I've had occasion to write several of these eulogizing posts, each with personal anecdotes, memories, and tidbits of what the famed personality has meant to me personally. But none have been written with so heavy a heart or such sense of loss as I write this one about Garry Marshall.
I am quite certain that there are hundreds of people in every aspect of entertainment whose lives and careers have been personally touched by Garry, and who would tell you their own version of how he impacted them and changed the course of their lives. This one is mine.
I first met Garry when he was a guest in Richard Brown's film class in New York at The New School for Social Research (now New School University) just prior to the release of Pretty Woman in 1990.
Like millions of others, I grew up with the entertainment provided by Mr. Marshall as the formative backdrop of my childhood years and beyond. Whether it was Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, or The Odd Couple or Mork & Mindy, my sensibilities, comedic and otherwise, were largely shaped by what he put before me and the way in which he told a story.
Even my choice of colleges to attend was influenced by him. We both shared a perpetual pride in and love for our alma mater, Northwestern University, that far outlived our time spent there. (You can usually find Northwestern paraphernalia somewhere in every Garry Marshall TV show and movie, if you look for it.)
Another element in all of Garry's work has been music that perfectly speaks to the characters, the mood, and the plot-line. And that is where I came in when I met him early in 1990.
I am a songwriter, and I wanted to have my songs in a Garry Marshall movie. At the time I first met him, my strategy for achieving this consisted of little more than handing him a letter and cassette tape of my songs. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
He wrote me shortly thereafter, offering words of encouragement and a contact person for me to talk to.
We met again a year later in New York shortly before the release of Frankie and Johnny. This time he gave me his card and told me to call him whenever I was in LA.
Over the course of the ensuing twenty-five years, I met with him, wrote to him, sent him songs, and gave him my first book, when it was still in manuscript form.
He, in turn, gave me advice, most of which I did not want to hear at the time he said it, but all of which turned out to be right on the money and eventually led me to having a #1 song, as well as a song in a successful touring musical.
I shared his advice with my friends, who, in turn, have seen their own shows come to life in theaters all over the world.
And though I never actually wound up with a song of mine in one of Garry's movies - the politics of which he explained to me very sympathetically and pointedly, he made sure I knew that every one of my cassette tapes and CD's sent him over the years remained intact and on his office shelves nearby...the same for which could not be said for others.
As the years progressed, I noticed that his first questions were not about show business or how my career was going. They were: was I healthy and happy. This, too, would be a lesson for me, among the many that he taught me.
To think that I will not hear him call me "Angel, sawngwritah" in his inimitable Bronx accent, again, is too much for me to bear or wrap my brain around just yet.
People cross our paths for different reasons, most of which we cannot know at the start. And along with his vast body of work that will live on for generations to come, to me, Garry will always be considered a mentor and the best example I know of a good and kind and generous person in a business that is not known for that.
I wish his family comfort and love...and happier days ahead.
Rest in peace, Garry Marshall.