Cindy Williams, who played Shirley in 'Laverne & Shirley,' dies at 75
Actress Cindy Williams, who played the upbeat Shirley to Penny Marshall's gruff Laverne in the hit television show "Laverne & Shirley," has died, according to a family spokesperson. Williams was 75.
Williams died in Los Angeles on Wednesday "after a short illness," according to spokeswoman Liza Cranis.
Cranis released a statement from Williams's children Emily and Zak that in part reads: "Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved."
Neither schlemiel nor schlimazel, Williams was one of America's most talented physical comedians.
From 1976 to 1983, she co-starred with Marshall on ABC's "Laverne & Shirley" - a spinoff of the Henry show "Happy Days" spinoff - from 1976 to 1983, playing employees in a Milwaukee beer-bottling plant who lived together, sharing misadventures in dating and on the job.
Maybe not since the Queen of American television slapstick Lucille Ball had the small screen seen such consistently hysterical physical comedy. The talent for physical gags mixed went far and in a hurry on the trail that Carol Burnett had blazed starting about a decade earlier with "The Carol Burnett Show."
The show's intro of the two women counting down - "A One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" - before Cyndi Grecco's "Making Our Dreams Come True" plays is as beloved as the series itself.
(An old saying explains the difference between the Yiddish words that roughly goes: A schlemiel spills their soup someone else. A schlimazel is the person they spilled it on.)
Despite the show being centered on two women who work hard against all odds, Williams sued the show because she claimed they ousted her after she became pregnant.
She sued Paramount TV and producer Garry Marshall (Penny's brother) in 1982 for $20 million, alleging they went back on a deal to accommodate her pregnancy and still pay her $75,000 per episode plus a piece of the profits, according to the Los Angeles Times. They settled out of court. The actresses reconciled before Penny Marshall died in 2018.
Williams first became interested in acting during high school, according to a biography provided by Cranis. After high school, she majored in theater arts at L.A. City College.
Williams was a native of Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, per her biography. Williams also performed in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" in 1974 and George Lucas's "American Graffiti" in 1973.
She also graced the stage, including a national tour of "Grease" as Miss Lynch, according to a biography from the website of her one-woman show. Williams also had a stint as Ouiser Boudreaux in an adaptation of "Steel Magnolias," played in the film by another Shirley - MacLaine.
More than a talented actress, Williams also helped produce the successful 1991 remake of "The Father Of The Bride" with Steven Martin and Diane Keaton, according to IMDb.
"May that laughter continue in everyone, because she would want that," her children wrote. "Thank you for loving our Mom, she loved you too."