CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Marlo Thomas
Aired May 21, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, she's "That Girl" and a whole lot more. Marlo Thomas, Danny Thomas' daughter, Phil Donohue's wife, Jennifer Aniston's mom on "Friends" and my guest, Marlo Thomas for the hour on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. A quick note, Dick Cheney is with us tomorrow night. Today's the anniversary of our guest. She's married - you married today, right?
MARLO THOMAS, STAR OF "THAT GIRL" 1966-1971: Twenty-two years.
KING: Twenty-two years ...
KING: ... to Phil Donohue, enough is enough. Her hit book is "The Right Words at the Right Time: Marlo Thomas and Friends,"100 of them, is published by Atria (ph). We'll talk a lot about it later, but just quickly, how did his come about?
THOMAS: Well, I got a letter from a father of a kid who was about to turn 16, a little girl, and he asked me -- she was a big fan of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he asked if I would write a story from my life that might encourage and inspire her. And I remembered a story that happened when I was around 18 years old and I was struggling to be an actress, and I was appearing in "Gigi", this little summer theater, all my reviews and all my interviews were about my father. Would I be as good as Danny Thomas? Would I last as long and I was just devastated.
And I went to my father crying, and I said daddy, I never thought I'd say this. I love you but I don't want to be a Thomas anymore. I want to change my name and just run as far away as I can from all this, and he said to me, I raised you to be a thoroughbred and thoroughbreds run their own races. They don't look at any of the other horses. They just wear their blinders and they run, and that's what you have to do. You just run your own race.
And a couple nights later at the theater, where I was doing "Gigi", this big box arrived, and I opened it up and inside of it was a pair of old horse blinders and a little note, and the note said, "run your own race baby". And all of my life when I've been at a crossroads I've asked myself is this my race or somebody else's race that I'm running? So I sent it off to this father, and afterward I thought, you know, I bet a lot of people that I admire have a story like this when they came to a crossroad and they didn't know what to do. They weren't sure, you know, which way to go. Maybe they lost a loved one. Maybe their marriage ended. Maybe they couldn't get the job they wanted and they didn't know which way to go and somebody said just the right words at the right time to them.
KING: And you contacted all these people?
THOMAS: I called 108 people.
KING: Al Pacino, Ted Turner, your husband.
THOMAS: Yes my husband, he was the hardest one, you know.
KING: Al Pacino just talks about the moment he stopped drinking.
THOMAS: Yes, that's right.
KING: It's beautiful. But these are like two-page stories.
THOMAS: Yes, they're about 1100 words.
KING: Are you surprised at how well it's doing?
THOMAS: I was surprised that everybody was so generous with their story. You know I mean ...
KING: Not many turned it down?
THOMAS: No, but that they gave so much of themselves. You know that Al Pacino revealed that he was a drinker. It was really ...
KING: Oh, did he?
KING: So all of this is -- but the key is the words they said at a certain time.
THOMAS: Somebody said the right words to them at the right time, like my father saying, run your own race.
KING: And when you got that, the impact it made on you was ...
KING: ... what happened to you after that? Did you ...
THOMAS: Well obviously I kept my name, but I realized that it was my race and that I wasn't going to be defined by what somebody else called me or said about me. I mean he could have said it a million other ways. He could have said, be independent, don't matter -- it doesn't matter what anybody else says to you, but he said just the right words. He said, run your own race baby, and saying that and making me think about the blinders, you know and not looking at the other horses gave me such a picture, such an image.
KING: Was it - and we'll talk a lot more about this later ...
KING: ... was it tough being the daughter of a famous person?
THOMAS: It really wasn't as a child, except for the absences, which I'm sure your children feel as well, the traveling and that. It wasn't until I wanted to be an actress and started to become an actress where people were comparing me to this father of mine who was many, many years older.
KING: And was a comedian and an actor.
THOMAS: Yes, exactly. So that was - that was -- the beginning was difficult.
KING: Your on to the scene was "That Girl", though wasn't it?
KING: How did that happen? How did "That Girl" happen? And you -- weren't you its executive producer without us knowing it?
THOMAS: Yes, right. Well it was my company ...
KING: But you didn't take -- did you take credit?
THOMAS: No I didn't want to intimidate all the men that I was working with. So they ...
THOMAS: Yes. But how it happened was I did "Barefoot in the Park" in London. Mike Nichols had cast me in that.
KING: With who?
THOMAS: With Daniel Massey (ph) and the two people -- Curt Casner (ph) ...
KING: Who did it on Broadway.
THOMAS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) did it on Broadway, and I did a pilot for ABC called "Two's Company" and it didn't sell. And Edgar Sherrick, who was the head of the ABC network at the time called me and it was just like in the movies, and he said kid, you can be a - you can be a TV star, and I said really, and he said yes.
He said this show is not good enough, but we're going to find one for you. And so - and I already had a sponsor. Corelle (ph) wanted to sponsor a show with a ...
KING: Those were in the days, folks, when a sponsor ...
KING: ... sponsored the whole show.
THOMAS: When a sponsor said, we need a young woman to sell shampoo and so we came up with the idea of "That Girl".
KING: But you - in other words you thought now that would be ridiculous ...
KING: You would be its executive producer.
THOMAS: Right. Of course.
KING: But it would have intimidated men?
THOMAS: Well, at the time I thought, you know, if I have all the power, I've created the idea, I sold the show, and I named the company Daisy production, I felt it was like, you know, being sort of I don't know, not flaunting it ...
KING: So you were involved in picking the actors ...
THOMAS: Oh sure.
KING: ... who would appear the following week.
