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Penny Marshall And The Birth Of Laverne's Iconic 'L'

By Mieka Strawhorn | TV | December 18, 2018 |

By Mieka Strawhorn | TV | December 18, 2018 |


As we process the sad news about the passing of legendary director and comedic actress Penny Marshall, it’s impossible to not think about the impact Penny had on so many of our lives. As a child of the ’70s, Laverne & Shirley was just about the greatest gift a TV-obsessed little girl could ask for. And all due respect to Shirl, but Laverne was my moon and stars. My God, she was cool. So cool, in fact, that I tried pretending that milk and Pepsi was my favorite drink for a while (it absolutely was not but we all tried it, didn’t we?). The way she collected Squiggy with her withering one-liners (none of which I “got” at the time, but her delivery and the reaction were enough to know Squiggy had been gloriously burned), her generous smile, and her effortless style, made Laverne my favorite character on TV (with the possible exception of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman).

Nothing symbolized Laverne’s cool cred better than that dazzlingly tall, cursive “L” that appeared on every shirt, sweatshirt, cardigan, sweater, apron, unitard, and uniform Laverne wore. I was obsessed! I was so smitten with that monogram that I made my mom embroider a big loopy “M” onto my favorite pair of Oshkosh B’gosh overalls. And you know what, kids at school “got” it. It was undeniably cool. I lived off those cool credentials for at least 6 months. I know they have Fonzie’s jacket in The Smithsonian, but they ought to already have had a Laverne sweater too. That “L” is just as iconic.

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Knowing what we do about Penny’s abundance of talent and vision, it should be no surprise to learn that the idea for the “L” was hers, and hers alone. While The Smithsonian may not have a Laverne yet, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis does. In 2011 they received a lime green outfit that Penny wore on the show and added it to their permanent textile collection. One of their employees was friends with the Marshall family and managed to get Penny to write a letter explaining how the “L” came to be an indelible part of her character’s wardrobe.

Penny wrote:

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 shortcut 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.

Creative, smart, and funny. Penny imbued Laverne with all those qualities which she herself possessed in spades. Show me a more iconic character choice.

Now, watch the monogram come back in style with a quickness and remember, Penny did that.

Header Image Source: YouTube