‘Happy Days’: Laverne and Shirley Were Inspired by Disasterous Double-Date Fistfight

by Will Shepard
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Laverne and Shirley are classic characters from Happy Days that will forever be remembered by those who watched the show. The backstory behind the two characters is fascinating, to say the least.

One of the most memorable episodes from the show is “A Date with Fonzie.” This episode is extra special for the show because it kick-started two actresses’ careers.

The plot of the episode is about Fonzie helping Richie out with girls. His idea is to go on a double date with Laverne and Shirley, who are both from Fonzie’s little black book. As it turns out, the two girls become mainstays for the show.

Gary Marshall wrote a book called My Happy Days in Hollywood after the show was finished. In the book, he talks about how special this particular episode was for the show.

“There are a few episodes that I look back on as gold because they changed so many actors’ lives forever and were remembered by audiences as being extra-special. One of these was ‘A Date With Fonzie,’ when my sister and Cindy Williams first appeared as Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney.”

‘Happy Days’ Characters Laverne And Shirley Came to the Show Unexpectedly

While Laverne and Shirley burst onto the show, their backstory is almost more interesting. The two essentially got very lucky in getting the parts.

Laverne and Shirley are based on a real-life experience that Gary Marshall had. In his book, he describes how he created the two characters from experiences in Korea and Brooklyn, New York.

“To create the characters of Laverne and Shirley, I took pieces from their Happy Days appearances and then took material from two characters I had once seen in Brooklyn.”

He also notes that when he and some of his buddies from the Army were serving in Korea in 1958, they went to a nightclub. Marshall explains this in more detail.

“We met some girls and took them to a coffee shop at 2 a.m. Suddenly another girl said something rude to my date. My girl turned to me and said, ‘Garry, can you hold my coat?’ And then my date beat up the other girl.”

Marshall at the time was enthralled that two girls would break into a real fight while on a date. Again, he talks about this in his book.

“It fascinated me. The tough-as-nails quality of Laverne and Shirley was based on that single night fight in Brooklyn.”

So, in an instant, he knew that he struck gold with these characters. Almost as soon as the episode was done filming, he knew that the characters were going to be mainstays on the show.

Outsider.com