As an adult today, Penny is still the same as she was as a kid. She attends sporting events, wastes time playing on her IPAD, watching movies and talking on her phone. Still a kid at heart. Penny has never wanted to grow up and stop playing. Try hard, play by the rules, help your friends, don't go crazy & fun. Penny's mom was well known across the Bronx as the owner, worker & operator of the Majorie Marshall Dance School. Penny was the OPPOSITE of everyone else. She was extremely skinny, a BAD overbite and she thought telling the truth was overrated. Penny's parents met in college at NYU. Penny's mom thought Tony Marshall was a clever, handsome, athletic writer & cartoonist. She was someone who possessed the smarts & skills to be a good provider. She wanted him to make programs for the recitals she choreographed. They married in 1932. After her mom's death, Penny found notes that were typed by mom concerning her parents' marriage that was news for her.
When she was a kid, Penny would play w/ the other kids in the apartment building. There was always that one elderly neighbor who threatens to nark them out. They were ALWAYS outside playing unless bad weather, that didn't stop the fun inside. They created their own fun. (If you ask me, that is something that is SORELY missing in today's kids.) Penny would have liked to be be w/ her siblings, they were older than her and she barely knew them. Penny never paid attention to boundaries or skin color. They weren't conformed to any specific religions. Garry conformed to one, Ronny was another and Penny conformed to different. Identity wasn't an issue. Penny's hometown in the Bronx was the center of her universe: It's a part of who she is. Penny's mother would have been ecstatic if she had been following her footsteps and become a dancer. Her mom tried her best to mold her into one. Penny debuted in her first recital at age 4. By age 8, she HATED every minute of it being hour long classes. The other girls loved her mom. Not Penny. She wanted to give her mom a scare.
It became/was a Marshall family tradition spending their summers at camp. Penny's mom was the dance counselor at Camp Genova, so Penny went to camp every summer. Before camp, their mother would close the ballroom, load up the family car and Garry, Ronny, Penny & their mom would take a road trip. At age 8, Penny could meld like a 70-year-old playing canasta. Penny loved whatever summer camp she went to. This was Penny's getaway. Garry began at Northwestern University. Before leaving, he told his siblings, they could stick together in life. They are the ones to understand each other. Penny didn't know it then, but Garry was right.
Penny was a typical teenager. She was a member of the Elvis Presley Fan Club, still owning her membership card and thought constantly about boys. The Marshall Plan referred to Penny's interest in getting boys to pay attention to her. She tried to ship school as often as she could. After school ended, Penny would meet up w/ friends and ask about the day. Their world revolved around weekly dances at school. After the news of their parents divorce, Penny stole some items she didn't need and headed for the door thinking she was sick. She was automatically caught and was a smart-ass to the officer. She and her friends went to night court and received probation. Penny was great at studying chemistry, calculus & physics w/ the smart kids. The periodic table, elements, charts & graphs. Penny was too social for her own good. She wasn't trading the Parkway for the library. After seeing her sisters choices after college, Penny thought "why give a sit about grades?" From choosing books or boys, Penny chose boys. She never doubted she would go to college, Penny decided where to go w/ a C average. She settled on the University Of New Mexico because they accepted anyone from out of state.
Penny dated someone from Texas that scared her w/ his politeness. She was an outsider and was ignorant of ALOT of the biases that Southern boys possessed. She was suggested not to sit w/ different people. "It wasn't cool w/ Texas boys." Screw that. Penny was great at crossing boundaries. At the end of her freshman year, Penny met Mickey Henry. You couldn't find two more different people. When summer came, Penny was a camp counselor and Mickey worked in construction, keeping in touch through letters and conversations. One weekend in the season Mickey didn't make the travel team and sunk into a depression. They went out the next night and in the process of consoling him, they got romantic in his car. Penny KNEW she was pregnant later on and a few days later, tests confirmed it.
|Penny and Tracy|
When it came labor time, Penny's mom was w/ her. She couldn't remember shit. They were mute when her water broke. Labor went on for at least 24 hours. The final 6 hours were hard labor. On 7-6-1964, Penny gave birth to a 7LB baby girl, Tracy Lee Henry. In 1965, Penny's New Year resolution was to find work. She made a list of dance schools and looked for a job. She was hired at The Litka School Of Music.
