Whilst I have many annoying memories of Mr. Rooney, I have to say, a lot of Andy’s reasons why he values women over 40 ring true:
A woman over forty will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.
If a woman over forty doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.
A woman over forty knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of forty give a hoot what you might think about her or what she’s doing.
Women over forty are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.
Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.
A woman over forty has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over forty couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over forty. They always know.
A woman over forty looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over forty is far sexier than her younger counterpart.
Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise women over forty for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of forty-plus, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some twenty-two-year-old waitress. (Ladies, I apologize.)
Though most famous (to me, anyway) as the Pepsi-and-milk-swigging half of Laverne & Shirley, Penny Marshall’s new memoir, My Mother Was Nuts, reveals her real life was as crazy as anything that went on in front of the cameras.
The book reads like a Who’s Who of pop culture’s major players in the last half of the last century. There are stories of Calvin Klein tearing up the dance floor at high school parties, hanging out with John Belushi, and smelling pillows for Steven Speilberg.
I’m so grateful CNN asked me to sit down with Ms. Marshall as she opened up about her incredible life:
Laverne aka Penny Marshall Image Source: Paramount Home Entertainment
On her unconventional appeal…
In her pre-fame days, the fact that Marshall didn’t fit the Hollywood stereotype was made abundantly clear to her While co-starring in a Head & Shoulders commercial with an unknown blonde named Farrah Fawcett, Marshall’s on-set stand-in wore a placard that read “Homely Girl” while the stand-in for Fawcett wore one reading “Pretty Girl”. Farrah kindly decided to cross out the word “Homely” and wrote “Plain”. In an episode of Love, American Style Marshall’s script cast her as “Homely Girl at Bar”.
After became a big TV star with her own series, she handled her fame with aplomb, though once at a party she and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’s Louise Lasser cordially congratulated one another on their success, then slipped into the bathroom, giddily jumping up and down squealing, “We’re famous! We’re famous!”
On her marriage to Rob Reiner…
Before either one of them well-known, Penny ended up dating and marrying Rob Reiner, who grew up across the street from Marshall in the Bronx, though they’d never met. “It was a very wide street,” Penny explained. At one point both auditioned for a new sitcom, but while Reiner was cast as Mike Stivic, it was Sally Struthers who ended up playing his wife Gloria on All in the Family.
On the ups and downs of Laverne & Shirley…
Penny’s brother, Garry Marshall, was a successful TV writer and producer when Jack Klugman convinced him to cast his sister as Oscar’s secretary Myrna in Marshall’s new series, The Odd Couple. Later Garry ended up casting Penny and her old pal Cindy Williams in a guest stint on another of his hit series, Happy Days. Penny and Cindy played Laverne and Shirley, two “fast girls” Fonzie recruited for a double date with Richie. Marshall and Williams soon got their own spin-off, as a slightly more wholesome version of duo. The show was an immediate hit, debuting as the number one rated show in the country, which was, according to Marshall, “great for my career, not so great for my marriage.” It happened that the TV show Laverne & Shirley pushed from the top spot was…All in the Family.
Laverne & Shirley’s success turned out to be a mixed bag in more ways than one. The show was funny, but on the set things weren’t always so hilarious. Surrounded by Penny’s kin and cronies, Williams felt outnumbered and overlooked which led to tension behind the scenes. Though an unhappy Williams ended up leaving the show before it ended, Marshall assures us that after two decades of silence they’ve finally patched things up: “I just talked to her last night!”
On Carrie Fisher…
Marshall’s relationship with best friend Carrie Fisher has endured through think and thin. “We always got along great because we didn’t like the same guys or the same drugs,” jokes Marshall.
Though she’ll always be Laverne De Fazio to those who grew up on the series’ Lucy-esque shenanigans, Marshall went on to become a successful director. With her second film, Big, starring Tom Hanks, she became the first female director to have a film break the $100 million mark at the box office. Marshall went on to direct several popular films, including the Oscar-nominated Awakenings, where she coped with Robert De Niro’s fear of cockroaches, and Robin Williams’ fear of being out-acted by De Niro.
On A League of Their Own…
Marshall contended with the unique hormonal challenges of a large, mostly female cast. “Unfortunately everyone’s cycle synched up,” reports Marshall, “The mood swings – that poor crew!”
On her mother…
Throughout the book Marshall reiterates that her most salient quality is her desire to have fun, but life didn’t always make it easy. Her mother, as the title suggests, wasn’t exactly June Cleaver. In fact, she told a teenage Penny she’d been unwanted, saying, “You were a miscarriage, but you were stubborn and held on.”
