Marlo Thomas checks in with TV’s dapper fashion guru and reigning champion of all things style.
If you could write a personal slogan that you live by, what would it be?
I know that many people associate me with the phrase, “Make it work!” -- I started invoking that phrase to my students 30 years ago. But for me personally, the phrase that I live by is “Take the high road!” I find that no matter how much strife, consternation or bad behavior I’m faced with, taking the high road always makes me feel virtuous and better for it.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Oh, that’s easy: “Wow!” Imagine every possible intonation and iterative use of that word, and I stand guilty of it.
What is your obsession?
I have to admit that I have a very strong obsessive/compulsive streak. I’m obsessed with neatness and order -- always!
What do you collect?
I collect a lot of things: architectural models (my favorites are from timothyrichards.com), Ming dynasty tomb furniture (I began collecting these small-scale wonders during my many trips to Hong Kong for Parsons School of Design, and never paid more than $50 to 75 for anything!), drawings and watercolors of interiors, and I’m a bookaholic -- I have hundreds and hundreds. I can never be a minimalist, because I’m too much of a “thing” person.
Who is your personal hero?
There are many, many people who are heroes of mine, the most recent being Sgt. Reinita Gray, who lost a leg to a missile while on her fourth tour of duty in Iraq. I had the honor of working with Sgt. Gray while she was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. There is a common denominator among these many extraordinary people, and that is: the triumph of the human spirit.
What brings you peace?
In most instances, a gin and tonic will do it.
What is always at your bedside?
An alarm clock and a bottle of TUMS.
Who or what always makes you laugh?
Marlo, it’s the episode of That Girl in which you sell shoes door-to-door. I’ve seen it a hundred times and I still convulse with laughter!
Who was the funniest person in your childhood?
My maternal Grandmother was an unintentional hoot. We spent every Sunday with her, and she never disappointed. Most of what made her funny was her wonderful ability to laugh at herself, especially as her hearing began to diminish. Her malapropisms and bon mots became family lore.
What movie can you watch a million times without ever getting tired of it?
I’m certain that I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz a million times. Can you believe that I still break out in a cold sweat when Dorothy is trapped in the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West?
Is she your favorite bad guy, or is there someone else?
It’s Bea Lillie as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Her cunning, though occasionally inept, evilness is laugh-out-loud funny.
When you’re watching TV, what makes you want to throw the remote at the screen?
Whenever I accidentally stumble upon a reality show that exhibits bouts of bad behavior, I want to extinguish the entire medium of television.
Which of the seven deadly sins is your favorite?
If I own up to being guilty of committing any of those sins, then I’d have to say that I am most guilty of pride. I fully understand the “sin” aspect of the other sins, but what’s so horrible about a little pride now and then?
What do you find sexy?
For me, anyone who is supremely comfortable in their skin, understands the power of the semiotics of clothes, and navigates the world with exceptional confidence is sexy.
What was worst fashion faux pas ever?
Oh dear, it was polyester ANYTHING from the 70’s. Bad. Sad.
Which song or songs would make the perfect soundtrack for your life?
This is a tough one for me. I’m a squishy romantic in spite of living alone and being without a romantic partner for years and years. Songs about unequivocal happiness or unrequited love seem to resonate with me. I suppose the best way to narrow my list of favorite songs is to think about what would be playing while the credits roll on a (short) biography. Okay, it’s the Pet Shop Boys singing “Absolutely Fabulous!”
If you were a stripper, what would you choose for your stage name?
What's the most useless piece of advice you've ever received?
It was from Kathy Griffin (may I say that?). She insisted that I dye my hair and have botox treatments. She said, “There's no reason for you to look like an old man.” I nodded politely.
What do you remember most about your first kiss?
I remember it very well. I was six-years old. My friend Patty Harris and I were hanging upside down on a playground jungle gym when “it” happened. We both laughed a lot afterwards.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to regain my former ability to more quickly metabolize what I eat. As I get older, it becomes harder and harder to fight back my body’s tendency to become a bowling pin.
What is your greatest fear?
That I am becoming the shape of a bowling pin.
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