Eddie Mekka, who starred as the singing-dancing Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa on the hit 1970s TV series “Laverne & Shirley” has died. He was 69.
According to a Facebook post by a longtime friend, Mekka died on Saturday at his California home. The cause of death has not been revealed, but the Facebook tribute noted the actor “passed away peacefully.”
Mekka, born Edward Rudolph Mekjian in Worcester, Massachusetts, began his career in entertainment at the Worcester County Light Opera in Massachusetts as a voice instructor, according to the New York Post. He soon landed a role in the 1975 Broadway production of “The Lieutenant,” which earned him a Tony Award nomination for best actor in a leading role.
His TV credits included “Blanksy’s Beauties,” “Moonlighting,” “The Love Boat” and most recently “It’s Always Sunday in Philadelphia,” but it was his role as “Laverne & Shirley’s” Carmine, the boyfriend of Cindy Williams’ Shirley, a boxer who wanted to make it big on Broadway (his favorite catchphrase was singing the opening lyrics to the Tony Bennett classic “Rags to Riches”), that forever endeared him to audiences. The series co-starred Penny Marshall as Laverne.
Williams paid tribute to Mekka via Twitter calling him “a world-class talent who could do it all.”
Mekka’s film credits include “Beaches,” “Dream Girls” and the 1992 Penny Marshall-directed ‘A League of Their Own,” in which Mekka famously got to show off his hoofing prowess as a soldier courting Madonna’s character, Mae, during a dancing scene at the local bar.
Michael McKean, who co-starred as Lenny Kosnowski on “Laverne & Shirley,” remembered Mekka in a tweet earlier Thursday, calling the actor “a genuinely good guy and purveyor of cheer.”
A sad goodbye to Eddie Mekka this morning. A genuinely good guy and purveyor of cheer whenever things got cheerless. Value these people. RIP, Eddie.— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) December 2, 2021
More to come...