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Penny Marshall discusses 'Big' success

Director and actress Penny Marshall talks about the unlikely success of her movie "Big" with Soledad O'Brien.

Posted: Dec 19, 2018 11:57 AM
Updated: Dec 19, 2018 12:20 PM

It's sad when someone you grew up with dies -- even if it's a fictional character.

In 1976, I was a 6-foot-tall, 13-year-old girl growing up in suburban New Jersey. I was addicted to sitcoms. It was my escape from the realities of not fitting in (in more ways than one), and I had spent much of my single digit years dreaming of running away to "The Brady Bunch" house, riding in "The Partridge Family" bus and hanging out with Mary and Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

At the start of my freshman year of high school, a new show came on the air. It was about Laverne DeFazio, played by the inimitable Penny Marshall, and Shirley Feeney, portrayed by Cindy Williams -- two single women living together, working at Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee and doin' it their way. And the show's ubiquitous theme song had people all over America speaking Yiddish!

Give us any chance -- we'll take it. Read us any rule, we'll break it went the lyrics of the show's theme song.

These women, Laverne and Shirley, were fearless. Finally, here on television were people I could relate to.

Laverne had a thick Bronx accent and wore sweaters with the letter L monogrammed prominently in script on the front. She was bossy, brash and funny, and best of all, she did things her way. We had so much in common. One can never underestimate the power of feeling represented on television.

Nothin's gonna turn us back now, straight ahead and on the track now. ...There is nothing we won't try. Never heard the word impossible. This time there's no stopping us. We're gonna do it.

Not to mention how special the main characters' relationship on "Laverne & Shirley" was. Best friends forever. I could see myself living in an apartment with my best friend, too! In season six, Laverne and Shirley moved to California to fulfill their dreams of being in the movie business. I was in college and had done my first stand-up gig on a dare. I knew by then that my dream too was to be in show business. All of their friends follow suit, and the show lasted three more seasons after that. Was this a harbinger of what was to become of Marshall?

She went on to become one of the most relevant directors in Hollywood. With the 1988 movie "Big," starring Tom Hanks, she became the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million. She went on to direct perhaps the best "chick flick" of all time, "A League of Their Own" -- and so many more. She became an icon and gave so many female directors hope and an example to follow. Even when she became a household name, she never changed the way she talked or the way she looked. She was the embodiment of being true to oneself. There is no comedy without truth. And she had impeccable timing.

On your mark, get set and go now, Got a dream and we just know now, We're gonna make our dream come true.

But the best part was that we got to know the real woman in that monogrammed sweater, and what a mark she left. The same woman whose stand-in for a shampoo commercial she was shooting with Farrah Fawcett wore a placard that read "Homely Girl."

Penny Marshall was beautiful. She was an unapologetic tomboy. She was in a league of her own. She gave girls like me permission to dream. I hope she knew how many people she made happy -- doin' it her way. May she rest in peace.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16041

Reported Deaths: 767
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds103526
Lauderdale74568
Madison74525
Neshoba70742
Jones66331
Scott66112
Forrest59439
DeSoto5538
Leake44712
Rankin4468
Holmes43928
Copiah3154
Jackson30813
Attala30318
Yazoo2864
Newton2824
Leflore27334
Lincoln27029
Monroe26525
Harrison2637
Oktibbeha25314
Lamar2485
Lowndes2309
Wayne2242
Pearl River21131
Pike20411
Adams20015
Noxubee1916
Washington1917
Warren18110
Covington1732
Jasper1654
Lee1657
Bolivar16511
Clarke15419
Smith15311
Kemper14711
Lafayette1414
Chickasaw13714
Coahoma1274
Winston1211
Marion1179
Carroll11711
Clay1154
Claiborne1122
Lawrence1061
Simpson1020
Grenada993
Yalobusha966
Tate951
Hancock9112
Itawamba897
Wilkinson859
Union857
Sunflower853
Montgomery851
Panola843
Marshall813
Jefferson Davis803
Tippah7611
Webster683
Calhoun674
Amite641
Walthall610
Humphreys597
Tunica563
Prentiss563
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc433
Jefferson431
Tishomingo340
Quitman340
Stone310
Franklin292
Tallahatchie291
George261
Greene221
Alcorn181
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18474

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2283118
Jefferson1882103
Montgomery180243
Tuscaloosa81616
Marshall7059
Franklin5768
Lee55234
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43166
Butler41618
Walker3782
Elmore3739
Chambers35826
Madison3444
Morgan2971
Baldwin2929
Unassigned2922
Dallas2823
Etowah26112
DeKalb2563
Lowndes25512
Autauga2395
Coffee2381
Sumter2267
Houston2235
Bullock2136
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1789
Russell1770
Barbour1751
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1672
Calhoun1653
Choctaw15310
Wilcox1527
Cullman1501
Clarke1482
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1041
Greene954
Winston910
Macon864
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia743
Washington726
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe442
Geneva430
Perry420
Conecuh411
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Cherokee383
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Lamar260
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