On still coping with 9/11…
Marshall had many friends who were firefighters and as a native New Yorker remains very emotional when it comes to September 11th. “When was recording for book on tape,” says Marshall, “I couldn’t get through that part – I just kept tearing up.”
On unplanned pregnancies…
Having sex with her college sweetheart to cheer him up after a football squad setback, Marshall became pregnant and embarked on a hasty teenage marriage. (At City Hall they were handed a newlywed’s “Starter Kit” consisting of a bar of soap, toothpaste, and a small box of Tide.) The pair spent much of their honeymoon watching news about Kennedy’s assassination, and things didn’t pick up much after that. Many years later she found herself once again pregnant and unmarried, and though close friend Joe Pesci gallantly offered to step in and act as father, she made the difficult decision to have an abortion. “I didn’t want to be tied to the kid’s (biological) father,” said Marshall, “And that situation was one of my life’s only big regrets.”
In the end…
But through the various heartbreaks and setbacks Penny Marshall knows how to surmount it all. Framed in her bathroom is the Waylon Jennings lyric that speaks to the secret of her success: “I’ve always been crazy, but it’s kept me from going insane.”
<My interview with Ms. Marshall first appeared on cnn.com as Penny Marshall is in a League of Her Own>
If you’ve heard of Arlene Dahl, you know she was a beautiful 1950s movie star primarily famous for her red hair and her beauty mark. (Her first fan letter arrived with no name, just a drawing of a pair of lips and a beauty spot, and the address: Hollywood, California.) But she’s famous to me for her truly magnificent tome, Always Ask a Man – and her marriages.
Her first husband was Lex Barker, who played Tarzan. “Lex was the best undressed man I’ve ever known,” said Arlene, “but he was not used to taking no for an answer. He had a terrific temper.”After smacking Arlene around a bit, Barker and she divorced; Lex went on to marry and smack around Lana Turner. Her second husband was Fernando “You Look Mahvelous!” Lamas;. (Yes, Arlene is Lorenzo Lamas’ mama.) Fernando went on to marry and stay married to movie star Esther Williams, who played swimmers. “He was in her picture, Dangerous When Wet,” said Dahl, adding, “believe me, she is very dangerous when wet.” (About Esther’s career, Dahl once remarked, “How long can you tread water?” Oh, snap!)
Fast-forward ahead four husbands to #6, Mark Rosen, “a perfume executive” 18 years her junior. (Why’d I put perfume executive in quotes? I dunno, I just find the term funny for some reason.) Marc really was a perfume executive; he was a Vice-President at Revlon, and in 1984 he won the cosmetic industry’s Fifi Award for designing the best perfume bottle. (What? I didn’t say anything.) Arlene felt six times is the charm: “I believe in other lives and think Marc and I have known each other before.”
Perhaps this beauty-marked movie star and handsome young perfume executive’s marraige was preordained. In a 1985 People Magazine article, Arlene talks about why she married her sixth husband aka “It’s So Nice to Have a Young Man Around the House, Dahl-ing”. (Also, in an until-recently long-lost radio interview, Ms. Dahl rhapsodizes on the advantages of being with a younger man. For one thing, she “can dance from dusk until dawn without him wearing out,” and then there’s the perk that husby VI has “his own teeth and his own hair.”)
The People piece details the couple’s romantic history:
“When told he was going to meet the actress, Rosen didn’t exactly go into shock. “I missed her movies,” he says, “though I had a general idea who she was. I recalled the beauty mark.” But when she entered the room, “She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” he says. “She just floated.” At the time, each was married to someone else…”
“When those marriages went bust, Dahl and Rosen became confidants. This Platonic relationship went on for a year and a half, “with lots of kissing on the cheeks,” says Rosen. One night, over dinner, Marc asked Arlene a question: “We spend so much time together, there must be a subconscious reason, don’t you think?” It was then, Rosen says, ‘romance blossomed.’”
The couple faced obstacles from the start. First, there’s that pesky 18 years age difference. “Arlene was very concerned about the age difference,” said Rosen, “but not me, ever. She needs someone younger to keep up with her.” The two lovebirds were also from different faiths: Marc was Jewish and Arlene was an ardent astrologer and member of Norman Vincent Peale’s positive-thinking congregation — the shiksa-iest of shiksas. (She had a beauty mark, for Chrissake.) Then of course, there were the haters who assumed Marc was a gigolo. but, according to People, “Dahl, who declared bankruptcy in 1980 after her perfume business foundered, knows better. ‘He’s sure not marrying me for my money. I have not been in that position lately,’ she says.” There’s also the fact that as a “perfume executive”, Rosen’s salary was as handsome as he was.
