Cathy Silvers is so much like Jenny Piccalo that ''it’s frightening''

Her first day on set of Happy Days, she was so nervous, Fonzie had to lift her off the ground and hold her to stop her shaking.

The Everett Collection

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For seven seasons, Jenny Piccalo was a ghost on Happy Days, the friend who serves as a bad influence on Joanie who is mentioned but never seen.

When it came time for the audience to finally meet Jenny Piccalo in the flesh, a young unknown actor named Cathy Silvers was chosen for the part. Nobody knew her face, but everybody in Hollywood knew her last name.

Silvers' dad was Phil Silvers, one of the first major classic TV stars on his hit show The Phil Silvers Show where he famously played Sgt. Bilko.

Cathy felt she had learned comedy at her father’s knee, because he was so funny around the house and always pushing his five daughters to return his sharp wit with barbs of their own.

But Cathy had never acted on TV before, having just been cast in her first college play when her mother invited along actor Dudley Moore to catch her performance. Moore was so impressed, he hooked Cathy up with his agent who within two weeks got her signed as Jenny Piccalo on Happy Days.

It was a whirlwind, and Cathy told Gannett News Service in 1985 that she was not prepared for her closeup.

"When I did my first show on Happy Days, I was shaking so hard Henry Winkler had to take me in his arms and literally lift me off the ground and just hold me, to stop my body from shaking," Cathy said. "It was pitiful … everyone was welcoming, and of course it got much better after awhile. But nobody could’ve helped me that first year. I was – very nervous."

Once Cathy shook the nerves, she fell into the role easily, in part because she said there wasn’t that much difference between playing Jenny Piccalo and being herself.

"Jenny was so like me it’s frightening … honest, obnoxious and with an answer for everything," Cathy said.

In an interview with The Washington Post in 1981, a year into her time on Happy Days, Cathy described Jenny as "a trouble-causer, a boy-chaser, a loudmouth who chews a lot of gum. She’s real spunky."

Now we know that Joanie’s worst influence as a friend actually existed in real life offscreen as Cathy Silvers saw herself in this spunky character.

Silvers played Jenny Piccalo from 1980 to Happy Days' end in 1984, and by 1981, she’d finally relaxed into the part, no longer shaking in front of Fonzie and even starting to enjoy her time with Fonzie and the gang onset.

"It is fun to play Jenny, because there’s so much room for growth," Cathy told The Washington Post. "I would like to make her into a more settled human being, a more normal girl. I’d like to calm her down as she gets into the show."

Growing up as Phil Silvers’ daughter, Cathy said it was her dad who helped her grow as an actor and conquer her nerves, but maybe not in the way you might expect.

"My dad told me, 'Use your nerves and your adrenalin for your performance. Don’t fight it. Use it,'" Cathy told The Tampa Tribune in 1986. "So I keep that in mind. It makes a big difference."

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Oldielover 3 days ago
I always wondered why they finally put a face to the famous name with no face....She was okay,but the show really turned into a stinker by the time she got on it....Should have kept her faceless.
Coldnorth 4 days ago
I wondered why the wholesome Cunningham’s would allow Joanie to hang around with loose Jenny. Such a bad influence on pure joanie
MrsPhilHarris 9 days ago
To be honest I don’t really remember her on the show. I think I had stopped watching it.
Michael MrsPhilHarris 8 days ago
I remember her, and yes, I picture her when a lot of new characters were coming in. So I'm picturing the era when Fonzie (I almost wrote "Fozzie") was teaching shop at school, so they brought in new characters there. So reason to have tuned out.

