tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 21, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight to conversation with producer and director garry marshall, the man behind some of the biggest hits in history has penned a new memoir called "my happy days in hollywood." it features anecdotes about many of his projects including "happy days " and "laverne & shirley." in conversation with garry marshall, coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tavis: i am pleased to welcome garry marshall, the writer, director, producer responsible froor couples -- programs like "happy days" and "laverne & shirley." he is out with a new memoir called "my happy days in hollywood." but first in just a small sampling of his work. >> wait until you see this. it is going to be great. here she comes. be cool. >> what will it be?
i do not have all day. >> of that song that frank sinatra sings, you know. ♪ [laughter] >> hello. you remember me? >> i was in here yesterday. you work on commission, right? >> yes. >> big mistake. big. huge. i have to go shopping now. >> there is one thing i do not understand. what is this thing called love? i know it is a motion.
they took a vote. tavis: are you pleased with your work? >> it is not bad. i remember i would have tightened that part in "happy days." tavis: i was watching you wondering what was going through your head. you are still editing. >> could have tightened that. i was very blessed with great casting. tavis: use a very blessed, but how much of the success of a producer, director, has to do with the casting? >> a lot, i think. if you do not have people, whether it is love stories or whatever, they have to have a certain chemistry. sometimes they find it. not today. in the old days you could go a few shows. i know it took mork and
mindy a minute. tavis: you could not do that today. >> i did a show years ago. it was a 99th in the ratings but we shot 34 episodes. we learned a lot doing that. now if you're 99, you are gone. tavis: that reminds me of a story you tell them the book. when "laverne & shirley" premiered, you were trying to see how it had done on its first night. you were looking and you could not find it. you're getting frustrated. your wife comes over and says, you are not looking high enough. or was it?
>> #one. one of the few shows to debut number one. it was a blue-collar woman's show and we hit a place. i was startled. so was my sister. tavis: what do you make of the fact that here was a show about a blue-collar woman that made it big in lasted for a number of seasons. particularly given where we are with regard to the economy and blue-collar workers today? >> well, i think the thing to present on television was everybody is doing well. they dress good. it was all about issues. i noticed there were not too many blue-collar workers and i knew a lot of them. i came from neighborhoods in the bronx. it did say that the women were in the work force and they are funny. they worked at a brewery, which was shocking.
today with the the economy, more and more people think that we are broke, we had to move back to idaho, we do not have enough money. i think the economy has affected the premises. tavis: i have a bone to pick with you. i am saying this somewhat in jest. the last time you were in this chair, unbeknownst to me, you were battling cancer. that could have been our last conversation. >> could have been. getting the cure was the hard part. you would understand that mind over matter, i had chemotherapy, radiation, but i still pitched in my softball game. it was not fun. i would not recommend it but i
had wonderful doctors. to be honest, with cancer, you have to get the best machine. it is the machines that do the radiation. i had great people. tavis: i raise that because i am glad you are still here. >> i am still here. and i can still play ball. tavis: when you look back on the conversation we had, i had no idea. nobody around had any idea you were battling given the attitude you had. >> they told me a lot of it is attitude. i have a wonderful wife. you are supposed to be fed through your stomach because you cannot eat. it is painful. my wife says he does not need a tube. i will get him to eat. a lot of the grounded up a few
-- food, purred became a word in my house. praying is not a bad idea at either. tavis: what is the trick, what is the secret, a better word, and to king married to the same woman? this book says a written with your daughter. >> my oldest daughter. kathy, scottie, lauire. i know is say the key is separate bathrooms, that that is a good one. i will be honest with you. we do not have so much in common. i am the world's worst driver from the bronx. i did not get a license until i was 28. my wife could drive a cab this afternoon. she is the best. we kind of complement each
other. we are still going. it is iffy. [laughter] tavis: one of the things that makes it fascinating michigan th -- is that she has been with you. i am struck by some stories about your flirts with a bankruptcy over the course of your career. you have supported your project. there were some times where she might have walked out on you. >> she is not prone to do such a thing. she is a lovely lady, from cincinnati. the midwest. it is a certain kind of sensibility. yeah, i think a lot of creative people have no sense of numbers and economics. you come to hollywood and you trust people. in the bronx, i kept my money in
a pillowcase. here they said you need walkman -- managers. you have to watch them. everybody was making money but we were not. thank goodness you keep working. to be honest, "pretty woman" got me out of that. an uknown girl. when you are from the bronx, the one thing you do not want to do is be in debt. that is the worst thing in the world. once i found out there was no debtors' prison, i felt a little better. we got out of it, thank goodness. people say success, i think a big part of successes you have to take the whacks. you have to get up again.
we got up from illness, money problems. we keep going. it was a turnaround project, i have to say. that one hit the bell, as they say. it was showing how much money, $200 million, the avengers! but then they have a picture of how much it cost. the top 15, mine was fourth. tavis: i saw these numbers. $14 million to make and about four hundred $90 million. -- $490 million. >> it got me out of trouble when i was ready to move to an
apartment and go back to the bronx. sometimes you just have to keep going. great advice by francis coppola, he said i know up and down. people like your work. you just tap to get out of debt and get even. tavis: i had a great conversation with him. this guy has lost and made it. to your point a moment ago, you are such a funny guy, when you referenced a moment ago that you are about to go back to the bronx, i expect to did not mean that literally, but have you ever thought about getting out of the business? i'd like this but it is time to get out? >> maybe cincinnati, i was going to leave my house and go into an apartment because i could not afford the house.
