15 things you might not know about 'Laverne & Shirley'

Get ready to incorporate some Hasenpfeffer.

Image: The Everett Collection

"Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" So sang Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney as they skipped along a Milwaukee sidewalk together. Where did that silly chant come from, you ask? We'll get to that.

In 1976, Laverne & Shirley debuted in the top slot of the Nielsen ratings, pulling in some of the biggest numbers television had seen in a decade. The Happy Days spin-off was an immediate smash, spawning merchandise, cartoons and music albums. For eight seasons, the roommates and Shotz Brewery coworkers got into uproarious, I Love Lucy–like high jinks in Wisconsin (and, eventually, in California).

Much of the show's success was due to Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, who brought personal touches to their title characters. As zany as the show could get, these felt like real people. They were believable.

1. Marshall and Williams first worked together as writers for Francis Ford Coppola

Around the time of our nation's bicentennial, Godfather director Coppola was producing a spoof dubbed "My Country Tis of Thee." Marshall and Williams were on the writing team, along with Steve Martin, Martin Mull and Harry Shearer. Garry Marshall, Penny's brother, would pluck the two and cast them as Laverne and Shirley. The characters made their debut in a third-season episode of Happy Days titled "A Date with Fonzie" in 1975.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Spinal Tap appeared together in one episode.

Speaking of Harry Shearer, the writer/actor guest-starred in the season-three Laverne & Shirley episode "Bus Stop." Also appearing in that episode was Shearer's longtime collaborator Christopher Guest. Of course, Guest, Shearer and Michael McKean, a.k.a. "Lenny," would soon go on to make the cult classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap — which was directed by Penny Marshall's ex-husband, Rob Reiner. Lenny does not appear much in the eighth season, as McKean was busy filming Spinal Tap.

3. Lenny and Squiggy were created long before the show.

Michael McKean and David Lander were friends going back to college in Pittsburgh. As students at Carnegie Mellon University, the two were part of a comedy troupe named the Credibility Gap and created the characters Lenny and Squiggy (original name: Anthony Squiggliano) for skits. McKean and Lander were brought on as writers for Laverne & Shirley, after which their old alter-egos were revived and injected into the sitcom.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. The show recycled scripts from a 1966 Garry Marshall flop.

The forgotten 1966 sitcom Hey, Landlord! had two things going for it. Quincy Jones wrote the theme music, for starters. Secondly, its creator was TV icon Garry Marshall. However, the show was a bust. The material couldn't have been so bad, though, as some scripts were reused for Laverne & Shirley. For example, Landlord's "Testing…One, Two" was turned into "Guinea Pigs," right down to using the same character, Dr. Sandor.

Image: jacksonupperco.com

5. The apartment set was recycled, too.

Though it was obviously completely redecorated, the guts of The Odd Couple condo was used to craft Laverne and Shirley's garden apartment. You can spot the similarities in the entryways to the right, seen here, which feature two doors at a right angle on a raised platform.

6. Most of the Marshall family was involved in the making of Laverne & Shirley.

Obviously, Penny Marshall starred — and she directed some episodes, too. Her brother Garry created, produced, directed and scripted. Ronny Hallin, their sister, served as the show's casting director. Oh, and Anthony Marshall, their father, produced as well.

Image: AP Photo / Nick Ut

7. Laverne and Shirley joined the Army for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Marshall and Williams actually voiced their animated incarnations for Laverne & Shirley in the Army, which appeared on Saturday mornings in the fall of 1981. As it was a cartoon, the plots got quite surreal — the two military newbies faced off against aliens, werewolves and Bigfoot. Commanding over them was Sgt. Squealy, a talking pig, who was voiced by Ron Palillo — a.k.a. Horshack of Welcome Back, Kotter.

Image: Hanna Barbera

8. Pepsi Milk was an actual favorite of Penny Marshall's.

Pepsi Milk, which is just what it sounds like, was Laverne's comfort drink of choice on the show. The treat was an old favorite of Marshall's. She got in the habit of drinking it as a child, when her mother would make her drink a glass of milk before having some soda. Young Penny would top off her unfinished milk with a splash of cola and — voila! — a new treat. Here's a recipe if your tastebuds are curious. Or, you could head to Japan, where Pepsi made a strawberry milk flavor.

