Penny Marshall with Elmo and Rosita.


Penny Marshall (1943-2018) was an actress and director perhaps best known as Laverne on the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley. Her directing career included Jumpin’ Jack Flash (with Whoopi Goldberg), Big (with Tom Hanks), Awakenings (with Robin Williams), A League of Their Own (with Geena Davis), Renaissance Man (with Danny DeVito), The Preacher’s Wife (with Denzel Washington), and Riding in Cars with Boys (with Drew Barrymore).

Marshall was attached to direct a film adaptation of Into the Woods for Jim Henson Productions in 1994, holding an all-star script reading in her home.

In 1997, she appeared in a series of commercials and promotions for Kmart with Rosie O'Donnell and the Sesame Street Muppets. One appearance at the Fashion Cafe ended in a "puppet malfunction" reported by local newspapers. Matt Vogel, who was playing Big Bird at the time, recalled the incident to Tough Pigs:

I was doing a live appearance as Big Bird with Penny Marshall for a new Sesame Street kid's clothing line. We were hosting a fashion show in front of a bunch of press and children. As Penny Marshall walked on stage, she lost her footing and grabbed Big Bird by the right wing—ripping it off the puppet! In front of everyone—Cameras, reporters, children!

There she was, standing there with the wing in her hands. She quickly realized what had happened and hid the wing behind her back. Neither of us knew what to do so I just said, "Don't worry. It'll grow back." And we went on with the show.[1]


  1. ToughPigs interview with Matt Vogel [1]

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