Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”
Marilu Henner celebrated a birthday last week. The multi-talented actress is probably best known for playing the role of Elaine in the hit television series "Taxi" from 1978-1983.
One of our all-time favorite guests on the John Landecker show was Marilu Henner.
Over the ten years the John Landecker show aired on WJMK, Marilu was probably on a dozen times. She was always entertaining, friendly, and personable…in short, a dream radio guest.
Marilu is a Chicago girl, born and bred, and has never taken on the airs of Hollywood. Her Chicago roots still run deep, and we found out just how deep that first morning.
“This is my niece,” Marilu said, introducing her to John. “She used to baby sit for you when your daughters were kids.”
“You paid me in record albums,” her niece replied. “I thought that was so cool.”
With that immediate connection established, Marilu had guaranteed smooth sailing for any and all interviews on our show.
Some of those interviews were truly memorable, too. I tell a story in the Radio Producer’s Handbook about one of those times.
The first thing John said to her on the air was: “We’ll be right back after these commercial announcements. Marilu and I are going down to Michigan Avenue in a taxi and we’ll be conducting the interview from there.” Marilu was completely thrown off, but went with the concept. She still got to plug the book she was promoting, but she also talked to a taxi driver about her show Taxi and had a wonderful time doing an interview that was completely different from the ten other interviews she had to do that day.
The taxi bit was so memorable we actually released it on our final CD: Landecker & the Legends, 20th Century Hits & Bits. The taxi driver was from Nigeria and had never heard of the show, so we gave him a Taxi multiple choice test. We played a clip from the show, and he had to guess the next line of dialogue among three possible choices. Marilu was not only a great sport about it, she really seemed to have a great time.
After that interview, she gave us her cell-phone number and told us we could call anytime. I only took her up on that one time—on John’s 50th birthday. She was pumping gas in LA when I reached her. I told her it was John’s birthday, and without prompting, she sang Happy Birthday To You ala Marilyn Monroe. The visual of her doing this sultry song in front of the other customers at the gas station was something that still sticks in my head all these years later (John turned 60 this year).
I have memories of one other Marilu interview, too, but only because it was so personally embarrassing. One year when Marilu came into town, John thought it would be funny to see if she did any nude scenes, and if so, to play the audio on the air and see if she could identify the scene.
This was in the days before celebrity nudity internet sites or YouTube or Google. I had to go to the video store and rent all the R-rated movies she appeared in to see if there were any nude scenes. On my last choice, The Man Who Loved Women, I found her only nude scene. She was topless in a scene with Burt Reynolds for about five seconds. I dubbed off the audio and brought the clip into the show so John could play it on the air.
However, I hadn’t considered that I would also be sitting right across from her when this audio clip was played. It took her only a split second to figure out what was going on, and she looked right at me.
“So, which one of you sickos watched that videotape to get this clip?” she asked. I’m told that she had a smile on her face, but I can’t confirm that because there was no way I could look her in the eye. She guessed correctly anyway. “It was Rick, wasn’t it?”
“He insisted,” John replied helpfully. “He said he had to watch it a dozen times just to make sure he got it right.”
Marilu thought that was funny, and I laughed too, but I must admit…that was an awkward moment.
(Marilu was so nice she even did an endorsement for my advertising agency: Marilu for A.M.I.S.H. Chicago Advertising)
For hundreds of additional celebrity and radio stories, check out my book "The Radio Producer's Handbook," which is still available at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
If you missed any of the previous Celebrity Snippets, click here: http://celebritysnippets.blogspot.com