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Laverne’s Memoir, Reviewed
This review was originally published via The Classical Mess, a Substack I was doing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.
If you put a gun to my head and asked me to describe Penny Marshall in three words I might go with humor, humanity, and honesty. If you disagree, try watching “Laverne & Shirley” for two seconds. Or, pick up a copy of Marshall’s 2012 memoir My Mother Was Nuts, one of the more satisfying entries in the celebrity book canon.
Marshall was a skilled storyteller and that naturally translates to these pages as she recounts her journey from the Bronx to Hollywood. Her gift is especially evident when she gets into her romance with Art Garfunkel circa the late ‘70s or early ‘80s (Marshall isn’t meticulous about exact dates). It’s a beautiful story about two lonely people falling in love one magical night, a tale for the ages that develops an amusing angle. Marshall admits she was clueless about the rancor that existed between Garfunkel and his songwriting partner Paul Simon.
There was an evening when Marshall was running late to meet up with Garfunkel; she was hanging out with her pal Carrie Fisher, who was with Simon at the time. Marshall called Garfunkel from Simon’s house and asked him to come over (in part because she was on LSD and didn’t want to venture out by herself). Garfunkel refused.
“I can’t just come over to Paul’s.”
“I didn’t know they would sometimes go years without speaking to each other,” she writes. “Eventually, Artie explained why he couldn’t just come over to Paul’s. He had to be invited. Invited schmited, I said. I didn’t care.” Garfunkel relented. The two men were later cajoled into singing for their partners, though not before the suggestion hung in the air like an unwelcome stench.
Marshall doesn’t draw any parallels between Simon and Garfunkel and her own show business partner, Cindy Williams, maybe because no exact parallels exist. Students of sitcom history know that Marshall and Williams split up seven seasons into “Laverne & Shirley” after Williams married Kate Hudson’s father, Bill. Hudson convinced his bride that no one at the show liked her; Williams quit, and for years Hudson prevented her from having any direct contact with Marshall. The true Laverne & Shirley reunion finally arrived after Hudson and Williams divorced in the 21st Century.
Though they continued their friendship, Marshall writes that Williams “remained unapologetic for leaving the show” at that juncture and “was steadfast in her belief that we didn’t want her. Of course, I reiterated how wrong she was, but in the end what could I do? We agreed to disagree.”
The extensive career Marshall enjoyed behind the camera directing such hits as Big and A League of Their Own affords her memoir a wonderful selection of behind-the-scenes tidbits and asides. Gary Busey auditioned for the lead in Big; Marshall loved his interpretation of a kid trapped in an adult body but she didn’t believe he could play an actual adult with much accuracy. On the set of Renaissance Man, Danny DeVito’s chef served up garlic cloves “every morning as if they were vitamins.” Whitney Houston? Nothing but professional when they made The Preacher’s Wife.
Anyone looking for insight as to why Marshall agreed to play her brother Garry’s wife in Hocus Pocus will be disappointed — that movie doesn’t warrant a mention. You will learn, however, that Marshall and Rosie O’Donnell made an ungodly amount of money making those Kmart commercials in the ‘90s and they were allowed to take whatever they wanted from the store.
Fame has its perks!
A Convenient Parallel Dimension Sold Out In The UK Already
My new book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever was only released in the UK eleven days ago but already it’s sold out. It may have actually sold out well before the release date, as I’ve heard from people who preordered months ago and still haven’t received their copy. What can I say but thanks, UK! More books will wash up on your shores next month. I’m sorry they can’t get there sooner. Apparently the publisher sends them on a boat. Too heavy for a plane, I guess. At any rate, I appreciate your patience and hope it’s worth whatever wait you must endure.
Would you like to hear me talk about A Convenient Parallel Dimension on yet another podcast? You’re in luck. I was recently a guest on the Ghostbusters fandom podcast Extraplasm. Click here to listen to my chat with show host Jim Maritato. We chop it up about all sorts of stuff. And unless he cut it out, you can hear me rant about how John Landis should be in prison.
In a related story, I wasn’t expecting a single mention of Ghostbusters when I started Punk Paradox, the memoir by Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin, but that’s my fault for not remembering Bad Religion’s emblem (a black cross in a red circle with a slash through it). Graffin spends a few pages in the book discussing the creation of that emblem in 1980 and how prevalent the red negation symbol became thanks in part to Ghostbusters.
“It’s likely that our fortuitous association with this friendly red circle backslash helped to pave the way for our band’s logo over the years,” he surmises. “In America at least, I’m sure that the Ghostbusters symbol and the ‘No Parking’ graphic image helped to diffuse any possible antagonism from religious groups. We were never antagonizers — we were simply the antithesis of the symbol we were slashing: you won’t find religion in this house.”
I’m halfway through Punk Paradox and it’s tough to put down. I’ve been into Bad Religion since I was a teenager in the Freaking 1990s but I never took the time to learn very much about their history as underdogs in an underdog genre. I always assumed Graffin was more or less a good egg — thoughtful, principled, compassionate. His book confirms that. And he calls out bullshit when he sees it. Case in point: he really tears into Youth Brigade for all the baloney they put in their famous documentary Another State of Mind.
