‘Laverne & Shirley’: Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall Originally Thought They Were Playing Hookers
In 1976, ABC introduced a spinoff of the popular sitcom Happy Days starring Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall: Laverne & Shirley. The series followed single besties Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, who worked as bottle cappers in the fictitious Shotz Brewery.
But before becoming beloved sitcom characters, Williams and Marshall were under the impression they’d be playing an entirely different role. In a recent interview, Williams talked about the early days of Laverne & Shirley when she and Marshall thought their characters were hookers.
Cindy Williams still ‘talks’ to her ‘Laverne & Shirley’ co-star
Eddie Mekka, who played Carmine Ragusa in Laverne & Shirley, died on Nov. 27, 2021. In an interview with Allison Keugel, Williams reflected on Mekka’s death and the deaths of her other Laverne & Shirley castmates, including Marshall.
“I haven’t processed any of it,” she told Keugel, adding how she still “talks to” Marshall. “I still think I’m going to go over there and tell her something, and you know, Phil [Foster] and Betty [Garrett], I still see them as present. They’re not, but I still see them and relate to them as present.”
Williams said she keeps a framed picture of the cast on her mantel, where she lights candles in remembrance. “I was just looking at it and thinking, ‘You’re [all] gone,’ and I could hear them laughing at me and saying, ‘Check, check, check…'”
Out of the Laverne & Shirley cast, only Williams and Michael McKean are still alive. “I feel like calling him and saying, ‘I’ll race you to the finish line,'” the actor joked. Williams, who believes in heaven, thinks her castmates are happy and “in a fun heaven … all having fun together.”
Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams thought Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney were hookers
During her conversation with Keugel, Williams talked about working with Marshall on a movie before Laverne & Shirley. She remembered a call from Garry Marshall, where he said: “There are these parts for these two girls on Happy Days and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) goes on a double date with Richie (Ron Howard).” According to Garry, the two girls were supposed to be “girls who date the fleet.”
“Penny and I thought, ‘Hmmm, hookers? This will be fun,'” Williams said. In reality, Garry’s description of Laverne and Shirley was the furthest thing from what Williams and Marshall originally thought.
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall didn’t know what a spinoff series was
After the success of the “Date with Fonzie” episode, ABC wanted more from Laverne and Shirley. “Two weeks later, we got a call from Garry’s office and they said that ABC had seen the episode and loved it,” Williams said. “They wanted to ‘spin the characters off.'”
There was only one problem — Williams and Marshall didn’t know what a spinoff series was. “It had to be explained to us that it meant we were getting our own show,” she continued. “Before we knew it, we were doing other episodes on Happy Days to introduce our characters, and then we had the Happy Days characters have their storylines come over to Laverne & Shirley.”
Despite how quickly Williams and Marshall became overnight stars, she said they “never really took it seriously.” Eventually, that realization would settle in as Williams became a seasoned comedic actor.