Since the 2008 release of the fourth season of Laverne & Shirley, fans have been waiting four long years for the next season’s DVDs. As of April 10, 2012, the wait is over, and the fifth season DVD set is finally on the market.
A spin-off of the sitcom, Happy Days, the iconic Laverne & Shirley, which starred Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall as single women who worked in a Milwaukee brewery, ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting on the phone with the very sweet Cindy Williams, who played the perky Shirley Feeney opposite Penny Marshall’s Laverne De Fazio.
You and Penny had great chemistry on the show. Was that something you had to work at, or did it just click immediately with the two of you?
It was chemistry. I couldn’t have done that show without her. I think Penny would say this, too. On certain levels, Penny and I are opposites, but on a lot of levels, we see the exact same thing at the exact same time and make the exact same comment on it. We have the same sense of humor…. During rehearsals, if it made us laugh, we knew we’d make the audience laugh. So, we were our own little testing ground. We loved to laugh.
We could have not seen each other for a hundred years, and Penny and I would pick up right in the same place. We were writing together before that, and we had met a long time before Happy Days. I’ve told this story many times, but when I first actually met Penny, we had a double date. It was Rob Reiner and my boyfriend at the time, Fred. We went to the Ambassador Hotel to see Liza Minnelli perform, and Little Richard was opening for her. And after the show, everybody wanted to go backstage and say hello to Liza. The boys did because I guess they knew her.
So, Penny and I were walking behind them, and in order to get to Liza’s dressing room, you had to go through Little Richard’s dressing room. Little Richard was sitting in a chair, and he looked up and saw us. And he put his leg out and stopped us and said, “You! You two! I want to give a blessing to you two.” So, we bowed our heads immediately together. And he blessed us and said a prayer over us. And Penny and I often say that the success of Laverne & Shirley was due to Little Richard’s blessing.
Did you ever meet Little Richard again?
No, we met his nephew, though, and he knew that story.
As I’m listening to you talk, I think about what an optimist Shirley was. Is that you? Are you an optimist as well?
I’m not as much of an optimist as Shirley…. It was wonderful to play that kind of optimistic, idealistic character because in my own life, I’m much more self-critical. And I shouldn’t be, and as I get older, I try to pull that tar from the wheat and get that out of my consciousness and be more like Shirley.
Do all the seasons sort of run together for you now, or is there anything from the fifth season that sticks out? I think of the beatnik episode. That’s what comes to mind for me.
Well, I loved that beatnik episode. Garry [Penny Marshall’s brother, Garry Marshall, was the creator of Happy Days and one of the creators of Laverne & Shirley] would ask us, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I want a scarf dance!” … So, he put that in that I have this scarf that I dance with and become a beatnik.
But you’d have to remind me. Read me some episodes because we were in California then. The first few seasons that were in Milwaukee are certainly separated in my mind from when we moved to Hollywood, which is the only misstep I think Garry made.
Another one of the episodes from that season was “Not Quite South of the Border.”
That show was so much fun with the hurricane at the end. Wearing Kleenex boxes on our feet, which we decided at the last minute because our luggage gets lost. We’re wearing pillow slips…. It was everything we could do not to laugh at that one.
Did you ever get injured from all that physical comedy?
Well, she [Penny] got injured in one show. The cables broke. And I got injuries that years later came home to roost. I fell off the couch in one episode. It was the episode that Jay Leno was in. That was back in Milwaukee, and I wanted to do this fall where I had my legs crossed and my arms crossed. I’m sitting on the arm of the sofa, and she pushes me off with her elbow to get me out of the room. And in my mind, the picture was to fall straight down and not move my body at all – just stay in that pose and take the fall like that. I had them pad the rug, but I landed on that so hard that I started having sciatic problems – mild, and then worse as I got older. But it was worth it. They may have cut that little part out in syndication.
A lot of it was because we were thinking like cartoons, like we could do the same thing that cartoon characters could do. But we forgot about gravity and that we were human.
I want to divert from Laverne & Shirley just long enough to ask you what you’ve got going on now, if there’s anything you can talk about.
I’m doing a lot of theater, and I’m getting ready to do just that for the next year. I never talk about things because it’s always a bloody miracle if it happens, but I do have a movie that, along with others, I’m trying to produce.
I know you did The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway not too long ago. What are your aspirations at this point in your career?
I’d like to do more theater, except that just recently, like I said, those injuries are coming home to roost. I’m not moving as fast as I used to, Melanie! … But I would love to keep doing theater until I drop.
Do you prefer it?
I do prefer it. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to do another sitcom, but it would have to be just laugh out loud funny.
Do you ever get tired of talking about Laverne & Shirley?
No! It was a happy part of my life and continues to be.