TODAY   |  September 17, 2012

Penny Marshall: Now I don’t use drugs

TODAY’s Matt Lauer sits down with Hollywood insider Penny Marshall, who is out with a new memoir called “My Mother Was Nuts.” The filmmakers  reveals some of her more private experiences, such as extensive drug use and a decision to get an abortion, as well as  recalling how she got her start in Hollywood

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back at 8:19 with one of the funniest and most respected women in hollywood . penny marshall is south with a new memoir called "my mother was nuts." we'll talk to her in a moment, but first a quick look at her remarkable career.

>> oh, my.

>> two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

>> penny marshall became a household name in 1976 playing laverne defazio in the country's top-rated sitcom " laverne & shirley " about two friends who worked in the milwaukee brewery. after seven years of performing mad cat catches with her co-star cindy williams , marshall turned to directing, earning her place among the hollywood elite with her second feature film "big" which starred tom hanks and grossed over $100 million, as did the 1992 film "a league of their own," about an all- american girls professional baseball league in the 1940s . high-profile marriage to actor and director rob reiner , a romance with singer/songwriter art garfunkel and stories about her life both in hollywood and as a child growing up in the bronx are part of her newly released memoir "my mother was nuts." penny marshall , good morning, good to see you.

>> good morning, matt. it's an ungodly hour to be up.

>> you get used to it.

>> love the title. half of hall wood is scrambling to find new titles for their memoirs.

>> well, wasn't your mother nuts, i don't know.

>> my mother is still living, and i can honestly say my mom is not nuts. your mom is not with us. how would she feel about that title?

>> she thinks she was nuts.

>> so it's just honesty.

>> yeah.

>> i've known you for a while.

>> yes.

>> always thought of you being someone who was kind of private, and yet you share some really personal stories in this book.

>> well, when you're writing a book, what are you going to say, what people already write?

>> were you at all nervous about sharing some of these things about pregnancies and decisions to have an abortion and drugs and --

>> well, that was the '70s. come on, did you not do it? come on, matt, let's be honest now. i bet you did. now i don't do it. now i'm allergic to everything.

>> when you stop to think about in the drug section in particular you write about, we're not talking about just pot, by the way, talking about quaaludes and acid.

>> loved quaaludes, why did you they take it off the market? they are not available, so they can't get it. no one hurt anyone on quaaludes.

>> when you talk about doing these things with great friends like carrie fischer and the late john belushi , do editors when writing a book like this say penny, you've got to have a few good drug stories in there?

>> no. that's what i did. i'm being honest. when i did it, i'm not blaming anyone else , you know, i did it

>> you tell another story in this book that's a lot more serious about challenges you faced in your life. 2009 you were diagnosed with cancer.

>> yes.

>> it was lung cancer and a brain tumor?

>> well, the doctor in l.a. noticed something, and said we've got to keep our eye on that. he didn't and i was in new york at a giant game.

>> right.

>> and it was hot, and the security guys knew me from the nets game. i know every security person in the world from the nba, so he worked the giants game and i was hot, go home. my friend said you're working funny. i've got no support. i went home and felt no pain, no anything, and then my friends convinced me i should go get checked, and ronald perlman , bless him had a call waiting , went, to you know, the hospital, and i was diagnosed. it had me --

>> what's the word, metastasized.

>> that was done here.

>> you got the diagnosis, and from what i understand was to?

>> is the driver still here. can he get my white castle

>> i love hamburgers.

>> if things are bad, then i calm down.

>> you write in the book about your brother, obviously a well-known director, gary marshall who gave you your first break really when he cast you on "the odd couple" and you say he would open doors for you, very honest about the fact he opened doors in hollywood for you, but us a walked through those doors you made it your point to shine.

>> he said i'm not going to risk my career for yours, but i'll open the door , but you've got to do it from then on in.

>> that's a lot of pressure.

>> well, i didn't know what was going on. it was new to me. fear makes you do strange things, like ask for white castle .

>> exactly.

>> so i do things, and they laughed.

>> when you signed on for " laverne & shirley ," this sitcom quickly went to number one, one of the funny episodes, they are all funny, when you guys go on mexico to mexico .

>> not quite south of the border . we couldn't say mexico .

>> exactly. you wrote ron howard , henry winkler and steven spielberg all came to watch the taping of that show. what was it like to be caught up in the middle of that?

>> well, ron and henry were on the next stage so they came over. we shot on different nights, we split a crew, and we were in front of an audience. we were more worried about that than worried about who was standing in the wings, but it was something, steven said you did that in ten minutes, we would have taken weeks to do that scene.

>> you went on to become an extremely successful and well-known director, and i was going to ask you what is it about your personality that makes you so good, and i think it might be this quote from the book about still having fun in your life. i've never wanted to grow up and stop playing. i still try to maintain a connection to the sense of play that i remember from my childho childhood. those experiences taught me the lessons that came in handy later in my life. try hard, help your friends, don't get too crazy and have fun.

>> yeah.

>> good words to live by.

>> i think so.

>> i think people are going to find this fascinating. penny marshall , always good to have you here.

>> thank you, matt. get some sleep.

>> i will get some sleep.