Tag Archives: Laverne and Shirley

Penny Marshall

When I was nine years old, my favorite color was green. The walls of my bedroom were painted light green like a lime Necco wafer. I had requested green carpet. Bright green like a golf course. But I ended up with a shag rug peppered with different shades of green.

I had two posters. One was a blacklight poster featuring a psychedelic version of Mickey Mouse. What can I say? It was 1976.

download.jpgOn the back of my bedroom door was a Laverne and Shirley poster. The picture was from the opening of the iconic television show. Shirley was pedaling away on an old  bike, and Laverne was sitting on the seat, her arms spread wide as if she might perhaps take flight.

Laverne and Shirley was my favorite television show back then.

I saw pieces of myself in Laverne DeFazio. She was a tomboy like me. Never underestimate the power of seeing pieces of yourself in a TV show, a movie, a book.

Laverne could hang with guys. If you were picking teams for a baseball game, she would be your first or second pick for sure. Same for bowling.

imagesLaverne was funny and loyal, especially when it came to Shirley, her best friend and roommate. She had a hard edge to her but a softness inside.

She was boy crazy in a loud, demonstrative way in much the same way that I was because I thought that’s how girls were supposed to be. Voh-dee-oh-doh-doh and all of that.

I often lament the fact that there was no Ellen on TV when I was growing up.

But there was a Laverne who gave hope to girls like me. A milk and Pepsi chugging tomboy who wasn’t afraid to be herself.

Rest in peace, Penny Marshall. You made the world a better place for girls like me.

#RIPPennyMarshall

 

 

 

 

 

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ParaNorman redefines ‘normal’

I took the kids to see ParaNorman a few weeks ago.  It’s a terrific stop-motion animated kids’ flick about Norman, a pre-teen who has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.

The movie is better than most PG-rated films.  It’s no Despicable Me mind you, but the characters are interesting and some of the jokes and gags are actually funny.

I especially enjoyed a scene in which Norman, his sister Courtney and a zombie are riding in the backseat of the family car.  Norman’s father turns around, wags his chubby finger and gives the three of them the classic if-I-have-to-stop-this-car speech.  It’s funny because there’s a zombie in the backseat.  Zombies make everything fun, even Jane Austen.

The movie is all ABC After School Special as it talks about not being afraid to be yourself and accepting others for who they are.  “You don’t become a hero by being normal,” the movie poster says.

The most significant part, says this lesbian movie watcher, comes at the end when Norman battles a witch and returns the zombies to their graves, saving the town from a paranormal disaster of epic proportion.  Courtney, who has been salivating over the town’s muscle-bound jock, Mitch, for much of the movie, bats her eyelashes and suggests that the two of them catch a movie sometime.

Mitch, voiced by Casey Affleck, consents and says something like: “You’ll love my boyfriend.  He’s a big fan of chick flicks.”

Mitch

Whoa.

It turns out to be a big reveal that really isn’t so big after all.  And, that’s what makes it so great.

Our kids groaned.  I think they get their fill of same-sex coupling at home.

But none of the characters in ParaNorman batted on eye.  Courtney reacts in much the same way that any jilted lover would, regardless of whether her possible paramour’s competing love interest is a man or woman.

The movie got me thinking about other movie and TV characters.  I often think that I came out later in life because there weren’t many Mitch’s around when I was growing up.

My life might have turned out differently if Shirley had kicked Carmine to the curb and abandoned her roommate ruse with Laverne in Season 3.  “Vo-dee-o-doe-doe” would have had a completely different meaning.

Laverne and Shirley

Or, what if Kate and Allie had retired to the same bedroom each night?

During an episode of the show, I once suggested to my college roommate that we continue to cohabitate Kate-and-Allie style after school.

“Uh.  Yeah.  No,” she quickly replied.

At that moment, I realized that most women did not aspire to such a lifestyle.  Personally, I thought the whole Kate and Allie idea was brilliant.  Two women sharing expenses and responsibilities and child rearing, rendering the male role superfluous.

It would be like a slumber party every night of the week, except we’d have to pay rent and buy our own Doritos and not stay up too late because there’s work the next day.  Oh, and the kids.  We better put them to bed before we bake brownies and watch In Her Shoes.  Ah, heck.  We might as well go to bed, too.

Kate and Allie

I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if Alice had run off with the Brady Bunch’s free-spirited, world-traveling Aunt Jenny (played by Imogene Coca).  Aunt Jenny might have been a plain Jane in the looks department, but she had a limo (sweet), knew Wilt Chamberlain (score — free NBA tickets) and rubbed elbows with world leaders.  “Sorry, folks, but Aunt Jenny and I will be leaving tonight to have a lot of falafel with Golda Meir,” Alice might say.

Aunt Jenny

Or, what if Lacey had left Harv for Cagney.  Freeing Harv to date Magnum P.I. (a match made in moustache heaven, if you ask me).  Or, if the fireworks between The Facts of Life‘s Jo and Blair erupted into a make-out session in a utility closet on the third floor of Eastland School for Girls.  I can almost hear Mrs. Garrett’s shocked, trilling “Girrrrrrls.”

Of course, there’s always Charlies Angels.  “Once upon a time, there were three little girls …”

Gratuitous Charlies Angels photo

The moral to this story is that the world needs more Mitch’s.  Gay characters who are just that– gay characters.  Not punch lines, or caricatures, or targets or closet dwellers or even grand lessons in tolerance and acceptance.  Just characters who move about in a fictional world in the same exact way that everyone else does.

And, who aren’t afraid to state that they have boyfriends who like chick flicks.

How about you?  Who would like to see playing for team rainbow on the big or small screen?