Once again, we have some sobering news to share with you. Eddie Mekka, the actor is famous as Carmine Ragusa on the hit ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley and passes away. Eddie’s brother Warren Mekjian confirmed this tragic news on Thursday, December 2, 2021.
According to Warren, Eddie’s nickname “The Big Ragoo” which makes him into a star, passes away before November 27th. He was 69.
Warren reminisces when talking to Fox News that everyone – is “proud of Eddie’s accomplishments on TV” and refers to him as a very funny guy.
“Eddie loves to dance, sing and make jokes”, Warren says before adding that “He always tried to make people laugh and enjoy themselves”.
The late actor’s brother is unable to share a cause of death at this time. He confirms that Eddie passes away alone at his home in Newhall, California. The police catch him while apparently conducting a wellness check. Warren mentions that Eddie hospitalizes about six months ago when he diagnoses with a blood clot. It’s unclear as of right now whether or not that plays any part in his death.
Pat Benti, one of Eddie’s dear friends, shares the news of his death on his Facebook page on Wednesday evening. Pat too, is unable to share further about Berklee College of Music alum’s death but says he passes on ‘peacefully’.
On that social media post, Pat wrote “R.I.P Big Ragu; it is with deep regret that we share with you the passing of Eddie Mekka” Pat went on to request that fans of Eddie share their memories of him and send their condolences to his family on the late actor’s fan page. Pat wrapped up his mournful post by sending him off with a fitting ‘Rest In Peace”.
In honor of Eddie Mekka’s memory, Join Facts Verse as we take a look at his life story while covering some of the highlights of his decades-spanning career in the entertainment industry.
Eddie Mekka’s Early Life
Mekka was born Rudolph Edward Mekjian on June 14, 1952, in Worcester, Massachusetts. [WRITERS NOTE: Worcester pronounces Wuh-ster
He was the son of Armenian father Vaughn Mekjian and Italian mother, Mariam. His father is a veteran of the second world war, and his mother is a presser. Someone who operates machinery that removes wrinkles from clothing and shapes and forms other fabric items.
After graduating from Burncoat High School, Mekka enrolls in Berklee College of Music in Boston, he studies music and theater.
Early on in the 1970s, Mekka leads the Worcester County Light Opera, he teaches young people the ropes of singing. He performs on Broadway in a production of the rock opera The Lieutenant. It scores him a Tony Award nomination, he relocates to Los Angeles.
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Eddie Mekka’s Career In Show Business
Once, on his way to LA, that’s when Eddie makes his big break on television. He is cast in the role of Carmine ‘The Big Ragoo’ Ragusa on Laverne & Shirley in 1976. Mekka stuck with the series for its entire eight-season run which aired from January 27, 1976, to May 10, 1983.
The show ends up a huge hit and becomes the most-watched television program in America by its third season. Ultimately it would receive six Golden Globe nominations as well as one Emmy Nod.
Laverne & Shirley, in fact, is a spin-off of Happy Days and follows the lives and Laverne DeFazio. Portrays by Penny Marshall, and Shirley Feeney plays by Cindy Williams. Two close friends and roommates who work at the fictional Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the 1950s.
Mekka’s character, Carmine Ragusa, was Shirley’s old high-school flame and on-again-off-again romantic interest. Ragusa, or ‘The Big Ragoo’, is a part-time boxer and former Golden Gloves amateur boxing champion fighter. He owns a dance studio and constantly trying to make it big as a singer and dancer.
He finally achieved his dreams at the end of the series when he auditioned for a major role in a Broadway production of the musical Hair and ended up landing the part.
Aside from his time on Laverne & Shirley, Mekka appeared in close to 50 television shows and films throughout his career. According to IMDB, some of his television credits included turns on series like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, ER, The Suite Life Of Zack & Cody, 24, and The Bold and the Beautiful. He also notably played Detective Murdock in the 2002 Stephen Spielberg produced film Catch Me If You Can.
Mekka also a minor role in the 1992 film A League of their Own, which directs by his Laverne & Shirley co-star Penny Marshall. In that film, he plays the dance partner of the character Mae, who plays by Madonna.
A lifelong lover of theater, Mekka performed in the musical Hairspray at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas and went on a national tour of Grease alongside his other Laverne & Shirley co-star Jane Williams. Mekka later returned to off-Broadway once again in 2008 when he starred in Steve Solomon’s acclaimed long-running comedy play My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy at the Westside Theatre in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.
Also in 2008, Mekka reunited with Cindy Williams once again for a production of Renne Taylor and Joseph Bologna’s comedy play It Had To Be You. That same year, he also appeared in the independent film Code Enforcer starring alongside Happy Day’s Erin Moran.
From April 29 to June 20, 2010, Mekka played Tevye in a production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof at the John W. Engerman Theater in Northport, New York.
In 1983, Mekka got married to actress Delee Lively. The couple was married for nine years before divorcing in 1992. Just two years later, in 1994, he married Yvonne Marie Grace. He and Grace ended up having one daughter together, Mia.
Some of Mekka’s last movie credits were in independent films like 2017s Silver Twins and 2018s Hail Mary!.
Mekka’s last television credit was in a 2012 episode of the Adult Swim dark comedy series Childrens Hospital playing the one-off character Frankie.
Eddie Mekka’s Legacy Will Live On
Mekka is survived by his daughter, Mia, and his three siblings. He had two brothers, Waren and Wayne, and a sister, Lenore. But aside from his blood family, Mekka is also survived by his Lavern & Shirley television family.
After learning of his death, Cindy Williams, the 74-year-old actress who played Shirley Feeney, tweeted about the late actor calling him ‘a world-class talent who could do it all’. In her tweet, William’s also included a video highlighting some of Mekka’s most memorable moments from Laverne & Shirley. Many of these clips showcased Mekka’s singing and dancing skills.
Another Laverne & Shirely co-star, Michael McKean, who played the character Lenny Kosnowski, also tweeted a heartfelt goodbye to his old friend, referring to him as the ‘purveyor of cheer whenever things got cheerless’.
Sadly Penny Marshall, the actress who played Laverne, passed away in 2018 at the age of 75. David Lander, the actor who played Squiggy, likewise died at the age of 73 in 2020. The creator of the series, Garry Marshall, brother of Penny Marshall, died in 2016 at 81.
If you’re interested in watching Laverne & Shirley, the entire series, as well as Happy Days, is available for steaming Free on Pluto TV. We can’t think of a better way to pay our respects to Mekka than by watching the show that helped put him on the map. And afterward, be sure to check out some of his other lesser-known works.
For example, Mekka appeared in the 2009 Christian drama film C Me Dance which was actually endorsed by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as The Dove Foundation. And you might not have realized it, but he also played a club manager in the 2006 Academy Award-winning film Dreamgirls which was adapted from a 1981 Broadway musical of the same name.
Fans of Laverne & Shirley are no doubt a bit heartbroken to learn that ‘The Big Ragoo’ has passed on, but his memory will live on for quite some time, considering the enduring popularity of that series. What were some of your favorite memories of Eddie Mekka? And can you think of any other shows or films that he appeared in that we failed to mention? Let us know in the comments section down below.
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