After Mickey had sent flowers to an old girlfriend, Penny wasn't mad, she KNEW they were just two people trying to do the right thing under circumstances they weren't yet prepared for. One day a man from The Albuquerque Civic Opera came into The Litka School Of Music asking for Penny wanting her to choreograph their production. She turned him down but took up the offer to be in it. She was soon hired to be an assistant for an energetic actor w/ a big voice. She then auditioned for a role in his play that he asked her to do. The theater motivated Penny & Mickey to get divorced. They were already living separate lives. Somehow Mickey's mother & grandmother took care of Tracy and took Penny & Mickey to court for custody. They (Penny & Mickey) never ACTUALLY went to court, but Mickey's mom & grandmother took care of Tracy. They were just young and needed to start over.
After the production, Penny decided to move to LA. When she got there, Garry was married and had a good life. He offered to help Penny w/ what she wanted to do. She didn't know. Garry had already written w/ a partner for 'The Danny Thomas Show', 'The Lucy Show' & 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'. When Penny was telling her brother what she had already done performing, he seen a light in her eyes. He suggested she try acting in movies & TV. Garry took care of his sister just as an older brother should. He pointed her in the RIGHT path/direction.
Penny began taking acting classes. She may have had to be patient because older age, perky girls like Sally Field & Sally Valentine were IT! Penny wasn't perky. Taking jobs that pay the rent including sorting W-2 and W-4's at a hospital. Garry put her on a job on the movie 'How Sweet It Is!'. Penny had a one-line in the series 'That Girl'. She quit temping and took acting and auditions REAL. It did help that she had Garry, he opened doors for Penny, but it would be up to her to walk through the them. They made her a few extras w/ one-liners. Penny landed her first role ON HER OWN in a new series called 'Then Came Bronson'.
When Penny & Rob Reiner were kids, they lived across the street from each other in the Bronx. His father, Carl Reiner, was the most famous person in their neighborhood. Penny knew Rob from hanging out w/ comedy people. The name Reiner stood out in Hollywood. Penny & Rob were instant friends. Penny liked Rob because he wore pajamas and didn't do drugs. He wanted to write and direct. His closest friends were his high school buddies: Albert Brooks & Richard Dreyfuss. Somehow Penny's relationship w/ Rob was put on hold because Rob had a nervous breakdown. The pressure to succeed was mounting on him. When recovering, Penny & Rob hung out again. She made herself available to him.
Penny was still working. She was in an episode of 'Love American Style'. Rob & Penny's relationship progressed until Tracy visited. They hadn't slept together and "the last thing Rob needed was a kid." It surprised Penny. Rob would make an excuse to get away. She made a point to break up w/ him and expressed it. At that point, he went into Penny's apartment w/ NO ailments. The next morning, Rob said their relationship became more serious. They were together from then on.
When Paramount refused to give her a $100.00 raise on 'The Odd Couple', Penny asked Garry what to do? Since he started on 'Happy Days', he told Penny that one day she'll get even. After appearing on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', creators muddled over creating a spin-off w/ Penny and Mary's other neighbor, Sally Jo, who was played by Mary Kay Place. But they didn't have the right chemistry. In the meantime, 'Happy Days' was a smash for Garry. Does ANYONE remember the ICONIC series from the 70s, 80s & 90s, Saturday Night Live? It was a TRUE television event in a history's time period. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Jane Curtin & Gilda Radnor. They were brilliant, fearless & F'N funny. Penny tells some HILARIOUS behind the scenes stories from the ICONIC series.
