Former 'Taxi' star fares well with health, business

Posted: March 01, 2013

MARILU HENNER must have more than 24 hours in her day. When she's not acting on TV or in movies, writing books, starring in a play or raising her two teenagers, she likes to spread her message of good health.

She recently participated in "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice," which premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on NBC. Henner competed in the first "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2008.

Though she may be best-known for playing Elaine O'Connor-Nardo on "Taxi," Henner has since published nine books and appeared on multiple television shows, including FitTV's "Shape Up Your Life" and her own talk show in the mid-'90s.

Henner, 60, lives in Los Angeles with her third husband, Michael Brown. (She was previously married to actor Frederic Forrest and director Robert Lieberman)

The Daily News spoke with Henner about her experiences with Donald Trump, her unusual memory skills (she has highly superior autobiographical memory, a neurological condition that allows her to remember everything that has happened in her life) and her husband's fight with cancer.

Q: What was your experience like on "Celebrity Apprentice"?

A: I had such a great time the first time around. It was crazy. We did 13 tasks in 13 days. Most nights it was three hours [of sleep]. But even though they ran us ragged, I still had a great time.

Q: What was different about "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice"?

A: Even though everybody brought their A game, there's a real sense of humor this time. It was still cutthroat, though. People were very competitive.

Q: What did you enjoy most?

A: I knew some of the players - Trace [Adkins], Steve Baldwin and Omarosa. It was fun to play with friends again.

I [also] like a good challenge. Every day, finding out that we have to do this in just a few hours. Thinking of an overview and a plan of attack, of how to not only work hard but work smart. That time crunch was always present. That clock was always ticking. What's really great about it is you come off the show feeling so powerful and alive that it carries over into real life.

Q: Why does a good challenge speak to you?

A: I grew up in a big family. [She was the third of six kids.] There was always a lot of activity growing up. My family owned a dancing school in our backyard. My uncle taught art classes upstairs.

I like things that force you to raise the bar for yourself and to play to a skill set that you don't get to use in your everyday life.

I like the personal challenge that's involved with "Celebrity Apprentice." You're away from everything, and it's just relying on your own brain cells' wherewithal and memory and whatever talents you have. I think I got to use every talent I've ever expressed and then some.

Q: Did people treat you differently this time around, knowing now that you have highly superior autobiographical memory?

A: Donald Trump asked me [that]. My response was, "Last time, some people might have thought I was a bit of a know-it-all, and this time they know that I'm a know-it-all." Or at least I remember it all.

Q: What's your next project?

A: I'm working on my 10th book right now. It's called How I Cured My Husband's Cancer. It's actually a memoir about the journey he and I took 10 years ago when we first reconnected. We knew each other in college at the University of Chicago - he was my roommate's boyfriend. We got together 10 years ago, and we've been together ever since. A few months into our relationship, he was diagnosed with cancer. The book is about what he did to put two major cancers into remission without chemo or radiation. It's a love story/memoir.

Q: How do you see your evolution from your "Taxi" days to your present self?

A: My mother wore so many hats; we had so much going on in our household. That inspired me to do so many things, whether it was acting, singing and dancing, I go all over the country lecturing, playing things like "Celebrity Apprentice." I have a few more television things on the horizon. I feel like I'm always doing a little bit of everything that I love to do - actually, a lot of everything that I love to do. The groundwork was laid during my "Taxi" years, but I get to do so much more now.

Q: What do you most enjoy?

A: I mostly love talking about and writing about health. I've been in the health business for a long time, because I completely changed my life 33 years ago after my parents passed away at young ages. As a result, I've been involved in health for a long time.

When I say health, I don't just mean eating and exercise, I also mean lifestyle, parenting, memory. I love acting and singing and dancing, too, but if I had to pick one thing, I'd say being involved in the health world. I love anything that's going to help me improve my life or the life of anyone else around me.

Q: What is your central approach to good health?

A: Getting healthy is not about measuring, weighing, counting the calories, the fats, the grams, the points of the same old crappy food. You have to learn to love the food that loves you. If you improve the quality of your food, the quantity takes care of itself.

I've been eating a plant-based diet for 33 1/2 years. My health birthday is August 15, 1979, which was a Wednesday. And that's when I gave up dairy products.

Q: What advice would you give to those striving to live by your health guides?

A: Progress, not perfection. You do it a little at a time. Maybe you'll just start reading labels. Or maybe you're going to have less sugar, or give up soda. I took 10 different steps. My first book was called Total Health Makeover, and for me, it started with giving up Tab.

You do a little bit at a time. Maybe it's movement, maybe it's exercise, maybe it's walking a mile a day. You're never too young or too old to feel better than you do right now.

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