Marshall captures all the significant moments in her life in her recently released memoir, “My Mother Was Nuts.” The title was taken from a line in the first chapter and seems appropriate because her mom certainly qualified as figuratively “nuts.” Marshall and her two siblings had a relatively “normal” upbringing in the Bronx despite the fact their parents weren’t particularly in love with each other.
There were many surprises once Marshall left home to attend college. She ended up at the University of New Mexico because she wanted to get as far from her parents as humanly possible. It was there that she had her only child (daughter Tracy) during a short-lived marriage to another UNM student. It was during a 10-year cast reunion at the Hall of Fame in 2002 that I learned that Marshall had a daughter and she played the part of Betty “Spaghetti” in “A League of Their Own.”
After the failed marriage and not finishing college, Marshall moved to Los Angeles because she wasn’t about to return home. Her brother Gerry (already a successful comedy writer in Hollywood) offered the possibility of breaking into show business. Bit acting parts eventually led to her breakthrough role as Myrna in “The Odd Couple,” and her career took off once the role of Laverne opened up.
What is most staggering about her life is the number of celebrities she says were close friends. It’s like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. One thing Marshall confirms is that the drug scene in LA was as bad as advertised. From what she says it’s hard to believe anyone outside of Steven Spielberg led a clean life.
She was close friends with John Belushi, and his demise was not the least bit surprising.
Not all of life in Hollywood was downbeat. Marshall provides us with some wonderful adventures with many celebrities, including Paul Simon, Carrie Fisher and Tom Hanks, and discusses her romances with Rob Reiner and Art Garfunkel. She has funny stories about growing up in the Bronx, her TV shows, and all the movies she’s directed. How many people know she got her start with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and directed such successful box office hits such as “Big” and “Awakenings?”