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The Story of Laverne's "L"

Written by Cathy Hamaker, Exhibit Developer.

We were very excited to have a chance to feature a great piece of pop culture history from our  permanent textile collection in the 2011 exhibit Incredible Costumes From Film and TV—an outfit worn by Penny Marshall on the iconic 1970s TV show, Laverne and Shirley!  As I was researching the show, my coworker Eric Olson mentioned to me that he happens to know the Marshall family from his work in film.  I thought, how great would it be to get a quote from Ms. Marshall herself about Laverne and her trademark “L” monogram? It would add even more to the extraordinary family learning experience! So Eric emailed his friend Kathleen—Garry Marshall’s daughter, and Penny’s niece—and asked if we might be able to get a little information about Laverne’s costumes.  Kathleen responded very graciously, and a week or so later I had a great quote from Penny Marshall herself to feature on my exhibit label.  How cool is that?  Here’s the full uncut story, with many thanks to Eric, and Kathleen and Penny Marshall:

Director and actress Penny Marshall remembers how Laverne first got a cursive “L” on her sweater in the pilot episode of Laverne & Shirley:

When you start a television show the key is to get the audience to remember the names of the characters and their occupations. So an actress ends up saying her name and job many times during the first few episodes of any sitcom. When I first read the pilot script of Laverne & Shirley, it had us saying our names and that we were bottle cappers every other page.

So when I went to try on my wardrobe, I remembered the fact that I would have to keep repeating my name and it might get pretty boring. I was looking for a short cut as I sifted through the vintage clothing that the wardrobe department had collected from the 1950s. I came across a sweater with an initial sewn in the upper left corner. It suddenly dawned on me how I could save time. Make the initial an “L” and then everyone would remember that my name is Laverne.  The wardrobe department took my suggestion and quickly changed the letter to an “L” and the rest is history. 

Many people ask if I still have some items of clothing in my closet with the Laverne “L” on them and my answer is yes. I’m saving them and if I ever need some quick cash I can always sell them on eBay or Craig’s List.