THOMAS: Yes, that was kind of hoggy to also be the executive producer and the star. You know nowadays you do, do it. You know I mean it was a difficult time for women. We didn't - I seized the power, I just didn't flaunt it.
KING: You also played a strong woman.
THOMAS: Yes I did.
KING: Was that ground breaking?
THOMAS: Well it was exciting because there hadn't been a single woman on television before. And in fact, when I told Edgar Sherrick the idea, he said to me - I said how about doing a show about a girl like me, who's graduated from college, whose parents want her to get married but she wants to be somebody in the world and wants - doesn't -- isn't sure she wants to get married.
How about we do a show about the adventures of a girl like that and he said to me, would anybody be interested in a show like that? I said well yes, I think there's a lot of girls there like me out there, and it turned out that every home had one. You know he thought that she was a revolutionary figure, but she was a fait accompli.
KING: What did your father think about it?
THOMAS: Oh he was -- my father was thrilled.
KING: Was it a hit from the get-go?
THOMAS: Yes it was a hit, the first night, yes.
KING: Really? So ...
THOMAS: It really was. My father went on "The Johnny Carson Show" and pulled out my reviews and read them like you would pull out your baby pictures. He said did you hear - did you hear about my kid?
KING: Yes, what's bigger than a daughter making it?
KING: Another unusual aspect was that you were acting with your boyfriend, right?
THOMAS: Acting ...
KING: Ted Bassell (ph) was in it ...
KING: ... and your boyfriend, right?
THOMAS: Well, but not for a while. I mean I didn't know him when he was cast.
KING: I mean but you got to be.
THOMAS: Yes, well, yes. When you're with somebody for five years, something happens.
KING: Did they ever want to characters to marry on the air?
THOMAS: Yes, they did. They wanted us to get married.
THOMAS: I just felt that would be a betrayal to all the young girls who watched "That Girl" and saw in her, you know, a different kind of choice. And I thought if we end it with a wedding, you know, it's really saying that the only way for a story to end happily is for you to get married. And I just couldn't do that to them - I just couldn't.
KING: Was it difficult to work with someone you were involved with?
THOMAS: No, no, no. It wasn't - it didn't last that long.
KING: But even however long ...
KING: ... it lasted, was it difficult?
THOMAS: Well he was wonderful. Teddy Bassell was a lovely, lovely guy.
KING: Oh so there's no regrets over that?
KING: It wasn't a harsh ...
THOMAS: No. No. No.
KING: ... bust up or something.
KING: How long was "That Girl" on?
THOMAS: Five years.
KING: Why did it go off?
THOMAS: It was really time. I wanted it to go off. We all made the decision together. The network wanted us to stay on, but we all decided -- you know when you - when you do a show about a young girl who's an actress, who wants to be an actress and who wants to get married, that that's really - I mean doesn't want to get married and wants to find her own life, if you're doing a show about that, either she has to get married or has to become a star or something - or she has to give it up, something else has to happen.
And after five years we didn't want any of those things to happen. We didn't want her to all of a sudden become a star, all of a sudden get married. We wanted her to be -- that was the story, a girl wanting something.
KING: And it -- you became then -- that got you into -- you became a big person in the field of women's rights after this.
THOMAS: Well it really politicized me. You know I got a lot of mail from young girls who asked me what to do with their lives, and you know I'm pregnant, I'm 16 and I don't know where to go or my husband abuses me and I don't know where to go. And I would say to my secretary at the time, well, let's find out where somebody goes in Des Moines or let's find out where somebody goes in Chicago and there wasn't any place. And that really politicized me.
KING: Danny did a walk on, I remember that.
THOMAS: Yes, he did.
KING: More than a walk-on ...
THOMAS: He did a walk-on one show and he did - he played a guest shot on another. That was fun.
KING: More or Marlo Thomas in a minute. Her book, "The Right Words at the Right Time", Marlo Thomas and friends, 100 of them and it's way up on "The New York Times" best seller list, and we'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Marlo Thomas, her book is "The Right Words at the Right Time". I want to say surprising bestseller because a lot of books like this don't usually take off, but this one hit the right note ...
THOMAS: Very exciting.
KING: ... at the right time.
THOMAS: It certainly did.
KING: And it makes you think of words said in your own life ...
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: ... in which I like it.
THOMAS: I know and I think that that'll be a fun exercise. When people will read it, they can think about what are the words that I'm carrying round. You know ...
THOMAS: I'm sorry.
KING: Your father wanted you to keep those blinkers on and ride straight ahead, but was it a challenge to be in the same field as him? It would have been another thing if you ...
KING: ... had chose to be a president of a company.
THOMAS: You know when I was a kid, my father used to take me to the studio with him. He was making movies with Margaret O'Brien. He made two in a row with Margaret O'Brien.
KING: By the way, it should be said personality aside, your father was a great friend of mine.
THOMAS: I know that he was.
KING: And he was good to me.
THOMAS: He was crazy about you, you know that.
KING: He came on all the time ...
KING: ... on my show and I loved Danny.
THOMAS: And he loved you. KING: All right, so back to ...
THOMAS: But he used to take me to the studio with him when I was a little girl and I loved it. I loved - I mean what little girl wouldn't? I used to go to the commissary with him and sit next to people that were dressed like Indian chiefs and cowboys and monsters. And the make believe of it, and my father was very -- allowed me just to run around the whole studio and see everything and see all the movies being made.
KING: Did you go and watch his act?
THOMAS: Oh, of course.
KING: His stand-up because your father ...
THOMAS: Oh sure.
KING: ... I mean the public knows him from the sitcoms ...
