Who’s That Woman?
by Deborah Wagner
Once upon a time, in classic TV land, every week someone would look at a young, independent, happening sixties woman, point at her and refer to her as being “That girl!” The character of Ann Marie on the series That Girl was the first “modern” American woman to star in a series on 60s TV. All these years later, we are still pointing at Marlo Thomas as a mover and a shaker, a trend-setter and pioneer.
For decades, when people would hear Thomas’ name they would think of that beloved 60s sit-com. However, her acting career has extended over five decades, giving her many other acting gigs on film, stage and television, including playing Jennifer Aniston’s mom on Friends and recently appearing with Miley Cyrus in LOL.
Beyond her acting pursuits, Thomas has long been the public face of her father Danny Thomas’ charity St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She is also an accomplished writer. She created the classic children’s TV book, record and TV special Free to Be… You and Me. She has written six best-selling books. She is also half of a famous Hollywood couple, married for decades to long-time talk show host Phil Donahue.
Now this award-winning actress, author and activist has added a new title to her resume – clothing designer. The new line will be sold exclusively on Home Shopping Network (HSN) starting later this week. The tag for this project is a play on Thomas’ classic hit TV show That Girl, which aired from 1966 to 1971.
“‘That Woman’ really signifies where I’m coming from,” Thomas told us at a recent preview fashion show in suburban Philadelphia. “I was ‘That Girl’ and I am now ‘That Woman.’ I carry some of the ‘That’ with me, as I think we all do. We’ve all got a little bit of a girl in us still. A lot of women feel they have to act older and be age appropriate, but I feel you should be appropriate for you. For me, I like a little skin showing, a little flare, some fringe and fun, maybe some sparkle. That’s what my clothes show.”
Thomas isn’t the type to let someone else run the show. She is involved in every aspect of her line. “I produced That Girl,” she said. “I’m not the kind of person to sit back and let others do for me. When we decided to do this, I wanted to be on the design team. I wanted to chose the colors, the fabrics. I wanted samples made in my size to try on and see how they fit and feel. If the fabric didn’t feel great, we would change it, or not make it at all.”
The line currently consists of fourteen casually chic and versatile designs (with more to come). These include jackets, a skirt, pants, sweaters, tops, a cute That Woman tote bag bearing the iconic That Girl logo from the show, and an adorable retro 60’s-style dress designed after an outfit Thomas actually wore decades earlier on That Girl. There is great attention to detail for each item. They all come in three to five different colors and mix and match together beautifully, proving you don’t have to give up style or fit when you reach a certain age.
HSN will also be presenting two jewelry pieces from the line. Prices from the That Woman line range anywhere from $39.90 for the heart choker to $79.90 for the lace-up sweater and $169.90 for the perforated Moto jacket, which is made of an incredible fabric called sueded.
Thomas calls the line, “trendy, hip and not old lady-ish. I designed That Woman with women over forty in mind,” she said. “But my husband’s nineteen-year old granddaughter has already bought that suede jacket in pink. My nieces are all buying it too. They want the cold shoulder sweater and the jacket. I didn’t design it for them, but I am thrilled that younger woman want to buy it too.”
“I’m really excited about the launch. I think people are going to love these clothes. They’re darling, they’re fun, they’re washable and packable. I took all of them on my trip with me and they traveled so well. You can even wash the sueded jacket. Woman should leave the house and feel good. That’s what these clothes do.”
While attending the preview fashion show for the line hosted by Thomas and HSN, we saw first-hand the exceptional quality and workmanship put into each garment. The fabrics truly felt expensive, and the designs were all a hit with the customers in attendance.
“You can feel zippy and sexy and flirty,” she told them. “They’re perfect to go out on a date, or go out on a date with your husband. Maybe you’re going back into the job market or you have a job interview. The whole feeling of it ain’t over until it’s over, which is the name of one of my books,” she joked.
With acting roles dating back to the early 60’s, Thomas also remains passionate about acting. Her acting credits include television, film and theatre.
“As you might know, I just did two plays in a row on Broadway and off Broadway.” Thomas says, referring to the acclaimed plays Relatively Speaking and Clever Little Lies. “I’m in [the upcoming film] Ocean’s Eight now with Sandra Bullock. I just did a part in [the series] Wet Hot American Summer on Netflix. I’m always acting. I love it. It’s my number one love.” Thomas pauses and smiles. “Comedy is actually my number one love.” Another quick pause. “Well, St. Jude is my number one love. Or maybe Phil is my number one love, then St. Jude, then acting,” she teases.
The Phil she is discussing is of course her husband of 36 years – talk show host, producer and writer Phil Donahue. “He’s a good man,” Thomas gushed. “He’s exactly the kind man you’d think he is.”
A marriage lasting 36 years is quite an accomplishment, and the audience loudly voiced their approval when Thomas mentioned this fact at the fashion show.
“Phil often jokes that we deserve the applause,” she joked. “We are lucky. As my friend Alan Alda once said, ‘Marriage is like throwing the glass dice on a brick floor. We just don’t know how it can turn out.’ So Phil and I are very fortunate.”
The clothing line is not the first-time Thomas has crossed paths with HSN. The two have partnered successfully to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a labor of love started by Thomas’ father – Make Room for Daddy actor Danny Thomas – back in 1962. One of the largest children’s health organizations, the charity has its mission statement listed on their website: “St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.”
“Every child has a chance and no one has to pay,” explained Thomas.
“It costs $2.4 million dollars a day to run St. Jude, so it keeps us all running pretty fast to try and keep that money coming in,” she continued. “Because nobody pays, we have to raise the money from the public.”
The hospital is not just a calling for Thomas, it is a passion, just as it was for her father. In fact, its importance in her life came as something of a surprise.
“I love it,” said Thomas about St. Jude. “I really do. It’s something that is so close to my heart, [something] that I didn’t think I was going to do.”
It had been a passion for Danny Thomas, but when he was dying he told his family that he did not want them to feel obligated to continue the hospital. It was his thing and he did not expect them to share his life mission.
“My dad said we didn’t have to do it. Little by little each of us have come to it. It’s very enriching.”
The seventy-nine-year old has a sense of excitement and a love for life that is infectious when you speak with her. “I just think the whole cushion of life is love and laughter,” Thomas stated. “If you can laugh and have the capacity to love, it’s beautiful.”
As a strong, driven, giving woman, her experience in television and philanthropy even helped her land the coveted Medal of Freedom in 2014, which was presented to Thomas by President Barack Obama.
With such a whirlwind life, Marlo Thomas shows no signs of wanting to slow down. Future projects are already swirling around her head, including more acting roles, expanding on her That Woman line, possibly even adding a skin care crème line, writing additional books and much more. At a point in her life when many of her contemporaries are settling in, the sky is still the limit for That Woman.
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 18, 2017.
Photos by Deborah Wagner © 2016
except for photo # 2 © 1967 Courtesy of CBS Television.