'Happy Days' episode. She didn't expect anything to come of it. Garry asked her to do it. He had already cast Cindy Williams. After talking to Cindy, they both said "Yes!". Their premiere episode of their characters was 'A Date W/ Fonzie'. Cindy was Shirley Feeney and Penny was Laverne DeFazio. The network president of ABC, Fred Silverman, asked Garry for any spin-off ideas. Fred liked Garry's pitch. Everything moved fast and it was immediately ordered and put on the mid-season schedule. Everyone was in a panic. Cindy wasn't sure she wanted to do TV, afraid it would sidetrack her film career. Penny really couldn't blame Cindy for wanting to be a movie star. Everyone except Cindy knew that they had something special w/ Laverne & Shirley. Cindy didn't have to give up much. After auditioning someone else, Cindy was Shirley Feeney.
Sometimes Penny would hear a tone in Tracey's voice that reminded Penny of the way she spoke to her own mother. It made Penny cringe. It really hurt Penny when Tracey would bring kids home who in the end were only her friends because they wanted to see Penny & Rob. Garry told his sister that she could give someone a life, meaning she could give someone a break in showbiz. Penny chose Paula Roth, the daughter of Penny's mother's partner in dance. She did the same thing for a friend's brother. It was necessary to Pay It Forward if you wanted to stay REAL in this business.
|Penny & Carrie|
New York was Penny's playground. She wanted to play. Rob was interested in making movies while Penny wanted to have fun w/ friends that she missed out on as a young mother. The time had come that Penny & Rob just weren't making each other happy anymore. They were split in 1979. They stayed together for another 6 months because Richard Dreyfuss, who was staying in their guesthouse, couldn't handle their breakup. As time went on, thing were harder. Penny fell apart and was having a breakdown during the fifth season of Laverne & Shirley. All of a sudden she went blind. With Cindy rushing Penny from one spot to another, she managed to make it through. But a few nights later, Penny was ready to fall apart. But it was her best friend, and one of my personal favorites, actress Carrie Fisher, who was truly there for Penny. Carrie was there for her through the rough patches. Penny talks about different first experiences, for both of them, that they both shared. Penny talks about fun times w/ Carrie, who was w/ Paul Simon and Penny was dating Art Garkfunkel. (Can you say strenuous when they were all together?)
Penny's FIRST time directing came in season 5. She didn't think it was a big deal. She knew what she was doing. This was such an EXCITING time at Paramount. Besides Laverne & Shirley, Paramount also housed these CLASSIC favorites: Happy Days, Bosom Buddies, Mork & Mindy & Taxi, during different trips when Laverne & Shirley wasn't filming, Penny always liked hanging out w/ just one of the guys, just like at summer camp.
|John Belushi (1949-1982)|
The only relationship Penny ever seen Cindy fall hard & fast for was Bill Hudson. Bill had previously been w/ Goldie Hawn and produced 2 children w/ her, Oliver & Kate. Bill was becoming a GIANT PAIN IN THE ASS. He was acting as Cindy's manager and had a list of DEMANDS. He wanted credit and Cindy deferred to him. He wouldn't let Cindy talk to anyone. Everything became a legal mess. Penny went to the studio president and asked for Cindy's share of the profits if she/Penny was going to share the show Laverne AND Shirley alone. The studio agreed. Even after going back to work, the show was a mess. Cindy's departure from the show really hurt, depressed & angered Penny, as it did to her Laverne character. Even w/ all of the legalities and finishing the show on her own, the memories after 8 seasons were good and positive. Penny was proud. In the end, Laverne & Shirley would always be best friends.
It was while working on the film 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' that Penny learned the true art of film-making. Penny, being a director, was different. She asked for help and was open to suggestions. One thing that bothered Penny on-set was how SLOW things moved in creating the film. One of the smartest things Penny did was call everyone she knew and asked if they wanted to be in a movie, that's including her daughter, Tracy, as the boss' assistant. In October after the release of the movie, it opened to mixed reviews. Penny had come onto a movie at the last minute w/ NO previous experience and finished the film. It was her FIRST finish w/ someone else's beginning. What do you expect?
