Actor Eddie Mekka, best known for his role as Shirley Feeney’s love interest Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa on the 1970s sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has died at the age of 69. Mekka passed away at his home in Newhall, California, according to a post on his professional Facebook page. The cause of death has not been revealed.
He began his career on Broadway, where he received a Tony Award nomination for his lead role in the 1975 musical The Lieutenant. After his success on the stage, he moved to Los Angeles where he was cast in Laverne & Shirley, the spin-off of the popular Happy Days series that ran from 1976 to 1983. In the show, Mekka played Shirley’s high school sweetheart and the two had a steamy on-again, off-again romance. In addition to his starring role on the sitcom, Mekka also guest starred on other shows such as 24 and ER. He also made appearances in daytime dramas Sunset Beach, The Young and the Restless and on sitcoms It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
In his obituary on Facebook, Mekka’s family wrote that he was an actor, singer, dancer, director and producer. He was a former member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared on many stage productions including Damn Yankees, The Wedding Singer, A Chorus Line and Broadway Bound. Mekka was married twice throughout his lifetime. He first tied the knot with actress DeLee Lively from 1983 to 1992 before he later married Yvonne Marie Grace in 1994. The couple had one daughter together, Mia.
Throughout the years, Mekka was a regular on a variety of talk and game shows. He was a panelist on the Match Game and Hollywood Squares Hour and a celebrity guest on The Tonight Show. He also appeared in a variety of feature films such as Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Dreamgirls.
Mekka was a beloved member of the Laverne & Shirley family and was loved by fans. He will be missed by all. Cindy Williams, who played the eponymous Shirley Feeney on the hit series, wrote a heartfelt tweet in honor of Mekka. Williams described him as a world-class talent who could do anything on the set. She and other members of the cast of the sitcom have been flooded with messages of condolence.