KING: ... but your father was one of the great stand-up monologists whoever lived.
THOMAS: Thank you.
KING: He may be the best of the storyteller.
THOMAS: He was a great storyteller.
KING: A great storyteller. So you would go and see him work at a young age, too?
THOMAS: Sure. Oh in Florida, Chicago, The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
KING: And he was funny off stage, too.
KING: He was funny.
THOMAS: Yes and he was very funny, but he was also very serious and passionate.
KING: His impact on you, you were really a father/daughter ...
THOMAS: I was a daddy's girl. I still am, yes. Once -- I'm sure you know, you have daughters.
KING: One daughter.
THOMAS: There's one - there's something so great about having a father and daughter.
KING: There is, isn't it?
KING: Tie that binds early on.
THOMAS: It is and I think fathers see in their daughters, you know, the -- this -- not only this bond, but this spark, you know, that the daughter worships the father, so the father has every chance to just, you know give freely of his love without any kind of competition that you have with a boy.
KING: Was he ever overbearing?
THOMAS: He really wasn't.
KING: No? Didn't judge who you went out with and ...
THOMAS: Well, you know he did, of course, you know, of course he did. But my dad was very loose like that. He was not a judgmental guy. He really wasn't. He gave us a lot of -- my mother was the strict one.
KING: Oh yes?
THOMAS: My father was not the strict one.
KING: Any drawbacks to being a show biz kid?
THOMAS: Well as I said, I think you get too much attention too soon and so that before ...
KING: You're not in the real world.
THOMAS: Yes before you're not - before you're ready. As a - as a - as a young performer, you need a place to fail. You know, you don't want to come out full-blown. You want to be somewhere where you can hide and do your thing and learn. And I think a lot of your learning field is shortened. And that's not a great thing.
KING: He was how old when he died?
THOMAS: He was 79.
KING: And what did he die -- because he was ...
THOMAS: Heart failure.
KING: ... never sick?
THOMAS: No he wasn't sick. He died in a half hour. It was a total shock.
KING: What happened? Was it at night? Where was ...
THOMAS: Yes, he was at home. He had just come off his book tour. His book was number one. He was very excited, very happy.
KING: He was on our show.
THOMAS: Yes and February 4th was the anniversary of St. Jude hospital. He came back on the 5th and we woke up on the morning of the 6th and died in a half hour.
KING: Wait a minute -- he got up from bed.
THOMAS: Just the way he prayed he would, fast. Yes, he got up from bed and he had heart failure. He must have had a bad heart all along, but he either -- we didn't know it. He either didn't acknowledge it ...
KING: Smoked cigars.
THOMAS: Yes, but he didn't inhale. He never inhaled.
KING: Yes, but it's still not ...
THOMAS: Do you think it got in anyway?
KING: Was your mother with him?
THOMAS: Oh, sure, yes.
KING: Where were you?
THOMAS: I was in New York.
KING: How did you react?
THOMAS: Oh ...
KING: I mean was it ...
THOMAS: ... was horrible.
KING: I mean 79 is ...
THOMAS: It was horrible.
KING: Young, but not young.
THOMAS: But I didn't expect it. He wasn't ill and I think even if you lose your parent at 102, it's a shock. Somehow, your parents, you believe them to be immortal, and I guess my father sort of fooled us into believing that he was immortal. He was so strong that -- and I had been with him just a few weeks before for his birthday, it just - I just didn't expect it.
KING: When someone larger than life leaves life ...
THOMAS: But for all people ... KING: It's a blank.
THOMAS: ... and their parents, yes.
THOMAS: I think whenever you take a parent out of a loving family, the family, it changes so terribly. They leave a huge hole.
KING: Was there a big show business funeral?
THOMAS: Well, yes, sure.
KING: All the friends, all the ...
THOMAS: Yes, it was very - it was very funny. You know Milton Berle and Jan Murray and George Burns and Bob Hope and yes, it was wonderfully funny.
KING: It's one great thing when a comic goes.
THOMAS: Yes. Yes.
KING: The funeral is fun ...
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: ... because people are there to have ...
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: ... it's a good way to send someone off.
THOMAS: It is. It celebrates the life. It -- and it was great and they were all his pals. We - you know I grew up with all those guys in our house all the time.
KING: There was laughter in your house?
THOMAS: Always, screaming laughter. In fact, when I moved away from home and came back, whenever I would come back to California, my father would give a little dinner for me and it would be all the comics. It wouldn't be my friends. He said Marlo wants to laugh.
KING: It'd be his dinner.
THOMAS: I know.
KING: Did he like that you also were a forerunner of a movement in a sense?
THOMAS: He was very proud of that, yes. He used to always say to me, why don't you quit this and be a senator, you know.
KING: He was a little more conservative than you.
THOMAS: He was.
THOMAS: Oh yes, we were never - we never -- well ...
KING: Danny and Phil agreed on zip.
THOMAS: I know.
THOMAS: But they were crazy about each other.
KING: I know, but agreed on ...
THOMAS: Now politically, they were on opposite ends.
KING: So, but he was proud of you at the same time he may ...
KING: ... have disagreed with some of the ...
THOMAS: Oh sure.
KING: ... things you were fighting for.
THOMAS: Well that's what I say, you know, he never pushed his ideals on us, even on - even at the hospital. He never said to my sister and brother and I some day you'll take over the hospital. He never did that to us.
KING: What do the other siblings do?
THOMAS: My brother, Tony, is a successful producer. I'm sure you know Tony Thomas (UNINTELLIGIBLE) "Empty Nest" and "Golden Girls" and ...
