The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on April 6, 1986 · Page 224
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 224

Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 6, 1986
Page 224
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Washington, D.C.. and Boston and watched tapes of victims of panic disorder the disease that incapacitated Marie Baiter. "Once you've learned the externals of panic disorder the shallow breathing, the contracted hand, all the different symptoms then you have to go inside and pick out those demons that frighten you. the demons that you are dealing with in your life." she said. In Marie Baiter's case, those demons of memory are frighteningly apparent: An orphan, she was adopted by parents who alternately locked her out of their home, locked her into a basement and sometimes even tied her to a post to punish her for imagined offenses. Thomas manages in her role to summon up a panic in her voice, a madness in her eyes, that evoke Marie Baiter's suffering. But how could the privileged daughter of Danny Thomas, and a successful producer and star in her own right, find such demons within herself? "Everyone has pain." she said. "In that sense, there's no one who's really a privileged person, People's demons have to do with love, acceptance, approval, rejection there's no escaping that for any human being on earth. You'd he less than human if you didn t have those basic needs and no one has all those needs fulfilled. We all have a place we feel locked out of." As she spoke. Thomas hunched forward in herchair. her tone serious. "In Marie Baiter's case." she said, "the people in her life didn't love her and didn't believe in her. She had to learn to heal herself, to take that dam aged little child inside herself and make her better. Most people are walking around with a damaged child inside of them. Sometimes, when my husband and I are having an argument. I get a flash of what he was like when he was 5 years old; I can see that this isn't about what is happening now. It's some old memory tape he's got going in his mind with his mother or his father or his sisters. A lot of people go through life beating themselves up the same way they were beaten up." Mario Thomas has memories, demons she alone contends with. but. she said, "because I was raised the daughter of somebody famous. I have a natural guard: I teamed very early not to allow anybody to penetrate that wall of privacy. I talk a great deal about things that mean a lot to me. but I don't reveal everything." What she will say of her childhood suggests that it was happy and that her father was her role model. "My father loved his work. We would visit him wherever he was working: his eyes were always shining, and he seemed to behaving the time of his life. My mother did not have her work. She loved her home and children, but she had been a singer, and there was a lot of anguish about giving it up. But I was lucky to live with someone who loved his work." Girl. - . 1 " 3 Passages. Abo, Thomas in TM 1968, a show sho conceived, then outgrew; with husband Phi Donahue; and, right, wHh her father and role model, Danny Thomas: "I was lucky to live with tomeone who hwed his worfc," she says. Mario went to the University of Southern California. "I wanted to go to Northwestern, for the theater school." she recalled. "But my fatherdidn't want me to go out of state. His nightmare was always that I had men growing on trees in the apartment." Perhaps it was inevitable that she would pursue a career, although, as she recalls. "I was the only one in my class: everyone else was getting married." She began to act and when she couldn't find a part she liked, she helped create one. marching into the office of a network executive with a copy of The Feminine Mystique and successfully arguing that the country was ready for a show about a young woman trying to make a career on her own. For a while, the character of Ann Marie and the real-life Mario were very similar. "I was much more serious than That Girl," she said. "But. in a way. "It uuj like no one had ever done it before found a man jhe loved and committed her life to him " f t " v v) s that kind of 'Oh boy golly eeewhiz we have an easy solution to everything was what I thought you were supposed to do. I thought it was the right way to take on lite, with a tremendous amount of optimism. The only bad thing about optimism is that it can start to mask problems and you can't be optimistic toreverilyoudon t solve your problems. By the time That Girl went off the air, Mario was almost 33 and begin ning the journey that would take her to risky, demanding roles like Mane Baiter. By the fourth year of That Girt," she remembered, "I was taking a lot of shortcuts. I was growing Up, going from my 20s to my 30s, and I was still playing tmscniid. i teltlcouldn t do it anymore. I was pretending." She was also stuck in a classic Hollywood trap typecasting. The offers that came her way were light sitcom roles that simply rang changes on the Ann Marie role that she was desperate to escape. "I would read a script and say to myself, 'I already know how to do this. Ine journey was gone. The excitement was gone." Thomas' next move was unconventional if not downright audacious. In 1978, she simply stopped appearing in public. "I needed to go back to the beginning, so I took off and studied with Lee Strasberg and Sandra Seacat," she recalled. "I was working harder than I ever had. I had never done Chekhov and Strindberg and Ibsen before; I'd never been given the opportunity to do them. Strasbere wouldn't even let me continued PMADC MAGAZMC APRW. C, 198 PAGE S

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