9. "Schlemiel! Schlimazel!" also comes from Marshall's childhood.

As Cindy Williams herself explained to us in an interview, the duo's hopscotch mantra was from Marshall's youth. "[Garry's] the one who told Penny, 'Teach Cindy that little ditty you used to do on the way to school. We'll shoot that.'" Williams said. "Penny taught me 'Schlemiel! Schlimazel!' I had no idea what it meant and I'm still kind of shakey on it…. When Penny and her school chums would walk to school, they'd link arms and count off their steps, '1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!' Then they'd run and stop and start counting again. Garry remembered that."

10. It was mostly just 'Laverne' in the final season.

After years on the air, sitcoms tend to shake up the formula. In the fall of 1980, the entire Laverne & Shirley gang moved west, from Milwaukee to Burbank, California. Laverne and Shirley went from bottle-cappers to aspiring actresses and department store employees. Two years later, early in the eighth and final season, Cindy Williams became pregnant and left the show. Originally, there were plans to have her character Shirley pop in here and there, but that did not come to fruition. Instead, her parts were rewritten for guest stars, most notably in "The Baby Show," where Vicki Lawrence played an expecting mother.

11. The theme song by Cyndi Grecco hit the Billboard charts.

In July of 1976, "Making Our Dreams Come True" climbed to No. 25 on the charts. The tune would make singer Cyndi Grecco a one-hit wonder. The single was co-produced by Jose Feliciano's wife, Janna Merlyn Feliciano, and released on the Private Stock label, which was known for celebrity crooners. (Private Stock put out the debut full-length of Blondie, too.) The imprint also released singles by Vicki Lawrence, including "The Other Woman" — perhaps foreshadowing her fill-in role mentioned above?

Image: lyrics.wikia.com

12. Cyndi Grecco was discovered at Six Flags.

As Grecco herself explained to Dick Clark in a 1976 interview on American Bandstand, the singer had a gig at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. She was performing there by the roller coasters when Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, the ace songwriters, discovered her. The duo, who had previously written "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and "Happy Days," quickly asked her to sing "Making Our Dreams Come True."

Image: Dick Clark Productions

13. Both Laverne & Shirley and Lenny & Squiggy released albums.

Williams and Marshall recorded a rock & roll album as Laverne & Shirley. That LP is a story unto itself, with its ties to the Beach Boys, Phil Spector and Kenny Loggins. Lenny & Squiggy Present Lenny and the Squigtones was more of a success. The Squigtones even performed on an episode of American Bandstand.

Image: Atlantic Records / Discogs

14. Fred Dryer made his acting debut on the sitcom.

NFL defensive star Fred Dryer — the first man to record two safeties in one game in 1977 — decided to give acting a go late in his career. In 1980, as he was still played for the Los Angeles Rams (he would retire in 1981), the defensive end appeared in the sixth-season premiere of Laverne & Shirley, "Not Quite New York," the one where they move to California. Dryer appears as a lifeguard in Laverne's dream sequence. He would later be considered for the lead role on Cheers — which eventually went to Ted Danson, of course — but he ended up going the action route as the star of Hunter.

Image: ABC

15. Laverne and Shirley reunited on Ariana Grande's Nickelodeon show.

Sam & Cat was a spin-off of the popular teen sitcom iCarly. In a 2013 episode, Marshall and Williams appeared together as the feuding co-creators of a 1970s children's show called Salmon Cat. As you can see in this boxing scene, the two proved they still had those physical-comedy chops.