Penny's next script was for a film called 'Big'. She read the script and liked the story. No one else really wanted to make this film. Because of what happened w/ 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', Penny wanted to get this one right. She went right to box-office stars. They all passed. Penny suggested Robert DeNiro for the film and he agreed. The studio DID NOT want DeNiro for the film and tried to low-ball him w/ pay. Penny completely understood why he couldn't do the film. Both Tom Hanks and Jeff Bridges wanted to be in 'Big'. Penny went w/ her gut and waited for Tom, who was busy w/ another film. When Tom was finally available, Penny heard from Robert DeNiro again. He changed his mind and wanted to do the film.She told him the position was filled. Penny & Tom developed their own shorthand language.She would just give him a word or a gesture and he knew what it meant One of the 2 days they shot inside the ICONIC LANDMARK F.A.O. Schwarz featuring the MEMORABLE Keyboard piano keys. Penny tried out the sequences first. The end of the film w/ such emotion in it is what Penny truly wanted. When 'Big' OFFICIALLY finished, all Penny wanted to do was get the Fuck away. When she returned from her trip/getaway, Garry told her that 'Big' surpassed & reached $100 Million. Making her the first woman to reach that magical milestone.
|REAL Dr. Oliver Sacks|
Penny immediately thought of Robert DeNiro for the role of Dr. Sacks. She thought she owed him because of the validity on 'Big'. Penny called upon the female president of Colombia Pictures and met w/ her. The president excused herself from the situation and told Penny to follow her. In private, she warned Penny "not to trust any of these guys.They will screw her over." Penny offered the job to the president who agreed to do it. After the green-light for the film, Penny went straight for Robin Williams, whom she had known for a long time since 'Mork & Mindy'. Penny did her research on Robin before casting him. After a meeting to get everyone together, Penny KNEW she had walked out w/ her 2 leads in place, Robin & Robert. Penny eventually got w/ the REAL Dr. Oliver Sacks. She promised Oliver to be available whenever needed.
Penny tried her hardest to make the movie as AUTHENTIC as possible. She tried to utilize actual people dealing w/ diseases. During the movie shoot, Sony bought the studio. But it worked out better for them in the end. It had a positive message and Penny was pleased when she seen it.
Thanks to Debra, Penny cast Lori Petty as her sister, Kit. Tom Hanks asked for the role of Jimmy Dugan, who was based on slugger Jimmie Foxx. After going to Madonna and met w/ her, she was in. That pissed off Debra Winger. She told Penny that she/Penny "was making an Elvis movie". Debra dropped out of the film. Goodbye Debra. Hello Madonna. Rosie & Madonna were instructed to help each other differently on-set and a friendship was built from there. Geena Davis slipped into the lead and was a natural. They had their Dottie (Hinson). This was Megan Cavanagah's first film. She was originally waitressing at a '50s-style hamburger joint.
In June 1992, the film opened to positive reviews. It eventually reached $100 Million. Penny's second film to reach that milestone. Steven Speilberg was intrigued when Penny told him she used the real women. In the end, the movie didn't belong to Penny . . . . it belonged to the women who played the game.
|The REAL A.A.G.P.B.L.|
Penny wanted Tupac Shakur to play Hobbs. He auditioned and was very good. The issue was that he didn't want to rap on-screen, which was what the character called for. Penny maintains a friendship w/ Mark ever since. Mark credits Penny for getting him out of underwear and the Funky Bunch. The reviews from the film seemed positive. During promotion for the film, Garry left word for his sister that their father suffered a stroke.
