Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Garry Marshall Tribute

Last night ABC aired a beautiful tribute special to Garry Marshall.  (Kudos to John Schienfeld who produced and wrote it).  What struck me was how genuine the outpouring of love was for Garry Marshall.  He was a very special man.  As for my feelings and personal dealings -- I want to re-post the tribute I wrote for Garry the night he died, July 19, 2016. 
It’s 3:00 in the morning in New York. But I just had to write this now. If I don’t get any sleep, so be it. But I am devastated by the loss of Garry Marshall, who passed away Tuesday at only 81.

Garry Marshall was an extraordinary man. In the world of comedy where anger is a primary tool for getting laughs, Garry Marshall built an empire by showing that comedy could be humane, comedy could have heart, and comedy could be funny without being mean-spirited, spiteful, and crass. He was a rebel.

Garry Marshall was one of my inspirations. I feel so honored that he did my play, A OR B? at his Falcon Theatre. I will always treasure opening night, sitting two seats away from him and hearing him laugh at my jokes. Ohmygod! I made Garry Marshall laugh.   I have arrived.  

A main reason I wanted to get into comedy in the first place was from watching THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. The writing was so smart. And my favorite scripts were always the ones written by Garry Marshall & Jerry Belson. There was just a slight edge, a touch of inspired lunacy, they were funnier. The writing credits for THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW were at the end and when my partner, David Isaacs and I were starting out we’d watch the DVD show every afternoon and try to guess the credits. Marshall & Belson scripts were easy to pick out. They were just a shade better. We made it our goal to be Marshall & Belson – to have young writers think our scripts were just that discernible fraction better than the rest.

Garry went on to great success building a sitcom empire at Paramount in the ‘70s and ‘80s. From HAPPY DAYS, to LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, to my favorite – THE ODD COUPLE, Garry not only produced wonderful comedies, he also discovered many terrific young writers who would go on to have spectacular careers. And he introduced the world to Robin Williams.

Garry was naturally and effortlessly funny. With his distinctive Bronx cadence he could say “Have some coffee” and somehow get a laugh. I never knew how he did that. But you just wanted to be around him. He always made you feel good about yourself, which is a lovely feeling – especially when you’re also laughing at the same time.

And in my case, he made me want to be better. That started with the first script I ever wrote and extended all the way to A OR B?

My love and prayers to Barbara, Ronny, Kathleen, and the entire Marshall family. We used to see them every Christmas vacation at the Kahala Whoever-owns-them-now. If ever there was a close-knit family that truly loved each other it was his, and I’m sure in large part because of him. Hey, I wanted to be his grandkid.

I’m sure there will be many tributes today. That’s what happens when everyone you ever met loves you. Like I said, I feel so blessed that I got to work with him. The greatest compliment I may ever receive as a playwright was from Garry after that opening night. All he said was, “Welcome to a new career.” Who needs Tonys after that?

He will continue to live in my heart, not to mention TV LAND, TCM, and whoever plays PRETTY WOMAN. To sum up: In an industry that’s built on meanness, Garry Marshall was “nice.” Nice to everybody. Writers, actors, executives, pool boys.

If I could say one last thing to Garry it would be “Thank you.” He would probably respond with, “Get some sleep already.”


Mike Barer said...

That is a beautiful tribute that you wrote and I'm sure that his family, friends, and fans were deeply touched.

Phil Rosenthal (no, not that one) said...

If you've never seen this public TV documentary on Garry and his sitcoms from 1979, I highly recommend it.

maxdebryn said...

He was a mensch. A lovely man, gifted writer/director, and an inspiration to many.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

There was a rooting-for-the-underdog element in Garry Marshall's comedies.

Laverne, Shirley, Julia Roberts's character in "Pretty Woman," and even Fonzie were outcasts fighting for--and sometimes achieving--acceptance in society.

Consequently, these characters won over audiences tired of being pushed around in this world.

Fed by the muse said...

Met him one morning in the cashier's line at the (now closed) Studio City DuPar's (like most people he was there for the pancakes). Mentioned to him that I worked on a low budget film in which he appeared as an actor (as a favor to the film makers) and that I loved "The Odd Couple" series and, when asked what my favorite episode was, I told him probably the "The Fat Farm" (fortunately was a segment he liked a lot, too). Nice memory of a good, talented man.

Janet said...

Your tribute was lovely, of course.

I was genuinely surprised to see the televised tribute. I figured that Garry Marshall was just a generation too removed from the prized demographic.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Oh crap! I forgot that special was on and I really wanted to watch it. But that says more about ABC's programs than it does about Marshall. Gary Marshall is someone I always wanted to work with, but it never happened.
Great tribute, Ken.


DBenson said...

Faintly recall an interview where he was cheerfully tossing off odd gags faster than the interviewer could grasp them, and then making a joke of explaining the gag. The one I remember was about the Siamese twins who loved sports cars. They moved to England to give the other one a chance to drive.

scottmc said...

One of my favorite moments in the special was when his wife told the story of using food cans against the front door as a type of burglar alarm and then seeing the scene from DVD where Rob enters the house after Laura has done just that.

Saburo said...

Haha kudos for the jab at the Kahala Resort! (No fancypants name right now.) Tourism is at a standstill now -- no end in sight, alas.

nat bernstein said...

One of the truly great gentleman in this business. A role model for so many of us who followed him.

Tudor Queen said...

Since you were kind enough to reprint your lovely tribute, I thought I'd restate part of my comment on its original posting.

In addition to all his talent behind the scenes and his mensch status as a person, he was a pretty good actor. I loved him as the head of Daytime Programming in "Soapdish". He had a lot of good moments - telling Robert Downey Jr "the show is depressing and expensive, two of my least favorite words. Want to know two of my favorite words? Peppy and cheap!"

But my favorite moment - one of my favorite moments in the whole movie - is when the climactic live broadcast is going completely off the rails and he says, "This is what I told them... This is what I wanted... This is Soap Opera!"

BTW, the man has been gone for five years. What the hell took ABC so long?

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

...and Marshall was terrific as a television executive on "Murphy Brown."

Neumann said...

Two more wonderful Marshall performances: The casino owner in Lost in America and the CBS executive on Louie. His line to Louis CK is remarkably written and delivered: "You're circling failure in a rapidly decaying orbit." (The next line was a more positive.)

Barry Traylor said...

I recorded the tribute and watched it the next day and was stunned by the outpouring of love for him. Also was amazed by how many of my favorite actors got a start or a boost for their careers by Gary Marshall.

Jason Roberts said...

Who could forget him as the casino manager in Albert Brooks' Lost In America! So good!

Tudor Queen said...

Thanks to everyone who reminded me of more of Garry Marshall's on-screen work.

One more example and then I promise to stop. At the end of "A League of Their Own" (nicely directed by his late sister Penny), as a wealthy team owner, who knows that the war will end soon and the men will return to their diamonds, says to David Strathairn, "I love these gals! I don't need 'em, but I love 'em!"

A lot of us loved you, too, Mr. Marshall.

Jack Carreras said...

Was introduced to him at Paramount in 1981. I had just started my first real writing job on Bosom Buddies the year before. He asked what I did and where. I told him and his response was a simple "That's a funny show. You should be proud." I felt anointed.