Hi! This is the Richard Cohen Show, coming to you live from Washington, D.C., where today's special guest is Phil Donahue, who with much angst, tears and goodbye kisses is moving his show from Chicago to New York so that (gasp) he can live with his wife, Marlo Thomas, even on weekdays. Let's start, as Phil always does, with a question posed as a tease: Phil, have you finally become a wife?
I see you're grinning, Phil, and brushing your hair back with your fingers, boyish-style. What I'm asking is whether or not you have realized that, in your endless goodbye from Chicago, the stories about it and the intense speculation over whether the tough-as-nails New York studio audience will make a difference to your show and thus to your career, you have not become a parody of the corporate wife. You are, after all, moving to stay with the person you love.
Of course, Phil, there are some differences. You can take your job with you. You announce you're moving to New York and that's all there is to it. Producers move and bookers move and directors move, too. Even their families. You ought to do a show about it. You ought to ask your employees whether they now hate you and whether any of their marriages have broken up. We here at the Richard Cohen Show do not blame you, though. Such is life.
The thing of it is, Phil, that what's happening to you happens to a lot of people, but with a lot less publicity. Most of them are women. They have to move to stay with the person to whom they're married. They get transplanted and have to learn all about a new city, find new friends, schools for their kids, doctors, dentists and -- most important and most difficult of all -- a good dry cleaner.
In some sense, though, that's the least of it, Phil. Many of these women (okay, sometimes nowadays it's men) also give up their jobs, even careers. They and their husbands have to decide which one ultimately has the more important career. That's a tough decision to make, and it's often not done without leaving behind a lot of scar tissue. It does not make it easier that lots of men just assume their career has primacy. They assert it as a right. Oink, oink, Phil. Know what I mean?
Years ago, my wife and I gave a speech at a local university on the subject of dual-career marriages. We have one of those, and it has caused, I needn't tell you, a bit of a problem from time to time. So anyway, I said that the big what-if question of contemporary couples was not what if you came home earlier and found your spouse in bed with someone else (the milkperson)? The new what-if question went like this: What if your company wanted to transfer you to Paris in the spring and Rome in the fall, London for the start of the theater season, Greece for the blooming of the poppies, New York at Christmas time and Washington when the cherry blossoms popped? And your spouse could not go? Or could only go at the cost of a career? What then? What then?
For this question, Phil, like the one that went before it, there are no answers. You must sit and talk and have a piece of fruit. You must talk to your company and hope they understand why you have turned down the transfer of a lifetime. You must hope they understand that they can no longer think they employ just a person, but a family instead and that they have to take that into consideration. Some people have understanding employers, some don't.
Anyway, Phil, I know you are an understanding, smart person, sensitive like a therapist, and the things I am saying here today have probably already occurred to you. I am sure you realize that this business about the anguish of your moving from Chicago is a joke. You and Thomas are one of the fortunate couples. You can have your cake and eat it too. No one has had to make te ultimate decision here. No one had to trash a career for the sake of a spouse -- unless it's the people who work for you.
Whoops, Phil, I see we're out of time. Thank you for coming to Washington, and I'm sorry you didn't get to do any of the talking. I know you had lots to say, lots to explain, but you know how it is, Phil. When you have your own show, you get to do what you want.