Another cool memoir I read recently is Bob Odenkirk’s Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama. Nothing about Ghostbusters in there that I can remember but plenty about how miserable he was writing for “Saturday Night Live.” Has anyone ever had a good time working on “SNL?” Anyone besides Kenan Thompson and Don Pardo?
Before I sign off, let me remind you that if you enjoy my writing and want to support me in a tiny, recurring way you can sign up for JG2LAND PREMIUM, the paid tier of this blog. A mere $2 a month unlocks super elite bonus posts (and helps support all the stuff I post for free). The most recent paid content was a piece I wrote about Wolfen. Click here, lay it down, and check it out. Then check out all the other bonus stuff, like the long thing I wrote about the KISS tribute album or my review of every “Faerie Tale Theatre” episode.
Thanks for your consideration. I love you all.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension Is Out Now In The UK
This week A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever was released across the pond so I hope all the UK ghost heads are ready to check it out. Blackwell’s and Waterstones are just two of the fine UK retailers who carry the book. My apologies to anyone who preordered it from Amazon UK; for some reason, they are sticking to a release date of February 17th. Strike four thousand against the Jeff Bezos website.
Let me also remind you that the audiobook of Parallel Dimension as read by Tim Dixon is available via Google Play and Apple Books. Tim did such an amazing job and working with him was very cool. Thanks again, Tim!
So it looks like they’re gonna start filming another Ghostbusters movie pretty soon. This time I hope they bring back Janosz!
A Convenient Parallel Dimension Audiobook Plus Other News
The audiobook of A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever has been released! It’s available via Google Play (click here) and Apple Books (click here). Twelve engrossing hours narrated by the incredible Tim Dixon. What better way to drown out the ills of the world?
Of course you can still buy the silent, three dimensional version of ACPD and if you buy it directly from the publisher right now they’ll take 35% off the price with the code 22JOYSALE. Wow, not a bad deal. Click clicky!
The best deal of all is free, so ask your local library to get a few copies of A Convenient Parallel Dimension if they haven’t already. Support your local library! Support all libraries! They are vital to functioning communities!
Still on the fence about reading this book? Consider these critical appraisals. “A deeper dive into Ghostbusters than anything before,” says Chris Stewart, founder of long-running Ghostbusters news source Proton Charging. “I love this book like Winston loved New York!” raves Book Bits emcee Dave Kirby. Noted Ghostbusters fan / historian Alex Newborn also posted a very positive video review on his YouTube channel.
I’ve been on two podcasts to talk about ACPD — Episode 253 of People Are The Enemy and Episode 149 of The Hungry Trilobyte Podcast. Big thanks to Andy Mascola and Aaron Bossig, the respective hosts of these shows. Both are awesome dudes.
Well, that’s the update for now. Thanks to everyone for your interest. I hope bustin’ always makes you feel good.
It’s Slime Time, Baby
Why did Yaphet Kotto turn down a role in the original Ghostbusters? What was Slavitza Jovan doing before she was Gozer? Was there a fistfight on the set of Ghostbusters II? What was it like making the 2016 reboot? What’s the deal with that “Ghostbusters go to Hell” script? All these questions and many more are answered in A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, the most thorough and detailed book ever written about this famous film franchise. Written by me, Jim Greene!
The official release date for A Convenient Parallel Dimension is 11/1/22 but tale is told that people are beginning to receive preordered copies right now. Not sure what the story is there but I can tell you if you buy this book directly from the publisher at Rowman.com instead of Amazon I make more money. So take that into consideration when making your purchase. Of course, it’s not about the lettuce. Ask your local library to get some copies so people can read this incredible history for free.
Early reviews have been flattering. Noted Ghostbusters fan / historian Alex Newborn offered a very positive video critique of the book. Proton Charging, one of the longest running Ghostbusters news aggregates around, made me blush when they compared my work to the Webb Telescope. Keep the praise rolling in, folks. I actually love compliments.
Not sure what else to say right now other than thank you to everyone who’s been supporting A Convenient Parallel Dimension. I’ve never worked this hard on anything and I can’t wait for all the ghost heads to read it.
Warhol, Wrestling, Muppets
This review was originally published a few years ago in The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was doing on Substack until I discovered they were giving money to very bad people.
Debbie Harry has always seemed remarkably well-adjusted considering her global renown. This image is not shattered by her 2019 memoir Face It. Harry unfolds the road map of her life and nothing, it seems, has driven her off sanity’s edge. Not sour business or lost love or discovering that world famous drummer Buddy Rich was one of the two 40-something creeps who followed her home at the age of 12 after making their intentions clear at a nearby lobster shack.
