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Laverne And Shirley's Cindy Williams And Michael McKean Share Mournful Messages After Former Co-Star Eddie Mekka's Death

The cast of the classic Garry Marshall-created sitcom Laverne & Shirley is mourning the loss of one of their own. Eddie Mekka, who played Carmine Ragusa on all eight seasons of the Happy Days spinoff, died November 27 at age 69. Some of Mekka’s former cast mates took to social media to pay tribute to the actor, who had a long career in entertainment on both stage and screen.

With a career that spread across TV and film, Eddie Mekka was best known for the role of Carmine Ragusa, the aspiring dancer and singer who was the high school sweetheart and on-off love interest of Shirley Feeney, who was played by Cindy Williams. Carmine, also known as “The Big Ragu,” was also a boxer and owned a dance studio. Mekka and Williams continued to work together in the theater following the end of Laverne & Shirley, and Williams shared a sweet tribute to her longtime friend.

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Cindy Williams included a video of some of the couple’s moments on the show and Eddie Mekka showing off his boisterous personality. Mekka’s background in theater was often showcased through his character on the popular ABC sitcom. Laverne & Shirley ended in 1983, with The Big Ragu finally getting his big break with a major role in the Broadway production of Hair. In real life, though, Eddie Mekka had already been nominated for a Tony Award (for Best Actor in 1975 as Tony in The Lieutenant) by the time he joined the ABC sitcom. 

Eddie Mekka and Cindy Williams reunited for a national tour of Grease in 2000, where Mekka played the dreamy Vince Fontaine, and again in 2008 for a regional version of It Had to Be You

Better Call Saul vet and former SNL star Michael McKean, who played Lenny Kosnowski on Laverne & Shirley, also tweeted about the death of his former co-star, remembering Eddie Mekka as a “purveyor of cheer.”

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The role of Carmine Ragusa was one of Eddie Mekka’s first and most successful screen roles, but he had an extensive career, playing a number of small roles in movies and guest appearances on TV. The late Penny Marshall — his co-star on Laverne & Shirley — even gave him a memorable role in A League of Their Own, which Marshall directed, as the man who swing dances with Mae (played by Madonna) in the bar. 

Eddie Mekka’s television career included comedy credits such as Childrens Hospital,  The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Weird Science and Family Matters, with ER and multiple soap operas balancing things out on the drama side. His cause of death was not disclosed in the announcement posted to Facebook by Mekka’s longtime friend Pat Benti. 

Laverne & Shirley is not currently available for streaming, but fans who want to relive Eddie Mekka’s lively dance number with Madonna can rent A League of Their Own on Prime Video. The loss is a sad one for the entertainment world, and our hearts go out to Mekka’s friends and family. 

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.