then asked Henner to join the cast of Cannonball Run II along with Shirley MacLaine and Dom DeLuise. She was the leading lady in the 1984 film Johnny Dangerously, playing love interest to Michael Keaton. In 1985 she once again appeared alongside John Travolta in Perfect. In 1991 she appeared opposite Steve Martin in L. A. Storyas Trudi, a role for which she received a nomination for an American Comedy Award as the Funniest Supporting Female in a Motion Picture. From 1990 through 1994, she returned to television, appearing opposite Burt Reynolds in the situation comedy Evening Shade. In 1999, she appeared in Man on the Moon, a film about her Taxi!Co-star Andy Kaufman. Henner played herself (as well as herself playing Elaine Nardo).
Henner’s resume is immense and incredibly varied. She provided the voice of Gotham City socialite Veronica Vreeland in animated Batman films. She hosted her own daytime talk show, Marilu, for 165 episodes. She starred as the domineering mother of the bride in the Brooks & Dunn video “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl.” She appeared on Season 23 of Dancing with the Stars. She hosted FitTV and the Discovery Channel’s Shape Up Your Life, which is based on her books. She was a contestant on NBC’s first The Celebrity Apprentice, in 2008. She was fired by Donald Trump in the eighth episode, but was brought back to help fellow contestant Trace Adkins in the final task of the show. Interestingly, she has hyperthymesia, more commonly called total recall memory. She has written nine books on diet, health, and memory, the most prominent being “Total Health Makeover,” in which she explains the virtues of a non-dairy diet in conjunction with food-combining and exercise. Henner is now the host of The Marilu Henner Show. It airs every weekday morning on more than a dozen radio stations across America.