The year was 1979, and I was hired as an apprentice writer on "Laverne & Shirley" in a program that Garry started to help young, aspiring writers. This alone would have put him in the "Good Guy Hall of Fame," as most TV executives couldn't care less about helping anyone starting out —but not Garry.
At a Friday night taping of "Laverne," he came up to me and in his distinctive, clipped Bronx accent said, "Bob ... the audience ... a little dead tonight ... Go ... talk." And as an afterthought, just before I stepped on stage, he called out, "BE FUNNY!"
Pressure? You bet.
The important credo that Garry had in all his shows (and I mean legendary shows like "Mork & Mindy," "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days") was this: Have a life lesson. Don't leave the audience unfulfilled after making them listen to you for the last 24 minutes.
If you look at any of the shows Garry made, you will see what he set out to accomplish, and you will see that he succeeded. He was a force who changed the course of television as we know it.
Another important lesson that Garry taught all his writers was a phrase that we all remember and (hopefully) abide by to this day: "Life is more important than show business."
If there's any business that needed such a lesson more than entertainment, I don't know what it is. Family and friends were the two guiding principles in Garry's huge circle of life. When I first started as a writer, I heard about the famous Saturday morning basketball games at Garry's house, which he held for his various friends in and out of the business. It became my goal to be asked to participate.
It took over a year, but when I was finally asked, it was like I'd been invited to play for the Lakers. To top it off, Garry was as cordial and nice there as he was in the office.
Up until about six years ago, whenever I would see Garry, we would shake hands. I thought this was a little odd since I knew him for so long, cared about him, and owed so much to him. After that first night entertaining the audience on "Laverne," I worked as a warmup guy for 35 years. What didn't I owe Garry?
And so, finally, I gave him a hug.
He seemed taken aback until I told him how much he meant to me. I am so glad I did, because that is how we greeted each other every time from that point on.
Whenever a notable figure passes away, you always hear, "What a great guy," or "There was no one like him." There is usually some truth in it, but with the great Garry Marshall, it's all right there, perfectly preserved in syndication.
He was, plain and simple, the best.
Rest in Peace Garry, and thanks again.