Harry writes about that mortifying episode and several other very traumatic incidents like they’re just wacky family stories to be told after a few drinks around the holidays. Is she too well-adjusted? Millions of people cope this way — downplaying visceral horror with a laugh or wry comment. Maybe she is truly unaffected. Either way, it doesn’t prevent Harry from coming across as a relatable, endearing human in Face It. Often it feels like the only thing separating us from her is we don’t own paintings of ourselves by Andy Warhol.
What are Face It’s revelations for the casual Deb head? Harry “made it” once with David Johansen back in the day. She admits she “was never a Muppet fan” and only went on “The Muppet Show” because Dizzy Gillespie had been a guest (Harry offers praise for Jim Henson, though, whom she labels “a big pervert, in the best possible way”). Also, Debbie Harry once enjoyed an Edgar Winter concert.
Then you have this fascinating aside about Lydia Lunch, that high priestess of the underground, and her devotion to Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Lunch, Harry, and Harry’s longtime beau Chris Stein were all wrestling fans and used to attend matches together. “Lydia Lunch was hot for Bret big time,” Harry writes, noting that “heads turned [and] eyes stared” when Lunch began screaming in her “earth-shatteringly loud” voice for Bret when he was on the card. I wonder if Bret Hart ever heard Teenage Jesus.
The back half of Face It starts to feel like a sprint to cram in every notable event from Harry’s life during the 21st Century. Now maybe you understand why Richard Hell halted his life story I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp around 1984. Harry’s work is more humane, though, and more human, so we bounce along, happily adjusting.
Here Now The News
I wrote a book detailing the history of the Ghostbusters movies (all of them, even the ones they didn’t make). It’s called A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever and it’ll be published this November by Lyons Press. Click here to preorder it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I thought I knew everything about this franchise…then I started work on this book. I think you’re gonna love it.
Before A Convenient Parallel Dimension, I was working on a book about the Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy. You know, the album it took them 15 years to record and release. I am pleased to report that Backbeat Books has asked me to complete the Chinese Democracy book for 2025. What can I say? Take me down to Paradise City.
I’m going to blog here again on a weekly basis and that includes some posts that will only be available to JG2LAND PREMIUM subscribers. For just $2 a month (or more, if you want) you can enjoy access to it all. The first premium post went up yesterday. It’s a review of Two of a Kind, a 1983 John Travolta / Olivia Newton-John comedy no one really remembers. Click here to sign up and check it out.
Remember, when you become a JG2LAND PREMIUM subscriber, you’re not just supporting me, you’re supporting my beautiful wife, my beautiful children, and our beautiful guinea pigs.
Thank you for all your love and support. Now let’s try to relax before Rob Zombie’s Munsters comes out and the discourse becomes unbearable.
Who Ya Gonna Call? This Book!
This November, Lyons Press (a division of Rowman & Littlefield) will publish A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, a comprehensive history of the Ghostbusters film franchise authored by me, James Greene, Jr. Please scroll past the beautiful cover to learn more.
I spent four years researching this book, digging through vast library archives to paint as accurate a picture possible of the Ghostbusters films they made, the Ghostbusters films they didn’t make, and all the talent involved. I also conducted scores of firsthand interviews and curated a nice selection of pictures for the middle section.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I thought I knew quite a bit about Ghostbusters before I started A Convenient Parallel Dimension but oh was I wrong. It is my sincere hope that this proves to be the case for many readers. I also hope people who don’t know anything at all about Ghostbusters pick this up and say, “Hey, I like learning about these wacky ghost movies!”
Don’t want to say anything else as the manuscript is still being copyedited but I can’t wait for everyone to check it out. Ask your local independent book store to put A Convenient Parallel Dimension on their list today!
A Convenient Parallel Dimension
Hello, friends. Since 2019 I’ve been working on a book that is an in-depth history of the Ghostbusters films. It’s titled A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever and it will be published by Lyons Press in the Fall of 2022. Originally the book was scheduled for this year; the goal posts moved to keep up with the forthcoming entry Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I’ve always felt very strongly that I can’t complete this book without seeing Afterlife. I am very thankful my publisher agrees.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension will be the most thorough Ghostbusters history ever written, one that covers all the movies and will include a wealth of information previous volumes have omitted. It’s a story about art, people, comedy, commerce, evolution, “Hollywood,” and, to some extent, America. Myths will be shattered, truths revealed. The cartoons, video games, and comics will also be discussed and yes, there will be pictures.
I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life and I can’t wait for everyone to read this thing. Thank you for your continued support. I love you all.
A Few Important Points
— I deleted my substack after it came to light that the company was giving money to anti-trans voices; eventually I will repost much of that content here as I attempt to relaunch jg2land; only recently have I accepted the fact that throughout the history of my freelance career this blog has been the only truly reliable structure
— my latest book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever will be published by Lyons Press in the Fall of 2022; I think it’s going to be the best thing I’ve ever done and I hope you will agree
— they changed the interface on the wordpress post editor and I don’t know how to make that image of Muncher smaller but honestly every image of Muncher should be the size of a highway billboard