‘Laverne & Shirley’ actor Eddie Mekka, ‘The Big Ragu’ dead at 69

‘Laverne & Shirley’ actor Eddie Mekka, ‘The Big Ragu’ dead at 69

Eddie Mekka, the Tony-nominated actor best known for his role as Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa of “Laverne & Shirley,” has died. He was 69.

The veteran TV and stage actor reportedly passed away on Nov. 27 at his home in Newhall, California, according to friend and fellow Berklee College of Music alum, Pat Benti, who did not share a cause of death in his tribute on Facebook.

Asking that all inquiries into Mekka’s death “be withheld during his family’s time of grief,” Benti also said, “We welcome you to share your memories of Eddie and your condolences to his family on his fan page.”

He added, “Rest In Peace Eddie. We had some fun.”

Mekka played Shirley Feeney’s crooner boyfriend known as “The Big Ragu” on the “Happy Days” spinoff starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, which aired between 1976 to 1983 on ABC. His character — he played Shirley/Williams’ loyal sweetheart — was known to break out into song, often belting out the Tony Bennett-inspired catchphrase, “You know I’d go from rags to riches!”

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The multi-talented entertainer got his start at the Worcester County Light Opera in Massachusetts as a voice instructor before landing his first major role in 1975, in Broadway’s “The Lieutenant,” earning him a Tony nomination.

Cindy Williams and Eddie Mekka snuggle in Season 6 of On-screen sweeties Cindy Williams and Eddie Mekka snuggle in Season 6 of “Laverne & Shirley.”Paramount Television/Everett Collection

Mekka was also a series regular in “Blansky’s Beauties” (1977), and, later, appeared elsewhere throughout his television career in various cameo roles, including “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” And, in one memorable moment from the Marshall-directed “A League Of Their Own” (1992), shared a scene-stealing dance with Madonna (“Mae”) at a bar.

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“Laverne & Shirley” co-star Marshall (Laverne) died in 2018, and David L. Lander, who played Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggman in the show, passed away last year. Comedian Michael McKean (Lenny Kosnowski) and Williams are now the only surviving star players from the beloved series.

Betty Garrett, Eddie Mekka, Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, 'The Fourth Annual Shotz Talent Show', (Season 5, aired Dec. 6, 1979)Betty Garrett, Eddie Mekka, Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in “The Fourth Annual Shotz Talent Show.” (From Season 5 of “Laverne & Shirley,” aired Dec. 6, 1979).Courtesy Everett Collection