The Happy Days of Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall was one funny fellow.
He was professionally funny. He was naturally funny. He was also supernaturally kind.
In a business not known for its generosity, Garry set the standard for nurturing new talent, both above and below the line. He was a discoverer of new talent, he taught the craft of comedy, but most importantly, he taught everyone in his orbit how to live an integrated life that puts family and friendship above ambition.
“Life is more important than show business” was Garry’s mantra. It was more than a slogan. He lived it to the very end of his wonderful life.
Uniquely, Garry also nurtured old talent; actors, writers, grips; pros on the back nine of their careers or struggling with financial or personal issues. Everybody wants a piece of a rising star; Garry Marshall was there when no one else would return your call, an act rarer than the mythical White Buffalo.
And it didn’t hurt that he was great at what he did.
As a writer, producer and director, Garry Marshall created genuine classics; “The Odd Couple,” “Happy Days,” “The Flamingo Kid,” among many, many others. He was a wonderfully funny character actor and a passionate amateur drummer, but it’s not his IMDB page that has so many people genuinely saddened at the news of his passing last week at the age of 81. It was Garry’s humanity that elevated him into a special category. His talent for life was his greatest gift. He would have been revered had he worked at Sears rather than Paramount.
Of course, I am biased.
On my very first day in Los Angeles, Ronny Marshall Hallin, Garry’s “other” sister, greeted me as I got off the elevator. I had no way of knowing that with that first hello I would find myselfon the periphery of the Marshall family for the next 30 years.
I met Garry’s father, his wife, Barbara, his famous sister, Penny, his children (mostly in passing) and his four nieces as friends. I witnessed firsthand how Garry deftly moved between his show business life and his life life, making it look easy while so many others struggled to find balance.
I’m hardly alone.
Garry Marshall was a collector of people. He talked to everyone. Rather than retreat behind the wall of celebrity, he was the most approachable of moguls. And don’t be fooled by Garry’s humility, this funny, hypochondriacal, hoop-shooting, softball-tossing boy from the Bronx was a theatrical giant carving out a career that saw success in nightclubs, theater, television, movies and anything else he set his sights on.
The loss of Garry Marshall is a loss for the city of Los Angeles and especially the San Fernando Valley. On top of everything else Garry was a good citizen, a good neighbor.
His beautiful Falcon Theatre is one of Burbank’s treasures. His stamp is all over Toluca Lake, where he lived and worked for decades. How many charities did he support, fundraising dinners did he emcee? It’s hard to find someone in the 818 who doesn’t have a Garry Marshall story.
Many people knew him better than me. But I have this column, so I have the luxury of thanking him for not having me killed at NBC when I “shushed” him during a rewrite. I thank him for the funniest grace I ever heard said at a Thanksgiving dinner. I thank him for the profiteroles he sent to The Wife and me at Le Petit Chateau for no particular reason, although I suspect it was because the word “profiteroles” is funny. And I thank him for the thousand life lessons he passed along both consciously and by example.
I can hear Garry now saying, “Not bad, Doug, but this could use a button.”
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 a.m. on KABC-AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.