i have to say i am one of those who likes the business. i like to get up in the morning and see people. i made nepotism an art form. i work for a lot of relatives. there are part of it. i enjoy working. a manager said, you do not idel well. -- idle well. lakers. tavis: you and your sister. >> yes. i am just the lakers. that is what gets to me. tavis: to your point about nepotism, and your sister penny marshall, who knew some of the hoops you had to jump through to keep happy. >> that was my toughest show, "laverne & shirley."
because they were not naturally happy. they were talented but your sister, you cannot tell your sister to leave you alone. foruld say, ok, that's it today. she would follow me home. is she staying for dinner or is she going to fix the second back to? -- second act? it was tough " we got through it, we made up and we are as close as we ever were. we found the top side and the good side. -- tough side and tehe good side. when it comes time for showtime, they were dynamite.
they always delivered the goods. but during the week, and you could get a migraine. [laughter] tavis: speaking of the family, so much of your childhood he spent as a sickly child. >> i was allergic an asthmatic and this and that and also clumsy. i got hurt, stitches. sometimes they say it builds character. i do not think it builds anything. but it did make me listen to the radio. i started in my imagination. radio was a wonderful thing to imagine something. that helped me in the future. tavis: how did you find your way into this business? >> well, i was going to be a journalist. i love sports and i was a sports editor at my high school paper and i went to northwestern
university in journalism. a great school. my daughter, who wrote the books, i was a c +. the she graduated with honors. in those days, it did not have the best sports teams when i was there. i waded right humor. northwestern, by that time the star spangled banner was over, and northwestern bosnia behind 14 points. -- was behind 14 points. [laughter] i spent two years in korea and a lot of stuff on the radio. i fell into it when i came out. i worked at the new york daily news. stories that would put you to sleep. one about stamp collecting. [laughter]
i was writing jokes for comedians and my first job was the tonight show the. tavis: you go from the daily news, but you end up writing on the tonight show. you read and up writing for the sobol, dick van dyke, -- lucille ball, dick van dyke. that is a heck of a rebound. tavis: joey was the rat pack. they helped me. they did not pay me a lot of money. they paid me and food. finally, the tonight show paid me actual money. jack and you just that people. every time, the dick van dyke show -- they would not hire me at first.
they thought we were joke my stirs -- meisters. even lucy, not with desi. she was nervous all the time. she was very nice to us after a few improvements. tavis: is there a better training ground for a writer? you could have not asked for -- it is like a tutorial. >> it is a good way to go. lucy taught me about the physical comedy and dick van dyke was all verbal. it helped me when i got to create my own shows. i sensed which way to go. that combination with casting is the way it should go. carl reiner, one of the great writers, and mentor, was the
original ticket vandyke. he said let's try this other guy from the midwest. tavis: there are a couple of your shows i want to talk about. "the odd couple." you write about it in the book. >> i had done another show which was before its time, very hip and died. then i tried movies. i did not direct them but i wrote and produced. i was at a loss. they said, listen, we have "the odd couple" at paramount. you want to come and write it?
we did not give him a great deal on the tv rights. they had put up the money for his play but not tv. we came in and the first day and we got tony and jack./ they wanted dean martin and mickey rooney. they were in a limousine to gather and the crowd was around. hayes said, i cannot work with him. i am now working with a diskette. that is a good start of a series. as a producer you find out why. it is because jack smoked and tony had allergies, like me. i make the same noise. we got two limos and they were all right for five years. tavis:t is amazing how you solve these problems. get them two cars.
>> you have to lie a little bit. nobody checked in this limousine? >> nobody. somebody chewed gum ones. if you find a gun, it is my fault. i am in the middle of the street. tavis: "happy days," i grew up watching it. as a look back on the show, the time in which that series was set, how you avoided the politics of the era is beyond me. obviously it was delivered. but was such a political volatile era. >> you did not want to show drugs or this or the war. vietnam war this and that. we had to set it in nostalgic terms but even then we were going to do fonzi, he was going
to march in alabama. that is the show we wrote. the sensor said we could not say alabama and say he was marching for civil rights. he went on this march for the good of things. [laughter] how vague are you going to get? we were limited in that way. besides, the language and the sex. politically, we were limited in terms of what we could do. today, this is part of so many shows. they said you cannot do the saturday night live humor. i said you can if you'd get the right guy. when we got robin williams we did a lot of topical stuff. he talked so fast they could not hear it. what did he say? i do not know what he is saying. tavis: he was on "mork and
mindy." >> now he did a play on broadway. he is still a genius. tavis: looking back on your career, you see a lot of people like robin williams. then and now. people will view have introduced us to. -- you have introduced us to. >> people say what you like best about the business and i say finding someone who surprises you. when you see it and it works, it pleases me and makes me feel good about what i did. to find somebody with a gift and show it to others is a terrific
thing and is one of the reasons i am in the business. tavis: you are not going to retire? >> no. on the list of people i did a good with, i have other family members that might need a job. i am not going to retire. i think there are so many more things going on with the internet. anybody who wants to say hello, i am talented, i can get on the internet. sometimes it is a little bizarre. i am going in a week or so, i just met the guy, his name as louis c.k. he said, come in. i need a boss. tavis: let me close with this,
the lakers will take an oklahoma city in how many games? >> i hope it goes 70. they are good with the seven games. somebody could rebound, we will have a shot. tavis: that is a big if. the new book from garry marshall, "my happy days in hollywood." he has given so many of us happy days with the work that he has offered over the years. still going strong. good to have you on the program. that is our show for tonight. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley.
join me next time with a conversation with bill bradley on his latest book. that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. >> be more. pbs. pbs.