Laverne & Shirley star Eddie Mekka died on Nov. 27 at his Newhall, California home. The actor, who played Carmine Ragusa on the beloved Happy Days spin-off, was 69. Mekka's close friend Pat Benti shared the sad news on Facebook Wednesday. He did not share a cause of death. Michael McKean, who also starred on Laverne & Shirley, called Mekka a "genuinely good guy and purveyor of cheer whenever things got cheerless."
"RIP Big Ragu. It is with deep regret that we share with you the passing of our beloved Eddie Mekka," Benti wrote on Facebook, asking for the family's privacy to be respected. "We welcome you to share your memories of Eddie and your condolences to his family on his fan page. Rest In Peace Eddie. We had some fun, my BCM Alumni. Thank you for having our pic, as your profile pic."
Mekka played Carmine Ragusia in 150 episodes of Laverne & Shirley, and also appeared on Happy Days. Carmine was the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Shirley, played by Cindy Williams. The character was a part-time boxer who dreamed of making it big as a singer and dancer. At the end of the series, "The Big Ragoo" is cast in Hair, making his dream come true. While still starring on Laverne & Shirley, Mekka also starred in Blanksy's Beauties, another sitcom created by Garry Marshall, although not as successful.
Mekka was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 14, 1952 and earned a Tony nomination for his performance in the 1975 Broadway musical The Lieutenant. The following year, he was cast as Carmine on Laverne & Shirley, which remained his best-known role. He continued acting on the stage and screen after the show ended though, even earning a small role in his co-star Penny Marshall's classic A League of Their Own.
The actor also appeared on episodes of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Moonlighting, True Blue, The Munsters Today, Family Matters, Guiding Light, Weird Science, and The Jamie Foxx Show throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His final roles included episodes of 24, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Crossing Jordan, ER, and Childrens Hospital. He also participated in Laverne & Shirley reunions, including The Laverne & Shirley Reunion in 1995 and Laverne & Shirley: Together Again in 2002.
Laverne & Shirley was created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz, and Mark Rothman. It was one of the most-watched shows of its era, airing from 1976 to 1983. Sadly, several members of the cast have passed away in recent years. Penny Marshall, who played Laverne, died in December 2018. David Lander, who played Squiggy, died in December 2020.