by Jocelyn McClurg)
Marlo Thomas has a book she wants to chat up. Yes, she's written a new book, It Ain't Over…Till It's Over (Atria). But first, she wants to rave about the novel she's reading and loving: The Goldfinch.
"It just won the Pulitzer Prize and I was so thrilled it won. Donna Tartt. God, she's good," Thomas says, adding with a laugh: "I'm an English lit major. An old English lit major never dies."
Who knew? Thomas is 76, but to Baby Boomers, she'll always be That Girl, the adorable single girl finding her way in the big city from the hit 1960s sitcom. And to several generations of kids and their parents, she's the author of the classic 1972 book Free To Be…You and Me, reissued a few years ago in a 35th-anniversary edition.
That book (and related TV specials) turned stereotypes about boys and girls upside down, and Thomas is still dedicated to women's issues.
Her new book, which features the stories of 60 women who've "started over," is subtitled Reinventing Your Life – and Realizing Your Dreams – Anytime, at Any Age.
"I travel around the country raising money for St. Jude (Children's Research Hospital) and everywhere I go women have said to me that they feel stuck or betrayed by a society that's not open to them at 45 or 50 years old," says Thomas in her memorable throaty voice.
Reinvention is a popular theme; Jane Pauley earlier this year published a book on the topic, called Your Life Calling.
Marlo Thomas, actress and author of the book 'It Ain't Over.'(Photo: Randee St Nicholas)
Thomas says women are raised on the Cinderella myth that someone will rescue them, and "as you get older you realize there's not going to be a prince coming along with a shoe that fits your foot, because, by the way, there is no shoe, and there is no prince."
Thomas, who has been married to former talk show host Phil Donahue since 1980, has found ways to reinvent herself. She has a website (marlothomas.com), and on "Mondays with Marlo" she does online chats with guests who've included Chelsea Clinton, Dr. Oz, Katie Couric and actor Jon Hamm of Mad Men. (Thomas is a big Mad Men fan. On Sunday night's episode, '60s adman Don Draper, played by Hamm, happened to have his TV tuned to a That Girl episode.)
In 2010 she published her memoir, Growing Up Laughing. She continues to act, and hopes to bring the play Clever Little Lies to New York (perhaps Broadway). She played the withholding mother of a homeless boxer (Thomas Haden Church) in the movie Cardboard Boxer, not yet released. ("It's not the kind of part I play very often but I was very moved by the story.")
And if That Girl lives on in the memories of fans, she doesn't mind at all.
"It's great," she says of the continuing fan reaction, "but I'm still floored. All day, every woman I meet."