Marc and Arlene’s love more than surmounted all these challenges. “We have a great sex life,” says Marc. “Arlene is very sensual. She loves to touch.” John Starks’ interview in People makes it clear that Arlene was no shrinking violet:
She left her Minnesota home at age 15 to pursue a modeling career in Chicago, then headed for New York to become the first Clairol redhead. In 1947 Warner Bros, brought Dahl to Hollywood, where she resisted attempts to have her name changed. “I was going to be Andrea Lord,” relates Dahl in a story that sounds apocryphal yet isn’t, “but before I left New York, I gave it to my roommate. I felt she needed it worse than I did. Her name was Ethel Czap.” Warners also tried to change her looks. “They tried to eradicate my beauty spot, red hair and cream coloring,” she says. These were to become her trademarks.
When she wasn’t marrying smooth-talking douche-y B-list actors, Dahl dated some big hitters. Here’s what she told John Stark about one of the biggest:
“While still a starlet, Dahl saw John F. Kennedy off and on for two years. “He was charming, articulate and attractive, she says, “but every time I saw him he looked like an unmade bed. He had no fashion sense until he married Jackie.” What’s worse, reports Dahl, was the fact that “he never, ever, had a sou in his pocket.” One day Dahl claims to have gotten a call from Kennedy’s father, Joseph, who said his son was very serious about her and wondered if Arlene would consider converting to Catholicism. “This scared me,” says Dahl. “I liked John very much, but I wasn’t in love with him and he wasn’t in love with me.” The last time she saw JFK was after an argument, when she drove off in her car, leaving him stranded on Beverly Drive. “I told him he was the stingiest man I’d ever met and I never wanted to see him again,” she says. Despite Kennedy’s reputation as a ladies’ man, Dahl reports: “I was a virgin, and I thought he was too. I mean, there was some heavy kissing and that was about it.”
Rather than close this tale of May-December romance on that dry-humping John F. Kennedy note, let’s leave on this description from that People interview of life at Chez Rosens:
“Some women simply enter a room; Dahl makes entrances. While the happy bridegroom putters about the antique-filled living room in designer pajamas, Dahl primps upstairs. Then as a lush, instrumental version of Feelings plays on a radio, the great lady descends the grand staircase, wearing a robin’s-egg blue peignoir, which accents her Viking red hair, milky white complexion and beauty mark.”
Pretty sweet, huh?
P.S. I fully intend to post highlights from Ms. Dahls’s incredible book, Always Ask a Man, where Arlene, and her cadre of stars like Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Jack Palance, and Charlton Heston tell you how to be feminine.)
P.P.S. For some unfathomable reason, Arlene’s year of birth is incorrectly listed on IMDb. She was born in 1925, not 1928.
I have unclean thoughts about Mr. Rogers.
I’m not kidding, or trying to be cute. (Who in their right mind would think wanting to mount Mr. Rogers is “adorable”?)
I’d like to say it started when I was a little girl, but I’d be lying. Sure, I loved Mr. Rogers back then — and . . . → Read More: My Perverted Feelings for Mr. Rogers
Sure, Helen Mirren is an Oscar-winning, Shakespeare-trained, supremely talented and thoughtful woman whose legacy includes hundreds of stellar performances on TV, stage, and screen. She holds the title Dame for her services to the performing arts, but by performing the apparently miraculous achievement of looking hot in her bathing suit whilst in her sixties . . . → Read More: Helen Mirren and the Bikini Shot Heard ‘Round the World
You take it for granted.
You don’t know you do, but you do. Knowing where you came from, how you came to be in the world, how you came to have that laugh or those eyes. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, you don’t care. But it’s the luxury of not caring about something you have and can discard. For me, and lots of people like me, not knowing how or why you got here — it hurts. Without a backstory, a first act or a prologue, you feel just plopped down in the universe with no tether, no anchor, and no map or North Star to find your way.