KING: Doesn't do ...
THOMAS: All those shows.
KING: ... won't need a benefit.
THOMAS: And my sister's a singer and she's raised two wonderful children, and we all work very hard ...
KING: And we're all close?
THOMAS: Very, very.
KING: OK, because the next segment I want to ask about St. Jude ...
KING: ... and the impact on his life ...
KING: ... and on your life. Marlo Thomas is the guest. The book "The Right Words at the Right Time", Marlo Thomas and friends on "The New York Times" best seller list. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THAT GIRL")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we do? We stand around talking politics?
THOMAS: Politics? Ethics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you got against me? I've got looks, a sense of humor, experience.
THOMAS: You might be interested to know that I am not in the least bit interested in what you're interested in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not? I mean I could understand if you were a librarian, but ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, story of St. Jude's is?
THOMAS: Well, my father made a promise to St. Jude when he was a struggling young comedian.
KING: He's the patron ...
THOMAS: He is the patron saint of hopeless causes.
KING: Hopeless causes.
THOMAS: Right. In fact he heard about it in a nightclub from a man who was talking about his wife who was very ill, and he had been praying to St. Jude and that she was better. And my father was in church and he made a promise. He said ...
KING: He was a devout Catholic, right?
THOMAS: Devout. And he made a said - and made prayer in church that, you know he just wanted guidance. He said I'm not praying for success. Just give me guidance. You know my dad was a child of immigrant parents. My father is a first generation American. His immigrant parents came here with no money. They were very poor.
KING: From Lebanon, right? THOMAS: From Lebanon, had 10 children, so my father made this promise to St. Jude that if he would just give him some guidance in life and give him some signs, that he was on the right track, so that he could take care of his family, because that's what he was mostly afraid about. And he said to St. Jude, I need $70. I know I need -- he put in $7 into the collection basket. He said I need 10 times this by next week for my family. And the next day, Monday, he got a call for a $75 to play a singing toothbrush in a commercial on the radio.
And he took that as his first sign, and little by little throughout his life and his career, he got signs from St. Jude, and he said, some day I'm going to build you a shrine. And he became so successful that he thought, the little shrine that he had in mind was way too small, that he had to do something much bigger for people who really needed it, for really hopeless cases. And so he decided to build a hospital, a research center, really, for children with catastrophic diseases and that is St. Jude Children's Research.
KING: No charge for anyone, right?
THOMAS: Well that was one of the principles, that no child ever would be turned away for a family's inability to pay.
KING: Why Memphis?
THOMAS: Well he wanted to put in it the south because he had read one time in the paper; in fact he had it tacked on his wall, about a young black boy who died because no hospital would take him after an accident. So he said one time to us, as a family, he said I'm going to put the hospital in the south because there was a lot of discussion about putting it in Boston or putting it in St. Louis connecting it to some of those great hospitals. He said let's put it in the south and then Cardinal Stretch (ph) in Chicago said I'll help you to put it in Memphis because that's where he was from, so they put it in ...
KING: That's - the cardinal was from there?
KING: But your father was always in the forefront in civil rights. He could never understand ...
KING: ... why ...
KING: ... would someone not - it's hard to believe ...
KING: ... that this country, someone didn't get medical attention ...
THOMAS: I know.
KING: ... because of the pigment of the skin.
THOMAS: I know. I know.
KING: It's like incomprehensive.
THOMAS: Yes. But we take care of that at St. Jude's. Nobody's ever turned away.
KING: Did it take right off right away? St. Jude's, I mean you had to do a lot of fund raising.
THOMAS: Well you know when - of course and the - and the initial money came from Hollywood, my father's friends. In fact we have a wing named after Frank Sinatra he did so many benefits. The initial building cost $6 million and today we raise 300 million a year to keep it going.
KING: How many kids have gone through ...
THOMAS: ... 4,000 a year ...
KING: Four thousand a year.
KING: And he got everybody involved. I got involved.
THOMAS: I know.
KING: Whoever you saw, you got to help St. Jude's.
THOMAS: That's right, from all over the world.
KING: We did local benefits in Miami.
THOMAS: That's right. I remember.
KING: You know another thing I'll always remember about your father being one of the first announcers of the Miami Dolphins. Your father was one of the first owners.
THOMAS: Right, he was.
KING: And when the opening kickoff in their first exhibition game, Joe Hour (ph) ran for a touchdown, your father ran down ...
THOMAS: He ran the whole way. I remember that.
KING: I can still see that sight in the Orange Bowl ...
THOMAS: I remember that. Well that was a passion that he loved about it. KING: How do you think he'd be reacting to what's going on with the church now?
THOMAS: Oh I think - I think he would be, you know, stunned.
KING: Are you?
THOMAS: Yes, stunned.
KING: Are you a practicing Catholic?
THOMAS: I'm stunned. I'm a Catholic. You're always a Catholic. I'm not as practicing as I was when I was younger, but yes I'm Catholic, certainly. And I ...
KING: What do you make of all this?
THOMAS: ... and I - I'm stunned and I think it's time for the church to stand up and do something about it, absolutely. It can't be left alone. It can't be hidden. It's very disappointing, very disappointing.
KING: Do you think the police should also treat it as a police matter and not ...
KING: ... separate from ...
THOMAS: Absolutely, these are human beings. These are citizens, treated exactly the same way. It's a terrible thing and it has to be cleaned up.
KING: To people out in the audience who don't know how St. Jude operates, let's say you have a child with an illness ...
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: ... all you do is you contact them, right?
THOMAS: Your doctor contacts them and tells them ...
KING: It's done through the doctor.
