The Everett Collection

Taxi's Marilu Henner hailed a cab and rode it all the way to success

Marilu Henner is known for her role as Elaine Nardo, a single mother who worked as a cabby and aspired to be an artist, on the series Taxi (1978-1983).

She was the only female cabby on Taxi and a good one too—especially while dealing with the likes of Alex Reiger (Judd Hirsch), Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway) and Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito). It takes a strong woman to tackle the New York cabby lifestyle.

She was undoubtedly good at her job as both an actress and a cab driver. She was so good that in 1979, New York cabbies lined up to meet Henner in person on the first day of Spring. 

Taxi had more to offer than your average sitcom; It resonated with viewers all over the country, and especially with drivers. Cabbies from all over New York, who go at heart-pounding speeds to get city residents to their destinations, met with Henner.

According to a 1979 interview with Sunday News, the cabbies spoke from their hearts as they praised her accurate portrayal in the show. Henner met the cabbies at their home turf, the Belmore Cafeteria, a famous New York taxi hangout established 50 years before the interview.

Besides their praises, gifts and a few tips for Henner, the cabbies also had a very special gift to give as a token of their appreciation: Hack License No. 182621. A hack license is a license to drive a taxi or passenger car for hire. Henner said the meet-and-greet seemed more like a warm reunion than it did the first introduction with the fans. 

In another 1979 interview with The Central New Jersey Home News, Taxi director James Burrows said Taxi was out to prove a lesson audiences had already started to learn in M*A*S*H: being sensitive is in.

"Taxi is not the kind of show that has jokes in it," Burrows said. "We don't believe in set-ups and one-liners. What we're celebrating here is a story about real life and real people and, of course, life has plenty of funny moments. You'll never catch us doing joke-joke-joke without any reason."

The producers, who also worked on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, said they structured the sets of Taxi so that the story ideas could be expanded on each week. This allowed the characters to have a more natural character development. Most typical sitcoms had a standard number of sets, Taxi had only a few, which allowed everyone to have a tremendous amount of freedom. 

According to the article, many cab drivers related to the show and its characters. Specifically, they resonated with Elaine Nardo and Danny DeVito's character, Louie De Palma.

Henner enjoyed the feeling of family on Taxi, but the sense of family expanded much further than she imagined. Cabbies everywhere felt connected to Taxi and became a second family to Henner.

"I think what makes the show great is the feeling we all have each other," Henner said. "We have such a good feeling for each other, and it carries through the air."

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