Make Room for Daddy

“All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why.”

—Danny Thomas

Today’s story is about Marlo Thomas and her dad Danny Thomas.

Daddy’s little girl had exciting news. An A+ essay at school. But Daddy was on the road. So she read it to him over the phone. That conversation changed his life. And hers. And possibly yours.

Marlo Thomas

Marlo Thomas (right) and her sister Terre in 1969

Margaret (“Marlo”) Thomas has now grown up. She’s an actor like Dad.

Her dad — Danny Thomas — became a household name in his day. But it wasn’t always that way. He started his career touring small clubs as a comedian. He traveled extensively and was often away.

Marlo remembers:

“Because [Dad was touring] it was like having a long distance daddy a lot of the time. And he would always call us long distance, every single night…

“…I was about in the sixth grade and I had written this essay called ‘Viva Today’. And the teacher loved it and she had me get up in front of the whole class and read it. And I got an A on it. So those were the kind of things we always told daddy when he called…”

That A+ essay. Marlo and Daddy. That night on the phone. ‘Read it to Daddy!’ said Danny, excited, enthused.

“…I don’t remember exactly the words now but the point of it was… people are so busy working hard to make a better tomorrow that sometimes they forget about today.

I used my own father as an example, that my father travels all over the country making money for his children, making their lives better and ensuring that they have a better tomorrow…

…But the sad thing is, someday when my dad comes home, his children are going to be gone and grown…

‘So I say, Viva Today’!”

Danny Thomas with his TV daughter, Angela Cartwright

Danny Thomas with his TV daughter, Angela Cartwright

Marlo finished reading her essay to dad. On the other end of the phone, Danny was stone silent.

“I was just a kid, I had no idea that I was telling him something about our lives that was hard, that was sad.”

Then Danny spoke, in a very soft, serious voice, “Well, that, that’s beautiful Mugs. Daddy is going to have to think about that.”

What Marlo didn’t know for many years, Danny Thomas called his agent straight away. He wanted off the road. He wanted to come home.

This could have killed his career. But he made a choice. Family trumps work. He’d figure it out.

It’s interesting what you can accomplish when you make up your mind. No escape. All in. Find a way.

Danny Thomas did. He conceived of a show that mirrored his own life. About an entertainer, a family man, who’s always on the road, but misses his family and longs to come home.

“Make Room for Daddy” ran for 13 years. It was a staple in American living rooms. It ran from 1953-1957 on ABC and 1957-1964 on CBS. It catapulted Danny, and ultimately Marlo to stratospheric careers, remarkable lives.

All because of an A+ essay. Written by a bright little girl. If only she’d known.

The takeaway? Family. Work. Time away. Perhaps you can have it both ways. Have you tried?

A cool footnote: When Danny was away, Marlo & brother & sis, all slept cozy with Mom. “My mother was lonely and we were lonely for my dad,” Marlo recalls. “But when dad was about to come home she would always tell us, ‘Ok… Go to your own rooms… You’ve got to… make room for daddy.'” When producers heard it, the name for an iconic TV show and meteoric career was set.

Marlo Thomas, 2008

Marlo at book signing 2008
Photo: Shannon from NY

Following in her famous father’s footsteps, Marlo Thomas is an actress, producer, author and social activist. She also serves as National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which her father founded in 1962.

Story source: “Viva Today! Remembering My Father,” by Marlo Thomas, June 14, 2013, The Huffington Post.

Your Comments

  1. Tina

    Loved this story. I grew up watching Marlo Thomas. What a great role model for young girls. Her work with St. Jude’s is amazing as well. Smart as a kid and more insightful as an adult. She continues to be a bright light is this world. Cheers to Danny Thomas for being there and a great example to his children.

  2. Tina Stubbs

    I have so much respect for Mr.Thomas for founding St.Judes..and for Marlo who has so much love and respect for these children and there families….Wish we had more people like them in this world ..God has a special place in his heart and in heaven for you both

  3. Muggs

    I heard your Dad called you Mugs. My Dad called me that too and now at78. yrs old people look at me funnywhen I say my name.

  4. Nancy

    To Greg,

    I just left the above reply (my name is Nancy). What a wonderful way to honor your Dad by creating this website in honor of his memory! It is nice to know there are people like you still around. So glad I found this website. Please keep up the good work!!

    1. Greg Hague Post author

      Thank you so much for the very kind words. This website was a “work of the heart.” My wife, Roseann, and oldest son, Brian, deserve a lot of credit for helping me. If you’d like a complimentary copy of my book, How Fathers Change Lives, email me at



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