THOMAS: Yes. What disease that they have to be sure that it's a disease that we have a protocol for and you come immediately to St. Jude's. There's no red tape. There's no looking for your cards or any of that stuff. The child is taken immediately and diagnosed and started ...
KING: And there are fundraisers every year, right?
THOMAS: Oh all over the country. We have chapters all over the - we raise 300 million a year. We have bikeathons and mathathons ...
KING: How involved is Marlo? THOMAS: Very, I'm the outreach director, the national outreach director ...
KING: Oh yes?
THOMAS: Absolutely. And I travel all over the country all year long as do my brother and sister, all year long to raise money and to give speeches and to start mathathons, bikeathons, telethons, whatever it takes. I do a telethon every year that my dad used to do.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) St. Jude's Hospital ...
KING: ... to his dying day, though, he believed in St. Jude?
THOMAS: Oh yes, absolutely.
KING: Because he talked about St. Jude like he was right around ...
THOMAS: I know - well I always thought he was one of my uncles, he talked about him so much.
KING: He talked about him in interviews.
THOMAS: Yes, I know.
KING: He'd look up ...
THOMAS: I know.
KING: He talked about him in his act.
THOMAS: I know. I know. And you know it's amazing for it to be a part of our lives now because I've been to St. Jude's and for all the success stories that we have and we're curing kids 80 percent, 90 percent, 95 percent cure rates and there are still many children who die, and I have held dying children in my arms and I - there is ...
KING: No child ...
THOMAS: ... there is nothing that will galvanize you more than to be in the room with a dying child and you - and you say to yourself, whatever it takes, wherever I have to travel, whatever I have to do, whatever books have to be done ...
KING: All proceeds from this book, "The Right Words at the Right Time", Marlo Thomas and friends, go to the St. Jude Hospital in Memphis.
Tomorrow night, the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney is the special guest. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DONOHUE")
THOMAS: What, sit down? Want me too?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you think I'm threatened by you if I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Did you say, "I'm going to take this girl out -- I'm going to ask her out."
PHIL DONAHUE, TALK SHOW HOST: I asked her to lunch. I was very slow.
KING: And how soon after that, did this thing take off?
DONAHUE: A week or so.
KING: That's all it took.
KING: And now, you've been married how long?
DONAHUE: Twenty years.
KING: Stayed happy.
DONAHUE: Yes. Here we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Phil Donahue, who once sat in on this program as host, and of course as guest, returns to television next month on MSNBC.
KING: What did you think about that, by the way?
THOMAS: I think it's great. He wants to do it, so why shouldn't he.
KING: Of course, he didn't want too for along time.
THOMAS: No, I think 9/11, really changed that, yes.
KING: You met him by being on his show.
THOMAS: That's right, yes.
KING: Was it like sparkles, right away?
THOMAS: It really was.
KING: What happened? At the end of the show, did he say, "You want to have dinner?" I mean, how did that work?
THOMAS: He called me the next day, and said, you know, I was on a tour. I was promoting a movie, and I was on my way to Denver, and he said ...
KING: And he was in Chicago.
THOMAS: And he was in Chicago, I had just left Chicago, on my way to Denver. And he said, "Whenever I come out to L.A., you know, I'd like us to have lunch." I thought, when he comes to L.A., we're going to have lunch. This is going to take forever.
KING: Did you like him, Margo?
THOMAS: Oh, yes. We liked each other right away. And so he flew to Denver and we had dinner together, and that was just it.
KING: How soon after did you get married?
THOMAS: Oh, three years, I never wanted to be married, so it took a while, for me to believe that I, you know, would have liked being married.
KING: And he had children.
THOMAS: He had five children from his first marriage. He'd been divorced for several years, and...
KING: Do you get along with them?
THOMAS: Oh, they're great.
KING: Was that an important part of the relationship? Did you...
THOMAS: Well, sure.
KING: ... did the stepmom...
KING ... click in?
THOMAS: Well, though he had four of his boys -- four boys live with him, lived with him at the time, I mean. So, I was really moving into a family. So it was important that, you know, we all knew that.
KING: The thing about Phil that people don't get, he really is -- what you see is what he is.
KING: He's a totally sincere person.
THOMAS: Yes, he is. He absolutely is.
KING: Almost whacked out.
THOMAS: No, he's a lot like my father. He's a very decent man.
KING: Now, your father and him disagreed politically , but they got along right?
THOMAS: Oh, they kissed each other they adored each other.
KING: Did your father ...
THOMAS: As a matter of fact, my husband said that, "My father was the first man that ever kissed him."
KING: Did your father like him right away?
THOMAS: Oh, yes. When I started going out with him, he said, "Oh, I know Donahue, he's a great -- I've been on the Donahue show." He knew that he liked him.
My mother thought it was hilarious, that all the years I didn't want to get married, and now I was marrying a man that had five children.
KING: Why did you...
THOMAS: She said, "What a joke on you."
KING: Why did you resist marriage? Because, you were this independent free spirit?
THOMAS: I think I always felt, and especially, you know, when I was growing up; that marriage really wasn't a fair proposition for women. I think it's certainly changed now. The definition of marriage has changed now.
KING: But, it's still Mrs. Phil Donahue, isn't it? It's still -- society still makes you -- there's still a kind of a property.
THOMAS: Well, I love my husband, so I don't mind, you know, sharing my life with him, my name with him. But, I kept my own name, and he didn't change his name to Thomas and I didn't change my name to Donahue. But I...
KING: You didn't want children?
THOMAS: It wasn't about that. Well, he'd already had five children. He really got...
KING: But you personally didn't want children.
