Sharon Stone may have played the muse for Albert Brooks in the 1999 film, The Muse, but in many ways, Monica Johnson was the real muse for Brooks, co-writing several of his popular screenplays over two decades, including, in fact, The Muse. Johnson died Monday at 54 from esophageal cancer.
In a statement, Brooks said: "Monica Johnson was an extraordinary person. Funny, smart, and so much fun to work with. The world has lost a great sense of humor.‚Äù Here is what he had to say about Johnson in a 1996 radio interview to promote the movie, Mother:
Johnson and Brooks won the best screenplay award from the National Society of Film Critics for Mother, as they also had a decade earlier for 1985's Lost in America. She also collaborated with Brooks in crafting the screenplays for Real Life, Modern Romance, The Scout and Muse.
Even before she became the unseen hand giving a second voice to Brooks' movies, she wrote several popular episodes of Mary Tyler Moore and Laverne & Shirley.
In the few years before her death, however, she had retreated to the desert and focused instead on art, as can be seen on her relatively new online site, where she also wrote this bio:
Monica Johnson spent her early years in medical and dental assistants‚Äô school, with solid determination to marry a dentist. (She would have gone for an MD but had no self esteem.)
Then she got a lucky break: nepotism. Her brother introduced her to the world of comedy, and she hasn‚Äôt looked back, except for occasionally when she catches her coat in the door.
She has received many nominations and awards for writing comedy, TV and movies, starting with an Emmy winning episode for Mary Tyler Moore. She then went on to write and produce Laverne and Shirley ‚Äì a job she hated because producing meant having to show up somewhere on time. She was a consultant on numerous TV shows, including It‚Äôs Garry Shandling‚Äôs Show.
Most of her writing has been in movies: Real Life, Americathon, Modern Romance, Jekyll and Hyde Together Again, Lost in America, Mother, and The Muse. She has won best screenplay awards from the New York Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and national film critics. There are many she can‚Äôt remember because she has lost all her memory because of environmental toxins.
She went to the desert to find her health, her spiritual needs, herself and to write a book. She wound up in Palm Springs across the street from the Spa Casino. The spiritual aspect of the desert renewal faded like everything else left in the sun.
Exhausting her funds, she wrote the book Penny Saver, a few chapters of which are on this site. She also wrote a movie, Marrying for Money, up for auction with a sampling at this site.
Somewhere along the way, she began doing art work. This has replaced writing as her creative passion. She is prolific, funny, and hopes you enjoy this site.
Several comedians and writers have paid homage to her online. Here is what Michael McKean posted on Monday: