Cindy Williams Reminisces About Her Days on 'Laverne and Shirley'

The DVD release of the fifth season of 'Laverne and Shirley' stirs up old memories for Cindy Williams who played Shirley

by Leslie Van Buskirk

Four long years after Season 4 was released, the season 5 DVD of “Laverne & Shirley” is finally here—and so worth the wait.  The last season, when the ladies still lived in Milwaukee, contains several classic episodes including the memorable two-parter “Murder on the Moosejaw Express,” (a man stumbles into the girls’ train compartment and announces “beware the bald man!” before dying—humorously, of course!), and “The Diner” (where they went to work for Lenny and Squiggy in a greasy spoon). Cindy Williams, aka sweet goofball Shirley Feeney, graciously agreed to a catch-up chat via phone, from her home in California. Now 64, the actress is just getting ready to begin rehearsals for the play “Sylvia” which she’ll be doing in Edmonton, Canada, this summer along with—surprise—her old pal, Eddie Mekka (“L&S”’s Carmine).

More: “Laverne & Shirley” just won the Fan Favorite award from TV Land. Why do you think the show resonates with so many people?

CW: I think it’s the energy of the show. It appeals to kids because of the fast pace and because it’s sort of loud. And for adults, there were different levels to the writing with adult themes. Basically we were young people just starting out and trying make it work—you now, just trying to get $12 together to pay the bills. And I think when you play that out in a physical way, it resonates—almost like a cartoon.

More: Do you think that it’s resonating again these days, what with the recession and people having money woes like the girls did?

CW: It certainly does! I’ll tell you why: the theme of that struggle—that’s what “Laverne & Shirley was about and it’s what we’re all living thru right now. We don’t know what’s coming next, we’re all worried. It’s a depression. Although Laverne and Shirley lived thru it in a comedic way—just trying to make ends meet—it’s the same thing people are suffering through today.

More: Have you been surprised over the years by random attention from people who just adore Shirley Feeney?

CW: Oh, yes, I’m always surprised. I remember this one time—this was years ago when my daughter was in fifth grade and I was picking her up from school—all these little girls came running over to my car saying “We love you Shirley!” and I was just shocked. The show hadn’t been on the air in a long time. At first, I didn’t even know what they were talking about!

More: That’s amazing, but it just proves that everyone loves Shirley.

CW: But it’s always a surprise to me. Like, I was having something notarized at the Fed-X office the other day, and as I was leaving, the gentleman who’d helped me said, “Miss Williams, I just want to thank you for all the entertainment you gave me and my family when I was growing up.” I was so touched. My years on “Laverne & Shirley” are a total blessing.

More: In his new book, “My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir,” Garry Marshall (producer of “L&S” and Penny’s brother) doesn’t have flattering things to say about working on the show. He says it was very stressful and that you and Penny Marshall were perfectionists. Have you read the book?

CW: (Long pause) No… I haven’t and it makes me wonder why he’s dredging that up again. He wrote another book some years ago that also talked about it, and I never read that one, either. Look, I love Garry, I really do, he’s just wonderful. But why bring that stuff up? Especially when people have such wonderful feelings about the show.

More: You and Penny had your ups and downs back then. What’s your relationship like today?

CW: I go over to her house all the time! She’s someone I know so well. We had to work so closely—we actually started out writing together even before “Laverne &  Shirley.” Some of the greatest  laughs I’ve ever had in my life have been with that girl!

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