Everything You Didn't Know About Penny Marshall: From Discovering Mark Wahlberg to Her Epic, A-List Parties

Penny Marshall was a truly one-of-a-kind actress and director. 

The beloved star died at her Hollywood Hills, California, home on Monday night due to complications with diabetes, her rep tells ET. She was 75 years old.

While Marshall is well-known for playing Laverne on the 1976 sitcom Laverne & Shirley and directing such classics as 1988’s Big and 1992’s A League of Their Own, her less-known colorful start in Hollywood and her incredible relationships with other A-list stars are also pretty noteworthy.

Read on for seven things you didn’t know about the late Marshall.

She got her start in a Head & Shoulders shampoo commercial opposite Farrah Fawcett:

Marshall’s first television appearance was actually for a Head & Shoulders beautifying shampoo. She was hired to play the woman with basic brown hair opposite a then-unknown Fawcett and her glamorous blond locks. It’s reported that Fawcett crossed out the word “Homely” on her on-set placard and wrote “Plain” instead to make Marshall feel better.

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Marshall later admitted that she had issues about her unconventional appearance in Hollywood.

“I just cannot bring myself to accept that the homely person on the screen is me,” Marshall told TV Guide in 1976. “I grew up believing an actress is supposed to be beautiful. After I saw myself in a Love, American Style segment, I cried for three days. I’ve had braces put on my teeth twice, but they did no good.”

She discovered Mark Wahlberg:

Marion Curtis/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Marshall actually gave Wahlberg his first acting gig in 1994’s Renaissance Man when he was more well-known for being a rapper.

“Mark Wahlberg. I gave him his first acting job, and he could improvise, which I liked people who could make things up,” Marshall told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “He’s become a mini mogul with a whole empire! He works like crazy, and he’s a good guy. He’s said I changed his life, so I got him out of the ‘funky bunch’ — whatever they were. I call them the ‘funky bunch.'”

In 2014, Wahlberg talked about Marshall giving him his acting break during the premiere of his film, The Gambler.

“It was the first time I felt comfortable in the room,” he said of meeting with Marshall and his Renaissance Man co-star, Danny DeVito. “I could identify with them. They were neighborhood people. Penny said, ‘Why don’t you want to act? You’re acting anyway. You’re acting like a tough guy. You should give it a try.’”

Wahlberg tweeted about Marshall’s death on Tuesday.

“Rest in peace, Penny,” he wrote. “Such a wonderful, funny and talented lady. Without her support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today. She will be missed. 💔 #PennyMarshall.”

She hosted legendary parties with Carrie Fisher:

Given the late Carrie Fisher’s own eclectic personality, it’s not hard to see why the two women hit it off. In Marshall’s 2012 memoir, My Mother Was Nuts, she talks at length about their close friendship and how the two would celebrate their October birthdays together with epic parties that included plenty of A-list guests.

“We alternated between our homes,” she wrote, via Jezebel. “No invitations went out; everyone received a phone call telling them the date and time. A few days later, we would receive calls from people asking if they could come. Most guests were longtime friends like Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, and Robin Williams. New people, like Ben Affleck and Nicole Kidman, were added every year. One year David Bowie and Iman crashed. The food was a big draw. Carrie’s housekeeper, Gloria, and her mother’s longtime housekeeper, Mary, made fried chicken, meatloaf, mac and cheese, and other Southern staples. Barbra Streisand wanted to hire them for a party. Carrie wouldn’t let her.”

“They were like the Vanity Fair party after the Oscars,” Marshall continued. “It was too much — and too expensive. When you see Shaquille O’Neal and Salman Rushdie waiting for their cars at the end of your driveway, you know things are out of control.”

Fisher sadly died in December 2016 after going into cardiac arrest on a plane. 

“I want to thank Carrie Fisher, my friend and partner in crime for more than 30 years,” Marshall also wrote in her book. “We’ve lasted longer than all of our marriages combined. Our crazy lives have meshed perfectly. We’ve always said it’s because we never liked the same drugs or men, but I know there’s more to it.”