It’s lonely being adopted, because you’re all alone with this nagging mystery. Everyone else knows where they came from and dismisses it as unimportant. You alone care, and you’re not only alone in caring, but sometimes punished for it. One day when I was about 13 I was at the eye doctor. He asked if there was a history of glaucoma in the family, and my mother piped up and started to say there was. I added that it actually wasn’t relevant for my medical history since I was adopted. I didn’t make a big deal about it, I just understood why he was asking. Later, when we got out to the parking lot my mother slapped my face, snarling, “Why do you always have to remember that? I don’t, why do you have to?” Now as an adult I can feel for my poor mother’s fragility around the issue. Still, I wish back then someone could have been sensitive to mine.
I’ve always longed to know how I got here, and the day before Thanksgiving last year, I finally found out:
Many improbable and hare-brained things are hatched in our nation’s capital, and turns out I was one of them.
A half century ago, a Washington DC bigwig was driving his secretary home late one night. As wigs go he was one of the biggest (and his brother was even a bigger wig). The secretary was an average woman who’d left home on the farm at 16 and come to town 2 decades earlier with the influx of workers needed when World War II erupted. The two had a professional relationship, and if anything the secretary was irritated by the wigs’ size and its accompanying know-it-all-ness. After all, she’d been in government 20 years and she though this Phi Beta Kappa upstart was a little too big for his britches.
It’s hard to get a handle on just what happened that night. Only a few things are certain: Doris had sex for the second time in her life; she had sex for the first and only time her boss; and 9 months later the world got 10 more fingers and 10 more toes foisted upon it.
Eight months earlier a doctor had given poor Doris the bad news, but told her he could get the problem fixed. She would have gone that route, but she’d heard of girls dying in back-alley abortions and the prospect of bleeding to death on some dirty mattress somewhere was too daunting. She couldn’t get married because she “didn’t like any of the fellas I was going with enough to get married.”
Doris told the big wig boss about her situation but other than a check he cut for $300 (“I don’t know what that was supposed to be for”) it seems the matter was closed. So about 3 months later she got on a bus to Miami Beach – she’d always wanted to see Miami Beach – and when she arrived she got a room in a small inexpensive hotel and began leafing through the phone book to find a doctor. So there she waited for the inevitable — me.
I was born April 17th. The next day Doris sent in her letter of resignation. A woman she’d met in the hospital lobby 2 days earlier brought her a baby present; Doris doesn’t remember what she did with it.
She went back to Washington DC to get pack some things. She says the big wig contacted her saying he would marry her and they’d raise the baby together, to which she replied, “Too late, Sonny Jim.” (When I asked Doris how he might marry her when he was already married, she shrugged.) She moved back to Missouri.
A year later “Mr. Wig” was giving a speech in Chicago and contacted Doris and asked to take her for dinner. She didn’t want to go –“I didn’t like his personality much” – but she relented because “I wanted to hear his excuses.” (I asked what she meant by that but she couldn’t elaborate.)
I asked what was said about, well, me, at that awkward dinner. “Neither one of us brought it up,” she explained.
Fast-forward a half a century later — Doris is eighty-eight years old and living in a sort of nursing home in Florida. She never married, never had any other children, but she hears from her nieces and nephews every once in awhile. The day before Thanksgiving poor Doris gets a phone call. “Hello, my name is Sarah,” says the tentative voice on the line, “I was born April 17th 1962 in Miami Beach…may I speak to you for a few minutes?” A long pause. “Um, do you understand who I am?” asks the voice. Another even longer pause. “Yes,” says Doris in her high, child-like voice. Continue reading I Finally Found My Mother, Myself, and A Lot More
If Carmen Miranda didn’t exist we’d have had to invent her. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a world without a woman in impossibly high heels and an impossibly high tower of fruit on her head chic-chic-a-booming to an infectious samba. (And neither can most drag queens.)
Many people today recognize the image . . . → Read More: Have You Been Properly Carmen Mirandized? There’s More to this Bombshell Than Bananas
I can’t commit to doing what Jesus would do in any given situation. I’m not generous enough, wise enough, or turn water into wine-y enough. There are T-shirts that suggest one do whatever Joan Jett would do, but I’m not bad ass enough. Not good enough to be Jesus, not bad enough to be . . . → Read More: What Would Barbara Stanwyck Do?
I’ve been obsessed with Pre-Code movies for decades. Here’s why:
Most people believe old movies are stodgy, quaint relics of a time when asexual women did what they were told and upright, wholesome men stalwartly upheld good Christian values. But most people are wrong. Very, very wrong.
These people assume the post-World War . . . → Read More: Fabulously Perverted and Sexy Pre-Code 30s Movies! Part 1