Marilu Henner

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Firefighters’ Marshal Marilu Henner shows off her makeshift “Bloom” earrings, which were table decorations before she decided to wear them as jewelry during Friday evening’s Firefighters’ Parade in downtown Winchester.

WINCHESTER — Marilu Henner had only been in Winchester a few hours before deciding they wouldn’t have to ask her twice to come back.

“I’m so in love with everybody and this place,” Henner said. “And I got to drive a firetruck. How cool is that?”

The star of the classic sitcoms “Taxi” and “Evening Shade” is serving as the Firefighters’ Marshal for the 92nd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. Before riding in Friday evening’s Firefighters’ Parade, the 67-year-old Los Angeles resident took some time to discuss her prolific career.

It began in 1971 in her hometown of Chicago, when Henner originated the role of Marty in the first production of “Grease.”

“A friend of mine wrote it,” she said, referring to Chicago native Jim Jacobs. “People from New York saw it and they wanted us to come audition, but my father had just passed away, I had four scholarships to go to the University of Chicago and, truthfully, I didn’t think it was going to be a hit.”

Henner later appeared in three Broadway plays and a handful of movies before winning the role of Elaine Nardo in “Taxi,” which ran for four seasons on ABC from 1978 to 1982, and a fifth season on NBC from 1982 to 1983.

“Taxi” was a critically beloved sitcom that depicted the everyday lives of people who worked for a New York City cab company. Her co-stars — many of whom were relatively unknown at the time — included Judd Hirsch, Danny Devito, Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway and Carol Kane.

Kaufman died in 1984 and Conaway in 2011, but the remaining cast members continue to enjoy tremendous success in movies, TV and Broadway plays.

“We are all still really close,” she said. “We have constant reunions because we adore one another so much.”

Henner’s success on television led to numerous starring roles in 1980s and ‘90s hit movies including “The Man Who Loved Women,” “Cannonball Run II,” “Johnny Dangerously,” “Rustlers’ Rhapsody” and “L.A. Story.”

In 1999, Henner and her “Taxi” co-stars recreated the set of their former sitcom for a scene in the film “Man on the Moon,” a biographical drama about Kaufman’s life. Henner, who has a condition called hyperthymesia that gives her perfect recall memory, said director Milos Forman got every detail correct except one: “The color of the seats.”

“Man on the Moon” star Jim Carrey channeled Kaufman’s abrasive and acerbic alter ego, Tony Clifton, while shooting the scene. Henner said that was nothing like the Kaufman she knew and loved.

“Andy was so sweet and so normal, and that was his genius,” she said. “When I saw what Jim did, I said, ‘Well, it’s a choice and Milos Forman isn’t stopping him.’”

Henner also had faint praise for Donald Trump, the current U.S. president who she worked with on his NBC shows “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008 and “The All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” in 2013.

“I had a blast on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ That’s all I’ll say.”

When it comes to former co-star Burt Reynolds, Henner overflows with kind comments.

The pair acted together in two movies, and Reynolds directed her in TV and stage productions, but they are best remembered for co-starring in the CBS sitcom “Evening Shade” from 1990 to 1994.

“I adored him,” she said. “I loved him so much. He’s one of my favorite people in my entire life.”

Henner was with Reynolds at the Los Angeles premier of what turned out to be his final film, “The Last Movie Star,” which was released just six months before his death on Sept. 6.

Henner continues to act, most notably in an ongoing series of Hallmark Channel movies based on the Aurora Teagarden book series by author Charlaine Harris.

She’s also an author who has published 10 books on topics including diet, health and memory.

“I’m working on the 11th one right now,” Henner said. “I’m not allowed to say what it is because my publisher doesn’t want to give away the idea until it’s out.”

Henner has fully embraced her role as Firefighters’ Marshal for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, and even snagged a pair of table decorations that spelled out “Bloom” and wore them as jewelry during Friday’s parade.

“I don’t care that they’re ornaments,” Henner said. “Now they’re earrings.”

— Contact Brian Brehm at

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