The one neat thing was there was always Jenny Picolo, but until that late in the series, we never saw her, just Joanie mentioning her.
Zip MrsPhilHarris 7 days ago
I was thinking the same thing. I don't really remember her, but now I kind of want to watch the episodes she was on just to see if her nervousness showed.
I was also wondering how she even got through the audition and got the part being so nervous, but then in reading the article and finding out who her father was, I guess that may have helped. Then again, it's got to be tough to have to try to live up to the reputation of a famous parent, so that could have been part of her nervousness as well.
MrsPhilHarris Zip 7 days ago
It would be interesting to see if she looked nervous, but I still won’t watch. 😀
lynngdance Michael 7 days ago
LoveMETV22 lynngdance 6 days ago
"Wocka wocka wocka!"
Michael 9 days ago
One neat casting for Cathy Silvers was in "Sgt. Bilko", the movie with Steve Martin. 11 years after he father died, she's in a film that derives from her father's work.
texasluva 9 days ago
Trivia- She is a twin. Her sister, Candace Silvers, appeared with her in an episode of Happy Days and works as an acting coach in Los Angeles.

Personal quote- Sons and daughters of doctors, dentists and lawyers go to their fathers' offices. I went to movie and stage sets. I went to Beverly Hills High School and most of my friends' parents were in the business, too. Milton Berle lived next door to us and Lucille Ball lived at the end of the block. I grew up thinking acting was what everyone did.
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Are you ready for Spook Night-Don't go to bed before watching.................

13 Ghosts (1960) 1 hr 24 min-Horror-Mystery
Director: William Castle
Charles Herbert
Jo Morrow
Martin Milner
Rosemary DeCamp
Margaret Hamilton
Fun movie! 👻
Just wait till I do a real scary one and you in hiding , October coming

Ha ha (you).
LoveMETV22 9 days ago
Cathy's dad Phil Silvers appeared with her in S9-E8 Just a Piccalo.
Andybandit 9 days ago
Nice story. I never cared for the Jenny Piccolo character. I thought she was annoying. Sorry about that.
daDoctah 9 days ago
Another surprising case of a daughter showing up on a sitcom was when they gave "cousin Larry" a girlfriend on "Perfect Strangers". Starting in season two, Melanie Wilson was added as "Jennifer". Melanie is the daughter of Dick Wilson ("Mr Whipple").
texasluva daDoctah 9 days ago
Wow! I wonder how she felt when her father was squeezing the Charmin . Good info.
Like father, like daughter: she probably squeezed right along with him!
You may not be the Prince Of Puns like justjeff is, but you are, {like LoveMETV22 said,} the quintessential quizmaster. {Okay, so he didn't say these exact words.} You rank right up there with: Wink Martindale!
Dad Dick Wilson often played an unnamed drunk on "Bewitched", usually when Darrin would leave the house and visit a bar to try and come to terms with all the chaos in a house overrun with witches. He was one of only four cast members to return in the sequel series "Tabitha" (the others were Bernard Fox, George Tobias and Sandra Gould. True to his crossover, Wilson was a neighbor in Tabitha's apartment building who was often a little tipsy.
Thanks for the info. But I already know all of this.
There was one ep. (I believe it was about the one when they first met,) Sam was waiting outside, Darrin was still in the restaurant. DD's character was bothering her, so Sam turned on the water works! Darrin came out and asked if he was bothering her.. I don't remember what Sam replied.
texasluva 9 days ago
I can understand Cathy Silvers (Jenny Piccalo). I get nervous just giving a speech let alone acting in a scene. I'm probably known as a small time trouble maker here with some of the antics I pull. Though fun of course no where near the Pun master JJ who's at the top of his game. I am like the undercard Like one of the Last Mohicans. A dwindling breed
LoveMETV22 texasluva 9 days ago
You are humble. True JJ is the Pun Master, but You are the Quiz Master. I can think of several others who would say the same.
I wonder if that old trick about giving a speech really works? You imagine people in their underwear and by so doing, its supposed to take away, {ease them up a bit, anyway,} the jitters.
Now that can depend on who you see in their underwear
Coldnorth texasluva 4 days ago
I would have gotten seared corneas if I saw my brother-in-law in his tighty whites. Lol
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