THOMAS: Not at that point, no.
KING: So, was it worth it? Were you glad you waited that long?
THOMAS: Oh, it wouldn't have worked for me at any other time -- because, I think -- I didn't realize when I was growing up, that you make your own definition of what marriage is. It doesn't have to be, what you parents marriage was, or what your aunt and uncle's marriage was.
When Phil and I first got married, he was living in Chicago, and I was living in New York, we were both working in different cities, and my aunt said to me, "He lives in Chicago and you live in New York, that's not a marriage." And I thought to myself, "That's right. That wouldn't be her marriage."
But, my marriage definition was that we could, you know, live in different cities, when we had to, when we had to have a commuters' marriage for a few years, and then we were able to both live in New York. But, if I had gone by her definition I would never have been married.
KING: What's the drawback of two famous people, married?
THOMAS: I think probably just a lot of separation, that you have to, you know, go to other cities to work, and you have to be separated a great deal, so it takes a lot of scheduling to do it.
The good part about it is, that you each understand the demands and the responsibility and the obligations of a career.
KING: When they print things that are wrong...
KING: ... I'd say -- he's gone back to work because you've gone nuts, does that bring tension in the home, even if the item is wrong?
THOMAS: No, not now. When we were, when we first got married I was crying all the time. You know, why are they saying we're getting a divorce? Or why are they saying they saw us come out of lawyer's office, you know, when none of this happened.
And it always amazed me that you'd have a women giving birth to a whale on page four, and nobody would believe that, but on page five, your divorce they believe.
But we -- but I got over it. I mean, I realized that it was just, you know, fodder for this machinery that needs to be fed every day -- but now, no, none of them, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Where there rough spots?
THOMAS: In our marriage?
THOMAS: I don't think rough spots. Hard times, you know, of my being on the road with a play, and that kind of stuff, where we had to really struggle to find time, you know, to come back and forth to each other.
KING: But he never said like, "Don't have a career." THOMAS: No.
KING: You know, I mean, the macho kind of guy.
THOMAS: No, no, no.
KING: I make enough. You can stay home.
THOMAS: No, no, no. No, I mean, that's exactly why I wouldn't have gotten married. That's what I thought would happen in a marriage, that you would have to put all of your dreams into somebody else's pot, and our marriage is -- the hope is that we both get to have dreams, and each of us has a tremendous investment in the other person's dreams.
You know, somebody said to me, "Are you unhappy that Phil's going back to work?" I said, "Well, why would I be unhappy, if that's what he wants to do?" I mean, he would be unhappy, if I didn't do what I wanted to do.
KING: Well sure, it's terrible. Where were you on 9/11?
THOMAS: We were in Connecticut actually, on that day.
KING: Where you up, the television on?
THOMAS: He woke me up. It happened around 9:00, he woke me up and I ran and saw the television set, and I just started to cry. I couldn't believe it was happening in our country, I couldn't believe it.
KING: Did you go into the city?
THOMAS: Oh yes, absolutely. One of the things, that's why I say that, "I think that's one of the main reasons Phil's wanted to go back to work, is that he wants to be part of this conversation and debate", as to what we do now, you know.
KING: He's going to do it without a studio audience, right? Just in the studio.
KING: Our guest is Marlo Thomas, her book, "The Right Words at the Right Time: Marlo Thomas and Friends." It's a great idea. We're going to talk about it. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DONAHUE")
DONAHUE: He was also in...
THOMAS: Is he gone?
This is what happens when an equal man and an equal women get together.
DONAHUE: Well, I'm flattered.
THOMAS: As the hour wore on, we realized we were having our first date in front of several million people, but nobody else did.
DONAHUE: You are really fascinating.
THOMAS: You are wonderful. I said it when we were off the air, and I want to say that you are loving and generous, and you like women, and it's a pleasure. And whoever the women is in your life is very lucky.
DONAHUE: Well, thank you, very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FRIENDS")
THOMAS: Look at that face, just like when you were in high school. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were a cheerleader in trouble.
Come on; let's get some tea.
Oh, my, look at that, only three weeks ago -- now have you picked your nanny yet? Now honey, I don't want you to just use your house keeper, because it will just split her focus.
JENNIFER ANISTON, ACTRESS: Oh, well actually, I'm not going to use a nanny and I don't even have a housekeeper.
THOMAS: It's like you're a cave person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hard to believe this, maybe because time goes by so fast, but Marlo Thomas is a mother. Oh, I don't mean it that way.
How did you get the "Friends" thing?
THOMAS: Actually, my nieces talked me into it, I was asked to it, but I've been asked to do a lot of situation comedies since I did "That Girl".
THOMAS: But, it's such a good show. It's so well written.
KING: But, you have to play a middle-aged person.
THOMAS: Well, that's OK, I'm a middle-aged person, that's all right, and my nieces were thrilled; "Oh Auntie Marlo, you have to be on Friends", and it's a lot of fun. I mean, I've only done three of them, it's not like I'm a regular or anything.
KING: Will they have you on a lot though?
THOMAS: I don't know. I mean, whenever Rachel is going through something, you know, they've asked me in...
KING: Is it fun to do?
THOMAS: Yes, it's a lot of fun. Well, first of all, it's done in front of an audience, which we never did on "That Girl." We did our show in front of one camera. So that's a tremendous amount of fun to do it in front of an audience.
And then after you do it once, the writers and the producers run on the stage like a little football huddle, and, you know, say, OK, you try this joke and you try this one. Let's take this away. Let's make this shorter.
So, it's fun because then you do it again, and you get it better and I love that.
KING: What's your read on why that show does so well?