On Tuesday, Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd — who was also Marshall’s goddaughter — shared a sweet picture of the two together on Instagram.

She dated Art Garfunkel:

Art Garfunkel and Penny Marshall during 'Terms of Endearment' New York City Premiere at Coronet Theater in New York City, New York, United States.

Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Although Marshall’s 10-year marriage to Rob Reiner was well-known, it turns out she also dated another very famous celebrity in the ’80s — singer Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel. In her memoir, she said the two were introduced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels and singer Paul Simon, who was married to Fisher at the time.

Garfunkel talked about their relationship in an interview with The Daily Mail in 2014.

“She’s a great film director and actress who’s just so light and funny that she helped bring me out of myself,” he said. “We had a million laughs, the sex was good and it got me out of my introversion. We’re still friends, but I’m a married guy now — my heart is elsewhere.”

Marshall told the Hollywood Reporter in 2012 that she’s still on great terms with her exes.

“It’s still sad that Rob and I didn’t work it out, but he’s happily married with three kids — my grandson went to school with his kids, two of his boys. And Artie Garfunkel came to the book party with his wife,” she shared. “I stay in things a long time to make sure it’s over. It’s not, ‘Okay, we had a fight.’ No, I wait ’til way past ‘It’s over’ to make sure it’s just not a mood or something going on. It wasn’t like we were fighting, it’s just, things are going a different way, you know? I don’t like confrontation much; I’m not a big arguer.”

She made film history with Big:

Big, which stars Tom Hanks as a 12-year-old boy who suddenly wakes up in an adult body, wasn’t just a commercial and critical hit — it also secured her place in Hollywood history. Marshall was the first female film director to have a movie make over $100 million. 

In an interview with The New Yorker in 2012, Marshall said it was actually her brother, director Garry Marshall, that was more excited about the accomplishment.

He was the one who was so proud that I’m the first female director whose movie made a hundred million dollars,” she recalled.

“They didn’t give me the money,” she then added with an eye roll.

Marshall’s A League of Their Own — also starring Hanks as well as Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell — grossed over $100 million as well. More of her hits include 1990’s Awakenings starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, and 2001’s Riding in Cars With Boys starring Drew Barrymore.

She had plenty of offbeat cameos:

Marshall did plenty of seemingly random film and television cameos throughout the years, her unexpected credits including 1993’s Hocus Pocus, 1995’s Get Shorty and episodes of Bones and Frasier just to name a few. In 2006, she played herself in a heartwarming cameo on Entourage — notable given her history with Wahlberg, who was a co-executive producer of the HBO show.

She was a die-hard sports fan:

Marshall’s family’s statement to ET on Tuesday read in part that “Penny was a tomboy who loved sports, doing puzzles of any kind, drinking milk and Pepsi together and being with her family.” Marshall was indeed a fixture courtside at Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers games as well as at baseball games. She was also known for her impressive sports memorabilia collection that she showed off on rare occasions.

Penny Marshall and Kobe Bryant

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Ron Artest and Penny Marshall

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A number of NBA players and fans tweeted about Marshall on Tuesday. 

“#rippennymarshall,” Lakers legend Kobe Bryant wrote.

“R.I.P Penny Marshall. Still remember when you asked me for my game Jersey,” former NBA star Donyell Marshall also tweeted. “You said you would go around telling people I was your nephew.  We always talked before and after games when we played against the Lakers. #lavernandshirley #leagueoftheirown.”

Meanwhile, Bow Wow tweeted throwback courtside pics with Marshall that also included Mariah Carey.

“Had the chance to meet and sit at plenty of Laker games with ms penny marshall during my childhood years,” he wrote. “Great woman with a great soul! RIP”

Before her death, Marshall was working on a documentary on NBA star Dennis Rodman titled Rodman, which is scheduled for release on. Sept. 1, 2019.

For more on Marshall’s life, watch the video below:

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