Comedy screenwriter and novelist Monica Johnson died yesterday at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles after losing her battle with esophageal cancer. She was 64. Johnson, considered a pioneer for women in comedy, co-wrote with Albert Brooks some of his best films such as Real Life, Modern Romance and Lost in America. Johnson was the sister of comedy writer Jerry Belson who died of cancer in 2006. Johnson is survived by her only daughter Heidi Johnson and her 7th husband Charles Lohr. Here is a wonderful bio Johnson wrote a few weeks ago for her website that went live today.
Monica Johnson spent her early years in medical and dental assistants’ 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’t 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 – a job she hated because producing meant having to show up somewhere on time. She was a consultant on numerous TV shows, including It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.
Most of her writing has been in movies. With her friend Albert Brooks she co-wrote Real Life, Modern Romance, Lost in America, Mother, and The Muse. She also wrote Jekyll and Hyde Together Again with her brother Jerry Belson, and Americathon (both of which actually got made) and dozens of other films that should have but didn’t. She has won best screenplay awards from the New York Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and national film critics. There is much in her writing career that she can’t recall 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, and the movie, Marrying for Money, both of which are available to anyone who wants to publish or produce them.
Somewhere along the way, she began doing art work. This has replaced writing as her creative passion.