Laverne & Shirley’s Cindy Williams recently discussed how viewers used to hide that they liked the show as well as why they shouldn’t have.
“We had a lot of closet viewers,” Williams said on Allison Interviews. “People did not want to admit that they loved Laverne & Shirley, and it was also a lot of people in show business. You know who loved Laverne & Shirley? A lot of rock stars! We had Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band come down one time to watch a rehearsal. There were a bunch of other rock stars who loved it, because, in its own way, it was very hip.”
Williams first debuted as Shirley alongside Penny Marshall’s Laverne in a 1975 episode of Happy Days called “A Date with Fonzie.” In the episode, the girls double date Fonzie and Richie. Their characters became fan favorites almost immediately. Interestingly, they were based on real women that creator Garry Marshall knew.
“We met some girls and took them to a coffee shop at 2 a.m. Suddenly another girl said something rude to my date,” Marshall once explained. “My girl turned to me and said, ‘Garry, can you hold my coat?’ And then my date beat up the other girl. It fascinated me. The tough-as-nails quality of Laverne and Shirley was based on that single night fight in Brooklyn.”
Marshall struck comedy gold when he decided to adapt those girls into characters for his show. The show became a success, and it’s still remembered fondly today.
Williams Discusses Laverne & Shirley Spinning Off From Happy Days
Additionally, Laverne & Shirley ran for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983. Marshall and Williams headlined the show, until Williams left during the last season due to her real-life pregnancy. Michael McKean, Eddie Mekka, and David Lander rounded out the supporting cast. The cast of Happy Days also made occasional guest spots.
“Two weeks later we got a call from [show creator] Garry [Marshall’s] office and they said that ABC had seen the episode and loved it, and they wanted to ‘spin the characters off,’” said Williams. “At that time Penny and I had no idea what that meant and it had to be explained to us that it meant we were getting our own show.”
For Williams, the entire experience happened before she had a chance to process what was happening. She almost didn’t want to sign on for the series, but decided to take the leap. Williams explained: “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. That is how it all came about. It happened so fast. Penny and I had no time to say, ‘Wow, this is really happening!’ We never really took it seriously.”