THOMAS: I guess because it's very honest and it's a lot about what's going on with young people. It's about young people who are, you know, struggling to be who they really are. It's kind of a grown up "That Girl" kind of show.
KING: Is there a kind of secret -- may be a bad word but I'll use it -- is there a secret to a successful sitcom? What makes so many fail?
THOMAS: Who knows, Larry? If we knew that, you and I could go into production together.
KING: But there are ingredients aren't there?
KING: I mean, first the writing, right?
THOMAS: Yes, first, second, and third, right.
KING: First, second, and third. Location, location, location, right?
THOMAS: Right. And then -- that the people who are in it, are gifted and likable, you know.
KING: Do they have to like each other?
THOMAS: Well, I think to work on a television series, you'd better like each other.
KING: Because, I've been told that actors can not get along and still be good actors, or maybe a sitcom is different.
THOMAS: Really. It would be very hard to do in a series, I think, week after week if you didn't like each other. I think that would be quite difficult.
Those, the kids on "Friends", like each other very much. They have a very good time.
KING: Hard work?
THOMAS: They're very hard working. They're totally unspoiled. I hadn't been on in a few years and I was surprised after all the hoopla, and all the money they're making, and all that, and all the success that they have, they haven't changed one bit.
KING: Ever jealous of that kind of money.
THOMAS: Oh, well, they're sure making a lot more money than we ever made. Wow. We did not make a million dollars an episode, not even close.
KING: It's almost semi-unbelievable, isn't it?
THOMAS: It's amazing, just amazing. But why shouldn't they? I mean, if they're going to pay them that much money, they must be -- the studios and the network, must be making that much money.
KING: Would you guest on Phil's show?
THOMAS: No. I talk to him at home. I don't have to talk to him on the air.
KING: You don't need that. It's going to be issue-oriented...
THOMAS: He already knows my opinion.
KING: It's going to be issue-oriented, right?
THOMAS: Oh, yes. It's going to be right off the front page.
KING: Why can words change your life?
THOMAS: The words that we carry in our hearts and souls, are words to either encourage us, or hold us back, and we need to find out, you know, what they are, and maybe turn the volume up on the good ones, and kind of make piece, with the bad ones. Because, you know, they do hold you back.
KING: When you ask people to do things like this, it forces them to think, right. You have to think, what words made an impact.
THOMAS: Yes, and a lot of people that I asked said, "Oh, I don't have any words"; I said, "Really, no one ever said the right words to you at the right time?" And as we would go through it with each phone call, everyone would say, "Was there ever a crossroads in your life, where you lost someone or something happened, it was disappointing, or discouraging, or scary, and something happened." And sooner or later, each would say, "Oh, yes, yes, I know".
And I was interested for example, in Martin Sheen. How did Martin Sheen become such an activist? Do you know that he's be arrested, like, 40 times for activism, but the fact that he is -- to put so much of his heart and soul into making the world better. Picketing, you know, being there with Chavez, really knowing what the issue is.
KING: What words were said that...
THOMAS: It was interesting because he heard Daniel Barrigan, somebody...
KING: A priest?
THOMAS: A priest who was a great activist, and the reporter said to Daniel Barrigan, "It's OK for you father, you know, to risk your life and risk yourself, and go to jail and so forth, but -- because you don't have any children, you know, what would you say, you know, if you had children?" And he said, "What would I say to my children if I didn't."
And I found some of these stories really fascinating.
KING: Did they write them out our dictate them, or interview -- all different types.
THOMAS: Some of them, you know, wrote them. Some -- Tony Morrison, who was a noble laureate, of course wrote hers. Some people where interviewed. Al Pacino wrote his five times.
KING: Yes, that's Al.
THOMAS: You know, he's a consummate perfectionist.
KING: But it's brilliantly written.
THOMAS: Brilliantly written. He did it over and over again, and Mike Nichols, and Jack Nicholson, and Sean Penn, who are these tough guys, are so sweet. They were so nice, they worked so hard on them.
Billy Crystal, easy as pie, so nice, and Gwyneth Paltrow -- young, young women, like Sarah Jessica Parker or Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer.
KING: Those who turned you down. If you don't want to name them, that's OK.
THOMAS: I don't want name to them, because I don't want to ...
KING: What was the typical reason?
THOMAS: Too busy, couldn't get it done in time. The two people I couldn't get in time were, Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs. I really wanted both of them, and we just couldn't fit it into the schedule, because I thought of them too late -- and I got the Dolly Lama. You know the Dolly Lama does not talk on the phone. Don't you want to come back as him, in your next life? You never have to talk on the phone again.
KING: He's been on this show, three or four times. I didn't know he didn't speak ...
THOMAS: So, I had to go through all this ...
KING: You couldn't hear him say, "Hello Dolly".
THOMAS: Hello, Dolly. I had to go, I had to go to all these people in Tibet, to get to him, but I got him in time.
KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Marlo Thomas. I think the words that said to me, that made the most impact, professionally, was something I read which was, "I never learned anything, when I was talking."
THOMAS: Oh, how great.
KING: I've use that every night of my life.
THOMAS: That's why your such a good listener.
KING: I never learned anything, when I was talking. Back with our remaining moments with Marlo Thomas, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TWO AGAINST TIME")
THOMAS: Oh, mama, I was so mad at you. I forgot I loved you. I loved you Mama. I miss her. I wish you were here now. I wish I had my mama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One other thing I wanted to ask about the changing of television -- changing of roles of society. You play in "Friends" the mother of an unwed mother; that would have been unheard of in "That Girl".
THOMAS: Oh, of course.
