HAPPY NEW YEAR and R.I.P. to my buddy Penny Marshall

My buddy Penny Marshall in her backyard, 2011.
I LOVE this pic because she was fussing at me right before I snapped because the sun blinding her.  But being the consummate professional, she mustered up that great smile and gave it her all! 

First of all, may 2019 bring about bountiful blessings of health, prosperity, happiness and smiles for us all!

Well, it has been over a year since my last blog!  Boy have I been lazy when it comes to keeping up with this thing or what?! 😉  But I thought this was a perfect time to check in, say hi, wish you a great 2019, and pay homage to my late friend and good buddy, the legendary Producer/Director/Actress Penny Marshall!

I met Penny around 11 years ago after her late brother Garry sent her a copy of a screenplay I had co-written.  Imagine my surprise one day to pick up the telephone to hear the all-too-familiar voice of "Laverne" on the other end of the line.

Penny - "Hello Byron?"

Me - "Yes, speaking....." (thinking to myself, is this who I think it is?)

Penny - "This is Penny Marshall.  My brother sent me your script.  I read it and I like it.  Can we get together and talk about it?"

Hmmmmm....what was I gonna say, "No"!?!? 😃

A few days later, my partner Jeff and I (who I co-wrote the script with) found ourselves pinching ourselves as we sat with Penny in what she calls the "War Room" of her house chatting about how we were going to make this film!  Why is it called the "War Room" you might ask?  Well, the room is filled (and I mean FILLED) with all types of war memorabilia and Penny was inspired by its contents and energy while discussing creative ideas. She also said that in that small but cozy room, she had "gone to battle" with studio executives, actors and other creatives hashing out story lines and concepts. 

Through the years Penny and I developed a deep bond. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we'd be so connected. Whether it was our countless phone calls, her taking me to Lakers games, celebrity parties, or inviting me to join her in NYC to attend baseball related events, it was all magical, fabulous and fun. But the moments I treasure most are the ones of us sitting on her bed (her other office) laughing like a couple of goofy teenagers! 

I consider Penny to be one of my closest and dearest friends in the history of my life.  She was a rarity.  And although I knew the day was coming, I was (and still am) deeply affected by the loss.  

After getting myself together after the news of her death, I posted this entry on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds:

"She was my heart! My dearest of dearest friend, mentor and partner - Penny Marshall! WOW, What a lady! Whether it was a Lakers game sitting together in her court side seats, a writing session in her "War" room, a party, her inviting my parents to her home to meet them, she and I arguing over who was better her Yankees or my Royals, or sitting on her bed together brainstorming ideas and laughing at the silliest of things, she was delight AND an inspiration! One of the kindest, generous, supportive and obviously FUNNY AS %*#! people I've ever met! A great loss for me, but I'm sooooooo blessed and honored to call her my friend! I LOVE YOU PENNY and I will miss you deeply! No more pain...no more worries.....no more struggles........rest well awesome lady"! 💖💖💖

A few days after her passing a journalist friend of mine asked me to write a few words about Penny that he could use for a story he was doing for a segment on CNN International news.  Here are some of those thoughts and remembrances......