One night Penny went w/ a friend to 3 events. She had a sip or 2 of a drink. That was it. The next morning, Penny woke up feeling stiffness in her left arm. It didn't hurt as much as it did weird. Soon security and paramedics rushed in. Even w/ feeling better, she still went to the hospital. Penny was feeling strong & feisty. She had to do the 24hr routine in the hospital. Despite morning reports the next day, it was NOT A HEART ATTACK. She just had to stop and appreciate her good fortune. Disney went to Penny w/ 'The Preacher's Wife', the remake from 1947's 'The Bishop's Wife'. Penny met w/ Loretta Young, the only cast member from the film still alive.
The next film project for Penny came after getting ahold of film rights to Beverly Donofrio's memoir 'Riding In Cars With Boys'. The same person that actually got the film rights also suggested Drew Barrymore for the lead. Penny hired the late Brittany Murphy to play Beverly's best friend. She added Sara Gilbert and was ready to work. Things had to be put on hold waiting for the film 'Charlie's Angels' to wrap. Prior to this, the film's lead was already promised to Drew.
Penny brought in James Woods, who played Beverly's father, but he was on another film, so they had to wait. The script drove Penny crazy. EVERYTHING on that film was a mess. Brittany Murphy was a real trooper. She/Brittany worked through anything, including being sick as a dog at the scene when Jason falls in the pool. If it was asked, Brittany did it. Drew required more patience & finesse. People in production always wanted to focus on Drew in the film. All Drew. All the time. After different screenings and was ready to open, 911 happened.
Penny wanted to premiere in New York to bring positivity to the city, but others said no and Penny took it personally. During this time, Penny and Carrie celebrated their birthdays, the last of their joint parties after doing them for 20 years. It was habit and no different when Penny made plans to be out of the country when the film opened. Penny went to any event, to Ground Zero and listened to stories from firemen. She did ALOT of hugging and responding. She wanted to show it was safe in New York and went nonstop. Penny would have flashes of her mother and the other kids from her mom's dance studio. Penny felt like everyone should know what it was like to be in New York. Everyone was doing their part and she was doing hers. For the next 8 years, Penny devoted her time to charities and sports. Charity work agreed w/ her. She supported food banks and inner city kids. After getting so much, it just felt good to Penny to give back.
After more than a decade making films, Penny slowed down. She was a fixture at basketball games. In 2004, Tracy met and married Matthew Conlan. A year later in 2006, Tracy had a cutie of a daughter named Viva.
At a basketball game, someone asked Penny "if she ever thought she would be where she is?" Before answering, she thought back on her life, from back in Albuquerque; pregnant, scared and married to Mickey. Everything she thought was impossible, even after the move to Hollywood, giving show business a shot. The way things turn out . . . . you just never know!
In 2009, Penny walked off stage at an event in a daze. Garry was there and sensed something was wrong. She had assured him it was exhaustion and she would sleep on the plane. After reaching New York and sleeping at her apartment, Penny and a friend went to see the New York Giants. After trying to make her way to the owner's seats, that required ALOT of walking to the seats. After the first set of stairs, Penny had difficulty. Someone recognized her and got her a cart. Penny was feeling off and different. It scared her.
In a semi-fog, Penny was taken to a hospital the next morning. After an exam & testing in the ER, Penny wasn't fine. She was diagnosed w/ lung cancer and a brain tumor. With her friends there to be w/ her, Penny sent some out to get some White Castles., taking the cancer news for what it is. After everyone arrived and were flipping out at the news, Penny was calm. The room filled with people. She/Penny IS NOT a hospital person. For her brain surgery, Penny was put out w/ proprofol. She was given Tylenol and felt no pain. The incompetence in the hospital drove her NUTS! She was back in her apartment on the weekend. Radiation & chemo were as effective as surgery for the tumors, which eventually disappeared. The side effects to the treatments were weight gain. That embarrassed her. She called Carrie and asked for some Jenny Craig meals. Penny quit smoking. Within a day she was back at it and still does.
After going though what she did and being in remission: what now? Surprisingly being a grandmother of 3 is something Penny likes. She hasn't changed much over the years. Looking back, Penny seen that by sticking to the rules as a kid, she has surpassed her mother's expectations as well as her own.