R.I.P. Eddie Mekka, Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa from Laverne & Shirley

He also appeared in a scene-stealing dance number with Madonna in "A League of Their Own". He was 69 years old.

The Everett Collection

Eddie Mekka, best remembered for his role on the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley as Carmine Ragusa, Shirley's on-again-off-again high-school sweetheart, has passed away at the age of 69.

While Laverne & Shirley propelled Mekka into the public eye, it was not his first accomplishment in acting. In fact, in 1975 he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the rock opera The Lieutenant.

A year later in 1976, he would land the role that would define him as the aspiring singer and dancer Carmine Ragusa. Not only would he stay on the acclaimed series until its cancellation in 1983, but he would also play a lead role on the short-lived Happy Days spin-off Blanksy's Beauties. Mekka played different characters on the two shows running simultaneously, a rare occurrence in television.

Mekka would play the Big Ragu again on a guest appearance on Happy Days, and reunite with the Laverne & Shirley cast in both reunion specials in 1995 and 2002.

After Laverne & Shirley ended, Penny Marshall didn't forget her friend Mekka and cast him in her 1992 hit movie, A League of Their Own. Mekka plays a bar patron who has a memorable dance scene with Madonna.

He would act with his Laverne & Shirley co-star Cindy Williams several times after the series ended, notably in a national tour of Grease and a 2008 regional production of It Had to Be You.

Mekka would go on to have guest appearances in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and The Young and the Restless among others.

He had a good sense of humor about being remembered as The Big Ragu, even making a cameo in the David Spade film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star where he poked fun at his early fame and celebrity.

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Reginia 29 months ago
Will miss Eddie Mekka the most. Even now Laverne and Shirley is still my favorite show.
Rita6868 30 months ago
This one is hard! Love you Eddie so much.I watch my L&S series dvds often and watched every day twice a day on cable until it now is only on Pluto T.V. I could not wait to see you sing,dance and act.You were so talented.Miss your handsome smile and muscles.Carmine and Shirley will always be one of my favorite t.v. couples.I'm glad to see they stayed friends.I tried for the last 8 months( when I found out about the company) to get a Cameo of him maybe singing "Get Happy" or "Rags to Riches" to me but he was not on there.Cindy is on Cameo and I'm in her fan club.Thank You for all of your hard work.You left us with such great memories.Miss you already and I'll always Love You!
Nala92129 30 months ago
So young, TOO young! Loved his dance scene with Madonna in "A League of Their Own!"
JDWJDW2 30 months ago
Rest in Peace Eddie. I'll never be able to hear Tony Bennett's "Rags to Riches" again without knowing that you did such a nice job of singing and dancing to it also. You and Cindy Williams were so freaking cute together.
CinziaV 30 months ago
I loved the Big Ragu! RIP Eddie ❤
top_cat_james_1 30 months ago
"Mekka played different characters on the two shows running simultaneously, a rare occurrence in television."

Is it really, though? Heck, MeTV staple, "Leave it to Beaver" had two--Richard Deacon was appearing on LitB and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" at the same time. Likewise, Doris Packer was on "Dobie Gillis" while concurrently portraying Mrs. Rayburn.
MarkSpeck top_cat_james_1 30 months ago
And Richard Anderson, who played Oscar Goldman on both The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman, at the same time, on TWO different networks!
Don't forget even today, Keenen from Saturday Night live, does a show every week in New York, then flies to Las Angeles to make his own show, doing both at the same time
Reginia 30 months ago
RIP Eddie. I still watch Laverne and Shirley on streaming. Next to I Love Lucy, that will always be my favorite show
Grizz 30 months ago
R.I.P. Thank you for the 1st class entertainment... The powers to be should have given you your own show.
Grizz 30 months ago
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DIGGER1 30 months ago

P.S.: Does anyone know what was the C.O.D.(cause of death) for "THE BIG RAGU"?
StrayCat DIGGER1 30 months ago
They haven't (yet) given a cause of death other than to say natural causes. The age of 69 seems too young to die of natural causes, but i suppose it's possible.
VanHalen StrayCat 30 months ago
I'm thinking the same way. But if you have a blood clot and it breaks loose . . . . .
That happened to a co-worker some years ago and she was 38 y/o ! ! !
denny 30 months ago
The Big Ragu was actually not so big, height wise, standing at 5'3".

RIP Eddie
StrayCat denny 30 months ago
I couldn't believe he was so short, so i looked it up for myself and believe it or not, 5' 3". And a couple of web pages even have him listed at 5' 2". Both Penny Marshal and Cindy Williams were taller.
denny StrayCat 30 months ago
The Fonz, Henry Winkler, is listed at 5'6". They always inflate their height so he is probably 5'4".
Mirramanee 30 months ago
Was never a big fan of Laverne & Shirley, but always liked Eddie Mekka's appearances. I thought he had a great voice that was very under-appreciated and I think I was maybe a little annoyed at Shirley for not really giving him a chance boyfriend-wise.

Rest in peace, Eddie. I know you are serenading the angels up above.
ijoanee 30 months ago
You forgot about Johnny Crawford
RIP Mark McCain (SP?)
AlanCard 30 months ago
Thanks for all of the laughs & entertainment you brought to the world.
Go in peace my friend.
Tresix 30 months ago
After the show moved to California, they should have spun Carmine off into his own show with him trying to make it in Hollywood. I don’t know how long it would have lasted, but it seemed like a good idea.
Jacki 30 months ago
I always loved watching Carmine with Shirley, such a cute couple and a great show. So sad. Time passes by so quickly. It seemed like yesterday that I was watching the show when I was a kid. R.I.P. Mr. Mekka.
FLETCH 30 months ago
*sigh* slowly but surely all the actors I grew up watching on tv are passing away

RIP Eddie
vinman63 30 months ago
He passed young. It seem that L&S was so long ago.
327053 30 months ago
My wife and I watch this show every weekend. I remember growing up with this show and you never think this wonderful actors who bring us so many laughs will unfortunately pass on. I can’t believe only Cindy Williams and Michael Mckean are the only ones left from the main cast. Let’s hear it for The Big Ragu!!!😔
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