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Actor Eddie Mekka, a regular on the 1970s and ’80s sitcom Laverne & Shirley and a Tony Award nominee, has died.
Mekka died Saturday at his home in Newhall, California, according to the actor’s official Facebook page. He was 69 years old; a cause of death wasn’t given.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Mekka headed the Worcester County Light Opera in his hometown in the early 1970s and made his Broadway debut in the 1975 rock opera The Lieutenant. Though the show closed after only nine performances, it earned four Tony nominations, including one for Mekka as best actor in a musical. He also earned a Drama Desk Award nod for his role.
He landed the role of Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, Shirley’s (Cindy Williams) boyfriend, on Laverne & Shirley in 1976 and remained with the series throughout its eight-season run on ABC.
In a tweet, Williams remembered Mekka as “a world-class talent who could do it all,” adding, “I love you dearly. I’ll miss you so much. But oh the marvelous memories …”
Mekka and Williams would work together again in the 2000s in a touring production of Grease and a regional production of the play It Had to Be You. He also worked with the other title star of Laverne & Shirley, Penny Marshall, in a brief role in Marshall’s film A League of Their Own as a guy Mae (Madonna) dances with at a bar.
“I got to do a great jitterbug number with Madonna in A League of Their Own,” he recalled in a 2014 interview with The Boston Globe. “And on Laverne & Shirley, because I love to sing Tony Bennett, we worked in a recurring bit where, whenever Laverne is mad at Carmine, all he has to do is sing the line from the Tony Bennett song, ‘You know I’d go from rags to riches …’ and she forgives him.”
Mekka had a role in the 2006 feature Dreamgirls and made appearances on a number of TV series, including 24, ER, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and daytime dramas The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.
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