KING: That wouldn't ...
THOMAS: We weren't having any sex in the television shows in those days.
KING: They slept in different beds.
THOMAS: Absolutely. And Lucy and Dezi were married and they slept in separate beds, and they couldn't say the word "pregnant", when she was pregnant.
KING: That's right, when I was on radio, I used to have to say, "With child."
THOMAS: That's right, yes. But isn't it better, that it's honest, I mean, my Lord. In the 60's, when everyone was into "free love" and women weren't wearing bras anymore, and all -- the war in Vietnam and all the things that were happening, on television, none of that was happening, you know.
KING: I wonder why. Now it's much more reflective.
THOMAS: Now, it's honest. Isn't honesty always better? Isn't knowledge always better? I mean, to live a double standard like that, to know that what you're doing in your life -- I mean, I would imagine that the young people who watch "That Girl", must have felt somewhere that they were not as good people. They weren't -- you know, that they were leading different kinds of lives than we were leading the sort of purest life.
KING: When you're doing it, you're not thinking of yourself as a pioneer, right? You're just thinking I'm doing a good show.
THOMAS: Of course, of course, and it wasn't until after -- then people said, "Oh, you broke ground." But, you certainly don't think you're breaking ground when you're working as an actress.
KING: This book, one would think -- begs for part two. There's only a 100 people.
THOMAS: One hundred and eight.
KING: One hundred and eight, there's a lot of people who would want to say, "I want to give you my story".
THOMAS: I've already got people calling me saying, "I'd like to be in the next one."
KING: Will there be a next one?
THOMAS: I don't know, let's see, I don't -- I know I just finished it. It seems like the ink is wet on it, but maybe.
KING: And if Phil must have -- boy he had some good books, and then he stopped writing books.
THOMAS: Yes, well, he might again. I think he's so excited now about doing the show, that, that's where he's going to put his focus for the time being.
KING: During those years he was off, did he miss being on?
THOMAS: No. Not a bit.
KING: He wouldn't sit, and like watch this show and say, "I want to do that."
THOMAS: No. He watched the shows; he has it all going all of the time. He's the only man in the world, that watches C-SPAN, you know, every minute. But he a ...
KING: The weather channel is great.
THOMAS: Yes, he loves watching television, but, and he loves news, he loves to talk to the T.V. set and all that. No, he'd his 6,000 hours and he'd had it. He was tired and he ...
KING: So, you think it was 9/11 that's bringing him back.
THOMAS: Yes, but most of the talk shows have changed. You really won't be able to be as serious as -- take on as serious issues as he could in the beginning. So, I think now the fact that he's going to be able to do a news show, is very exciting.
KING: By the way, when you were on his show, what were you there for?
THOMAS: I promoting a movie, called the "Thieves".
KING: Because, he didn't do that a lot.
THOMAS: No, he did some personalities, yes -- and also we talked a lot about politics, the Women's Movement. I mean, I was there to talk about "Thieves", and he was there to talk about he Women's Movement.
KING: The Women's Movement a success?
THOMAS: Absolutely, I mean look where all the women in Condoleezza Rice, and all the women in the news -- I mean, when I was growing up there was nobody in the news, there was no Madeleine Albright, there weren't any women anywhere.
KING: I know people who are feminists, you don't even know they're feminists, right.
THOMAS: Isn't that nice.
KING: How is 9/11 changed us?
THOMAS: Well, I think it's made us more grateful, than we've ever been before, and it's probably made us more, more careful. It's odd to be in an American airport today. You know, it's really -- it rings home every time you go to an airport, that we aren't living in the innocent times, that we, for so many years, peaceful, innocent times that we had. So, I think it's made us careful, and grateful, and maybe it will make us work harder to bring peace around the world, and to not think that we have to have violent means to have peace.
KING: You're associated with one of the famous medical institutions in the world, Saint Jude's. Trying to save children's lives, and children are being killed.
THOMAS: But don't you think that's what we've learned from 9/11, most of all, is that violence is never going to be the way. Never going to be the answer. KING: And children are still being killed.
THOMAS: I know, well, we're going to have to come to some kind of multi-national solution to this, because we cannot go on thinking that the way to peace is war.
KING: What are you doing next?
THOMAS: I have a special coming on -- oh, well it'll be passed this sorry. It'll already be on.
KING: What was it? We were taping this before the 21st.
THOMAS: A "Lifetime" special called, "Our Heroes, Ourselves." On Thursday, May 16, it was on.
KING: What was it about?
THOMAS: About heroes in the country, women, just ordinary women, simple women, who do these extraordinary, fantastic things, and we discuss what it takes to be a hero.
Actually, I did it after 9/11. I wanted to find out, you know, how -- what makes a hero. Those fabulous people, men and women, who went inside those burning buildings, you know -- who are they? How does one get that way? What is it? What is the difference between them and the rest of us.
KING: For along time we've been saying, we have no hero's. "Lifetime" though, repeats them.
THOMAS: Yes, you'll be able to see it again.
KING: If people didn't see it, they will see it.
THOMAS: That's right, that's right.
KING: Marlo, it's always great seeing you. Give our best wishes to Phil, a good friend, I wish him the best ..
THOMAS: Thank you.
KING: ... and you're an Emmy award winner, but you're an award winner in life.
THOMAS: Thank you.
KING: And your father would be proud.
THOMAS: Thank you, that's the nicest thing.
KING: The book, "The Right Words, at the Right Time", Marlo Thomas and "Friends", the publisher is Atria, the proceeds are to Saint Jude's.
Tomorrow night, the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.
I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us, from New York, good night.
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