The “Laverne & Shirley” star Penny Marshall’s “life-changing” mistake became her biggest blessing. And, even though her second husband, Rob Reiner, loved her, their careers affected their relationship. If things had turned out differently, Marshall could have been a mother of two.
Penny Marshall, star of the classic show “Laverne & Shirley,” thought she knew everything she needed to know when she moved out of the house. Unfortunately, she learned some brutal lessons after landing in college in New Mexico on her own.
At the age of 19, the then-college girl met a young football player named Micheal Henry. One thing led to another, but unfortunately, she fell pregnant. Young, still studying, and mostly prospectless, the young woman had limited options.
Penny decided there were three roads open to her. She could go to Juarez to get an abortion – an option she rejected immediately – or she could do as many other young girls did at the time and try to force a miscarriage, which was also not high on the list.
She wanted to run away from the two people she had to tell about the pregnancy most, namely, her mother and Micheal. So, going to Amarillo sounded like the best pick out of the three alternatives.
Luckily, Micheal, or “Mickey” as she called him, took the news well, saying, “It’s mine too,” and suggested they get married. The young actress’ mother took the news rather well, saying right off the bat that her help would be needed raising the child.
On the other hand, Penny’s father was furious when he found out. He blamed Mickey and threatened to “kick his teeth in.” Luckily these were largely empty threats, and the situation cooled over time.
That said, Penny couldn’t see herself spending the rest of her life with her new husband, but he assured her everything would be all right. The two planned everything out and got married. On the same weekend, though, President John F. Kennedy was shot. They spent their honeymoon watching his funeral on the news.
The death of the president seemed to set the tone for the future of the marriage. They were both young and broke. Penny stopped studying to start a job as a secretary, and Mickey contributed $100 from his bursary while continuing his studies.
Raising a child as inexperienced young adults with very little money was no easy feat. The couple named their young daughter Tracy and did their best to see to all her needs, but the effort took its toll on the marriage. They ended up divorcing, and both of them remarried.
Penny’s Marriage to an Actor
After the failed marriage with Mickey, Penny decided to do as he did and move on. She cut her ties in New Mexico and moved to Los Angeles, where her brother, Garry Marshall, was a successful comedy writer. With her brother’s help, she started to explore the world of acting.
After a while of playing small roles, Penny knew that comedy was the thing for her. She didn’t want to play the bombshell, and she was good at making people laugh. So, she joined a repertory group called The Committee, and here she met the next romance in her life, Rob Reiner.
Funnily enough, the two grew up very close together. In fact, they grew up on opposite sides of the same block in the Bronx. Penny remembers jokingly that they weren’t allowed to cross the street when she was young.
Nevertheless, the two met eventually, as if fated to do so. Penny felt an instant attraction to Rob, and the two seemed to have a lot in common. Even Rob realized there were similarities between them. He reminisced on their first meeting, saying:
“I discovered we had the same kinds of little things in our pockets.”
At the time, though, Rob was going through a bit of a personal dilemma. He was planning on moving in with another girl, but Rob and Penny had hesitantly started dating. Penny didn’t quite know what was going on and remembered thinking, “I liked him but he didn’t like me.”
Luckily, after the two had their last date, they went back to Penny’s place to watch TV, and that was that. Rob’s thoughts of another woman were gone. In the meantime, Rob was cast for the show “All in the Family,” and Penny was still doing auditions.
Penny was almost twice as rich in terms of miracles.
Then, in 1971, after being together for 18 months, the two had a spur-of-the-moment marriage, made possible by Rob’s first 13 episodes of “All in the Family.” The ceremony wasn’t grand, but Rob vowed, “I’ll always be your best friend,” and Penny promised, “I’ll try not to make you nervous.”
Rob became Tracy’s adopted father, and he built a great relationship with her. All seemed to be going well for the little family for ten years. But, after “All in the Family” was canceled, and Penny started starring in the hit show “Laverne & Shirley,” conflict over careers arose, and the two divorced in 1981.
The two didn’t part ways as enemies, though. They both still adored each other as people, and they even thought they would end up together later in life. As time went on, though, Rob remarried and had kids of his own. Penny reflected on the breakup, saying:
“We always thought we would get back together when we were much older. But he’s got a wife and family now. His grandkids went to school with my kids. We still get along.”
Despite Penny’s two failed marriages and the supposed “mistake” of becoming pregnant at a young age, she learned a lot. She wasn’t naïve anymore, and her so-called mistake turned out to be a blessing.
Penny Marshall’s “life-changing mistake” & regret
Penny believed she had made a mistake by getting pregnant. But, as things moved on and her daughter was born, her opinion started to shift. By raising Tracy, the actress became aware of just how wrong her initial regret was and how happy she was that she had had her daughter. She happily remarked on her daughter:
“What I thought was a major, life-changing mistake that could have given me a scarlet A ended up giving me a wonderful family.”
Penny’s daughter, Tracy, had three children, all of whom Penny adored. Tracy also had some of her mother’s acting genes since she appeared in two movies, namely “Die Hard” (1988) and “A League of Their Own” (1992).
The “Laverne & Shirley” star came to appreciate the value of family over anything else. She talked about her grandkids and how much she loved them. Tracy Had a son, Spencer, and daughters from another marriage, Viva and Bella.
The actress has also gone on to achieve great things in the entertainment industry. Besides acting, Penny started getting into directing and writing, and was the first female director to break $100 million. She admitted, though:
“I have three grandkids whom I’m enjoying and love very much. My family is well, and that’s what’s important. In my opinion, life is more important than show business.”
But Penny was almost twice as rich in terms of miracles. After her second divorce, Penny dated another famous icon. She had met Art Garfunkle, the famous musician, and they had dated for a while.
Then, a small amount of time after they had broken up, Penny realized she was pregnant. It was strange because she hadn’t been seeing Art for a while, and she wasn’t seeing anyone else at the moment. Nonetheless, she was, and she needed to decide on a course of action once more. She reflected on the decision:
“I decided to terminate the pregnancy. I did it with a heavy heart. It’s the one thing I’ve regretted most. It fit that difficult time of my life.”
Penny regretted her decision for a number of reasons. Her first pregnancy was also unplanned but turned out to be a miracle. She was also proud of the fact that she had chosen to raise her child despite overbearing odds.
She defended her decision by explaining that she wasn’t sure if Art was the father. If he was, she wasn’t sure if either of them were ready for a child. In the end, though, she still regretted her decision. Nonetheless, she was pro-choice, evident in her words:
“No I never did that – every friend I had had done that. But they should have the right.”
Penny passed away on December 18, 2018. She is survived by her daughter and three grandchildren. In response to her death, Rob Reiner paid tribute to her, saying that she had a great talent and he was lucky to have known her. He continued by saying that he would miss her and that he truly loved her.