Image: Nickelodeon


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Jayray 14 months ago
When does Laverne & Shirley come on should come on after all n the family
RedSamRackham 21 months ago
* When Cindy Williams became pregnant they should've had her marry Carmine! ☺
ASperos 36 months ago
Laverne & Shirley are so funny!!! One of my favorites!!!
Wiseguy 46 months ago
I got the Laverne & Shirley album years later at a discount. Cindy Williams has stated that the picture on the back cover was "doctored" to make her breasts look bigger.
Jeffrey 47 months ago
I do have to admit L and S are better than mamas family - but that aint sayin much
Its like rice krispies in the bowl too long
MrsPhilHarris 47 months ago
I liked the first few seasons then lost interest.
HARLEMLADY174 47 months ago
I am a BIG LAVERN & SHIRLEY family.
cperrynaples 47 months ago
2 fun facts: [1] Cindy Williams was directed by Coppola in The Conversation where she did her big scene opposite Harrison Ford! [2] The last time Marshall and Williams worked on the same project was the Garry Marshall tribute on Odd Couple 3.0! However, they did not appear together!
MrsPhilHarris cperrynaples 47 months ago
The Conversation was an interesting movie. I forgot she was in it.
MikeStidham cperrynaples 47 months ago
Not to mention "American Graffiti" where Williams worked not only with Harrison Ford, but also Happy Days' Ron Howard.
Jeffrey MikeStidham 46 months ago
Yeah, You could say ''American Graffiti'' inspired and spun-off ''Happy Days'', Since a lot of the same stars were in both.
JoeGuenther 47 months ago
The show was awful after they moved to California. Much like the post Ron Howard Happy Days the characters no longer had fifties hairstyles or clothes. I wouldn't even rerun the later seasons of both shows. I also never understood why Jim Carrey thought he was funny.
ELEANOR JoeGuenther 47 months ago
Because Penny Marshall was Garry Marshall's sister, Cindy Williams always felt like she was the odd man out and when she got pregnant, she lost interest in the show and left. So "moving" the show to California was their way of making the best out of losing Cindy.
Krn JoeGuenther 47 months ago
Yeah the episodes really went downhill when Shirley left.
RedSamRackham Krn 47 months ago
Shirley should've married Carmine! ☺
Wiseguy ELEANOR 46 months ago
Cindy Williams got pregnant in 1982. They moved to California in 1980, two years before.
Wiseguy JoeGuenther 46 months ago
So, if you ran a station or network, you would buy the Laverne & Shirley series (all 8 seasons) but you wouldn't show the final three years and make money back on your purchase? I hope you don't run your own business.
Edward 47 months ago
That show was so disgusting to degrade women. They had the IQ of a bowling ball.
RedSamRackham Edward 21 months ago
* It took place in late 1950's through mid 1960's and reflected attitudes of that era. ♣
Edward 21 months ago
This comment has been removed.
CarolKelley 47 months ago
Laverne did not call her favorite beverage Pepsi Milk. It was always Milk and Pepsi. I think I had some Milk and Pepsi about 60 years ago. It was given to me by my babysitter.
MikeyMello CarolKelley 46 months ago
I always remember her drinking that and Shirley liked Scooter Pies if I’m not mistaking. Great memories.
Gloria 47 months ago
Must be kind of a guy thing. Most guys think Jim Carey is hysterical, women...not so much. Anyway, glad they're coming back. One of my favorites.
Tony Gloria 46 months ago
No. Jim Carrey is not funny in the least. He was the worst part of "In Living Color," and has gone downhill since. Now, he just seems like he has killed off a lot of brain cells.
RedSamRackham Tony 21 months ago
* Gee, I find Jim Carrey to be a great comedic actor! ~> https://youtu.be/aFgZRNXz1wk
Rick 47 months ago
I never liked Laverne and Shirley. The characters were one dimensional and the situations were slapstick and stupid. I always got the impression that Cindy Williams wanted to do more serious work, like she did in American Graffiti.
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Edward Rick 47 months ago
Those 2 had the combined IQ of a bowling ball. Denigrating to women ( duh ).
moax429 harlow1313 47 months ago
When Urkel overshadowed the other characters on "Family Matters," I just quit watching that show. The plots were then aimed at a "kiddie" audience and became intolerable.
Well how denigrating must it feel to wind up in jail on a couple of occasions like Screech has. To quote Erkel: "Did I do that?" Yes you did Screech, otherwise you wouldn't have wound up in jail.
It is good to see a post from you and nice to have you back.
Sheree 47 months ago
I loved Laverne and Shirley and still do. If only they had such wonderful shows on today. I very much miss 'family TV.'
JoeGuenther Sheree 47 months ago
Don't worry. Somebody will reboot it.
moax429 JoeGuenther 47 months ago
For the worse, no doubt.
Krn Sheree 47 months ago
I think the show still holds up. It wasn’t meant to be Shakespeare or Masterpiece Theater. It was meant to make us laugh. They had great chemistry.
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