Did you grow up watching the sitcom Laverne and Shirley? It was a great comedy series that featured two friends and roommates who got through life while working as bottle-cappers.
Laverne and Shirley became one of the most-watched American sitcoms of all time and received acclaim from the audience and critics alike. It was created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz, and Mark Rothman.
But the true success of the show came from the excellent Laverne and Shirley cast members. Sadly, many of the main Laverne and Shirley cast members have since passed away.
Join FactsVerse to learn how each Laverne and Shirley cast member died and their incredible legacies…
Penny Marshall was born on October 15, 1943, in The Bronx. She came from a show business family as her mother was a tap dance teacher, and her father made technical films and later became a film producer. Both her brothers would later become producers, and her brother Garry became the creator of Laverne and Shirley
After briefly working as a choreographer, she moved to Los Angeles, where Garry was living and had become involved with TV production.
She began appearing in commercials, and it wasn’t long until the acting bug bit her. She had a small role in the film How Sweet It Is which was co-written by her brother Garry.
She later won over the role of Myrna in The Odd Couple – a popular sitcom that was produced by her brother Garry. But her big break came when she was cast as Laverne in Laverne and Shirley. Her character was a rough-talking Italian-American who lives with Shirley as the two ladies try to navigate life. She won praise for her role in the show which became her best-known acting role.
Penny Marshall focused mainly on directing later in her career. Some of her biggest directing hits included the films Big, Awakenings, The Preacher’s Wife, and Riding in Cars with Boys.
She died in Los Angeles at the age of 75 on December 17, 2018, due to a combination of cardiopulmonary failure, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus type 1.
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David Lander was born as David Landau on June 22, 1947, in Brooklyn. He studied acting at the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City and studied further at New York University and Carnegie Tech.
While at university, he became friends with Michael McKean, and the duo created the characters “Lenny and Squiggy.” Eventually, both were cast in Laverne and Shirley to play these characters.
Helmut “Squiggy” Squiggman is what made David Lander a big star on TV. He had a prolific career on television and appeared in shows as varied as The Bob Newhart Show, Barney Miller, Viva Valdez, Married…With Children, and Happy Days.
He also had a great film career, appearing in films such as 1941, Used Cars, A Bug’s Life, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Scary Movie, Titan A.E., and Christmas With the Kranks.
Later in life, David Lander was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and became a spokesperson to find funding to research treatment for the illness.
He published his autobiography in 2002 in which he discussed his career as well as how he’s lived his life with multiple sclerosis. He died from complications due to the illness on December 4, 2020, at the age of 73 in Los Angeles.
Edward Rudolph Mekjian was born on the 14th of June, 1952, in Worcester, Massachusetts. He studied at the Berklee College of Music and started his career performing at the Worcester County Light Opera. Here, he taught young people to sing – helping them in their journeys to become stars.
However, he was also eager to become a star himself. He acted on Broadway in a play called The Lieutenant which brought him much acclaim. He later auditioned for the role of Carmine Ragusa in Laverne and Shirley and landed it. This was the role that made him a huge star and it became the role that he’s most known for.
He had a prolific career in film and television throughout his life. He appeared in films such as Bum Rap, Beaches, Top of the World, C Me Dance, Silver Twins, and Hail Mary!
Apart from Laverne and Shirley, he also appeared in shows such as True Blue, Family Matters, California Dreams, Dream On, The Big Easy, The Jamie Foxx Show, 24, The Young and The Restless, and Children’s Hospital.
One of his best-known theater roles was as Tevye in a 2010 production of Fiddler on the Roof. He also worked alongside his Laverne and Shirley co-star Cindy Williams in a play called It Had To Be You in 2008.
He died on November 27, 2021, at the age of 69 in Santa Clara, California.
Phil Foster was born as Fivel Feldman in March 29, 1913, in Brooklyn. As a young boy he began performing on stage and in amateur shows and sometimes would perform on the street. In fact, early on in his career, he performed alongside Jackie Gleason who was also up and coming at the time.
As he became an adult, he began performing in every play he could to earn money. He also began performing stand-up comedy at local nightclubs to make a few hundred dollars per week.
He eventually became such a hugely popular comic that he toured the country performing his shows. He later served in the Second World War and also performed in variety shows during his stint in the army. He later made many short films for Universal-International.
Upon his return from the army, he was working mostly as a comedy writer. He got back in touch with his friend Garry Marshall who got him a role in Laverne and Shirley.
He played Frank DeFazio in Laverne and Shirley and this was the acting role for which he was best remembered for. He also had a short film career and appeared in films such as The Patsy, Every Little Crook, and Nanny, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, and Texas Godfather.
He’s remembered by audiences as a talented TV actor but by his colleagues as a great actor, comedian, and writer.
He died from a heart attack in California on July 8, 1985, at the age of 72.
Betty Garrett was born on May 23, 1919, in St. Joseph, Missouri. She and her family eventually moved to Washington and she attended the Annie Wright School in Tacoma. She became interested in drama at the time and began organizing plays and musical performances.
She studied acting as an adult and learned dance, singing, as well as classical drama. Her early acting roles were in stage plays.
She also appeared in Broadway plays such as Of V We Sing and Something For The Boys. She began her film career in the 1940s. Her prominent films included:
- Big City
- Words and Music
- On the Town
- My Sister Eileen
- The Shadow on the Window
- Trail of the Screaming Forehead and
- Dark and Stormy Night
In the 1970s, she landed her two most well-known roles. She first played Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family which made her a massive TV star. She further solidified her fame with the role of Edna Babish in Laverne and Shirley.
She later appeared in TV shows such as Becker, Murder She Wrote, and The Golden Girls.
She died of an aortic aneurysm on February 12, 2011, at the age of 91 in Los Angeles.
SURVIVING CAST MEMBERS
Now let’s catch up with the surviving main Laverne and Shirley cast members to see what they’re up to.
Cindy Williams was the co-star of Laverne and Shirley. Her character Shirley Feeney was partially a creation of her own. She and Penny Marshall met before the show and were originally considered to write for the show.
Their excellent chemistry in real life made them perfect to play the duo on Laverne and Shirley. She’s also had an extensive film career and appeared in films such as The Killing Kind, American Graffiti, Mr. Ricco, The First Nudie Musical, Bingo, Meet Wally Sparks, and The Biggest Fan.
She occasionally makes appearances in popular TV shows. Her most recent TV role was in the 2016 television film A Dream of Christmas.
Michael McKean began his professional career working with David Lander performing as the duo “Lenny and Squiggy.” He became popular when he played the character Lenny on Laverne and Shirley.
Following the end of the show, he continued to work regularly in both film and television. His film credits include 1941, Used Cars, Clue, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Earth Girls Are Easy, The Big Picture (which he co-wrote), Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Radioland Murders, Small Soldiers, Whatever Works, and Playing God. As of 2022, he’s wrapped up wokring on a new movie called Jerry and Marge Go Large.
Apart from Laverne and Shirley, his other notable TV credits include various roles on Saturday Night Live, and recurring roles on The Nanny, Friends, Star Trek Voyager, The Closer, Recess, Law, and Order, Smallville, Family Tree, Veep, and Helpsters.
His most recent TV role was in a 2022 episode of the show Billions.
Are you a fan of Laverne and Shirley? The show was one of the funniest sitcoms in America and one of the best shows that portrayed friendship and the importance of community.
Now, here’s what we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think that Laverne and Shirley would be a popular show today? Or has it become dated compared to modern-day sitcoms?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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