  •     Yep, she was a funny as you might think she might be. She possessed a very dry sense of humor, but was witty and understated. Normal conversations with her would be punctuated with colorful “asides”—in other words, she would comment on her comments.  These would come out as a wry mumble (for those near by) or an opinionated bark for everyone to hear.  She could be tough as nails one moment, and just plain goofy the next! But, she was always sharp and observant. 
  • About 5 or 6 years ago, she beat both brain and lung cancer – and, AT THE SAME TIME! Tough lady!
  • If she liked you, you knew it. She had no tolerance for pretending. Straight forward, no BS. There was nothing fake about her.  Some may have found her intimidating, but she wasn’t mean, just direct. She was the Bronx through and through! She also did not have a prejudice bone in her body.  She saw no color and treated everyone equally.  As matter of fact, if you were amongst the marginalized she seemed to have more of an affinity towards you. She detested injustice of any kind.
  • For years she has taken care of all the medical bills, housing and education for a young man in NYC who is wheelchair bound from a horrific accident after he was attacked. (I forget his name but as far as I know, she was still supporting his recovery).  I’ve no doubt there are others…..she could be extremely generous. 
  • She had a unique, creative spirit and was endlessly inventive when it came to writing and fleshing out character.  She would often get up and move around, acting out the characters.  She had a keen sense of comedy – but never sacrificing the truth of a character for the sake of a laugh, which in some way makes her a comic genius because people could relate to her film characters because everything was grounded in truth. She was brilliant not just with dialogue, but coming up with character action and movement, as well; what actors refer to as “character business”.  Her upbringing as a dancer more than likely served her as a natural physical comedienne.
  • She was a HUGE sports fan. The entire lower level of her house is basically a sports museum filled with rooms of thousands upon thousands of autographed baseballs, footballs, basketballs, hockey sticks and pucks, boxing gloves, jerseys and a variety of memorabilia. You name it, she has it!  Her collection rivals that of any state-of-art museum, including the Baseball Hall of Fame!
  • She loved baseball but especially the Yankees!  She wouldn’t even watch the World Series unless the Yankees were playing!
  • She has a wonderful collection of artwork throughout her home.  Nearly every inch of wall space displays a hodgepodge of modern paintings, collage art and vintage objects.  As a matter of fact, the entire home is filled with an expansive collection of vintage American tchotchkes of all sizes from the early to mid 20th century.
  • A giant cabinet, right when you exit her house to the garage, contains dozens of her trademark colored eyeglasses and sunglasses that she would chose when leaving, an accessory that became a trademark of her style.


These are just a few of my recollections, but it will give you some insight into the woman.

Although we were not able to complete our film with Penny at the helm, we are moving forward and making some tremendous progress. A few years back she told, "this will get done".   And now, with my new spirit angel on my shoulder leading the way, I believe more than ever, that it will! 🙌💖

One of those parties with my bud!

At Penny's 70th birthday party with Jeff Miiller, Hall of Fame basketball player Elgin Baylor and his wife Elaine and daughter Krystal.

When I told Penny my parents were coming to LA for a visit, she insisted I bring them over to meet them because she wanted to show them her sports collection.  But I found out her real motive was to get my father's autograph!!!  😎😎 

Another "date night" with my buddy at former Dodger great Don Newcombe's 90th birthday celebration.
Miss Thing was much happier from this angle because the sun was not blinding her! HAHAHA! 

Jeff and me after a table read of our screenplay "Effa" at Penny's home.

Make '19 the BEST YET!


Cheryl_Janis said…
I love this. Beautifully written and such a heartfelt tribute. So much love here, thank you! Love you!! Cheryl
Unknown said…
Thanks, Byron, for posting your wonderfully intimate recollection of Penny Marshall. What a fine, unique, and talented woman. Best wishes and love for the most wonderful year yet in 2019...Carl and Carl
Grace said…
What happy, uplifting memories that give us a peek into the heart of this beloved lady. Here's another angel watching over you.
Healthy, happy, jazzy New Year to you and Jeff❣️
Unknown said…
Your loss is magnified by the heartfelt and so sweet recollections of your friendship with Penny Marshall. You and Jeff remain in my prayers and I agree, you have a new guardian angel and you WILL get the movie made and I WILL be there to see it! Blessings to you both in the New Year....love you both!!
Unknown said…
Byron thank you for sharing the beautiful memories that you had with Penny. Your recollections were so well written and expressed, and so heartfelt. I thoroughly enjoyed all you had to say about her and your times together. Thanks for sharing! Beverly
Unknown said…
Thank you Mr. B for sharing a part of your life, memories and insight to your friend. I'm sure she saw how special you are, and the connection happened. Sounds like she made this world just a little bet better...Karen

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