Onstage & Backstage: Learning How Garry Marshall Saved His Sister's Life and About Barry Moss' Marilyn Monroe Deception

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Learning How Garry Marshall Saved His Sister's Life and About Barry Moss' Marilyn Monroe Deception A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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Greetings from Latitude 37, longitude 44. Actually, I have no idea of my coordinates but I am indeed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Let me go back; after I flew back from Canada on Monday where I did a show with the hi-larious Andrea Martin, I spent two days in New York where I was hired by my friend Lee Perlman to put on a show for a big medical group. I did my signature stand-up and I also had Lillias White come and sing up a storm. She is so amazing! Here's my deconstruction of her amazing high notes/riffs in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Then on "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM talk show, I had Garry Marshall, who's directing Billy and Ray at the Vineyard Theatre. I asked him about his TV career and he remembered a moment after he became successful: His mom called him and asked him to help out his sister. He asked his sister, Penny, what she enjoyed doing. Her response? Nothing. She basically enjoyed nothing. Then she remembered that she did a play at one point in her life and kinda liked it. He got her a job on TV on "The Odd Couple." She had a natural knack for it and people enjoyed working with her. As a matter of fact, if she ever made a mistake, Jack Klugman would suddenly pipe up that he had made a mistake so she wouldn't get blamed. Garry told us that Penny used to do all of her own stunts on "Laverne and Shirley," and one week she had to do some crazy thing where she was being swung over the set. She didn't want to wear a helmet but Garry insisted. She still said no. He asked her what would happen if her contraption broke. She said it wouldn't break. Blah, blah until she finally agreed to wear a helmet. Turns out, her contraption broke! What if she hadn't been wearing a helmet!? What would have happened after Shirley left the series? Remember? Shirley was suddenly gone and the show title became "Laverne and…." If Laverne had really injured herself, it just would have been "…and…." Not since a poem by e. e. cummings.

On Wednesday morning, James and I dropped Juli off at Penn Station because her 8th grade class was taking a two-day trip to Montauk! That's where I spent my early childhood summers and I tried to convince James that he and I should go there as well so we could all be there at the same time. Juli, however, put the kibosh on that idea because she didn't want her Dads near her school friends because apparently we're "not cool." Hmph. I remember when she used to beg to hang out with us. Speaking of sassy children, my friend Tim went to Chicago to visit our friends Michael and Phil who have a four-year-old daughter named Mia. Michael and Phil used to live around the corner from us and sometimes we'd babysit Mia. There was one time Mia was crying and I realized the only thing that would make her stop was when I tap danced. It sounds like an unfunny "My Two Dads" episode, but it's true. Here's the video I made when it happened. Anyhoo, as evidenced from that video, Mia is very obsessed with musical theatre, which is great because both of her dads run Steps, a training school in the Chicago area. Tim wrote me a recap of a recent hilarious episode with the little diva-in-training.

Michael and Phil did Bye Bye Birdie at Steps this summer and they put Mia and some other young girls in "Put On a Happy Face." They looked so cute in their little poodle skirts! Mia was around for most of the rehearsals because Michael was directing it, and when they started working on a different scene, this is what happened: Mia: Daddy, am I in this scene?
Michael: No, honey, your scene is "Put On a Happy Face."
Mia: (teeth clenched together): I'm in ONE scene?!?!

I can't wait to read her upcoming memoir!

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Speaking of which, I'm working on David Burtka's act which is coming to 54 Below in November and being directed by his husband, Neil Patrick Harris. Neil gave me an advance copy of his autobiography, which is so fun to read! It's in the style of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, so it's all written in the second person like, "You are Neil Patrick Harris. You are born in New Mexico," etc. Then at the end of every chapter it'll say something like "For a happy childhood, go to page 10. For an unhappy childhood, go to page 7." It's really creative and a super-fun read. And it's got some great show biz stories and score settling. Brava!

On Wednesday, after we dropped off Juli for her train to Montauk, James and I headed to Newark airport to take a flight to Montreal, making it my second trip to Canada that week. We went there to get some writing done and take a mini-vaca. The best part was I hauled out my French and got some delicieuse compliments on my accent. The worst part was I know no more than 30 words and can only conjugate in the present tense. And I limit my verbs to E-R only. On the way home, we took an Amtrak train which takes around 10 hours and gives you delicious writing time. The really cool thing is there is now a special dome car that they attach a few trips a week. This is a car that was built in the '50's and has a flight of stairs so you can sit near the top. It's almost completely covered in glass so you can see out of every side and it's especially pretty now with the leaves changing.

Andrea McArdle
Andrea McArdle

We got home Friday night and Saturday morning, we were up early because I got a job on a cruise. A cruise to where, you ask? Why, Nova Scotia of course. Making it the third time in seven days I've gone up north! An American Jew hasn't gone from the US to Canada this many times in one week since Barbra Streisand was dating Pierre Trudeau. Anyhoo, we were able to take Juli for the first few days because she has Columbus Day off and my Mom is staying the entire cruise because, frankly, she has every day off. She retired in the '80's! Andrea McArdle is on the boat with us and was making us laugh so hard at dinner. When she was a kid before she did Annie, she was doing "Search for Tomorrow" and spent some time doing regional theatre. We were all talking about sex ed and she said there was a girl in her regional theatre cast who told her one night how babies were made and that there was no Santa Claus! She was definitely a vamp compared to Andrea's tomboy-ness. Then when Andrea had to leave "Search for Tomorrow" because she was doing Annie, the same girl got her role. Andrea was devastated because after only a few episodes, the character she used to play suddenly got a boyfriend. Andrea was raging that this girl got to have a romantic storyline as opposed to when she was playing the role and the writers made her have three liver transplants.

Two weeks ago I went to a wonderful memorial for Barry Moss, the fantastic casting director. Along with his casting partner Julie Hughes, he cast around 90 Broadway shows and, at one point, had eight shows playing on Broadway at the same time! I played many auditions for him when he was doing The Scarlet Pimpernel and Titanic. He also spent many years casting TV's "The Cosby Show." His memorial service was so great and I loved all the stories that were told. One told of what a generous and supportive person he was: The great singer Karen Mason talked about having vocal problems at one point in the '80's. Barry was casting the film "A Chorus Line" at the time and wanted to get her a gig so she could have some money coming in, but she wasn't a dancer. Well, he was able to get her a role playing a wardrobe mistress in the movie! Yes, her small part got cut from the final film, but Karen was so thankful to have a job where she didn't have to sing and, thanks to him, she was able to get some money to make up for all the work she was missing!

My favorite Barry story showed how show biz he was from an early age: When Barry was in elementary school, he bragged to everyone that he was so close with Marilyn Monroe, he was going to have her visit the school on Friday. Well, soon every student heard that Barry was bringing Marilyn Monroe to school and suddenly Barry was going to have to deal with his big, fat lie. Friday was coming closer and closer. What to do!?!? Well, his father had a pharmacy that also had the capability to send telegrams. Perfect! On Friday, Barry showed up to school and showed everyone a telegram that said, "Barry! I'm so behind filming my latest movie that I regretfully can't visit your school today. I'm so sorry! Love, Marilyn Monroe." Genius! All right everyone, I’m counting down to my new book, :Seth’s Broadway Diary!" which is coming out next Wednesday. Look at the question posted below. Tweet the correct answer to me at @SethRudetsky and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy! Or just eliminate the middleman and pre-order a copy from DressCirclePublishing.com. Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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