'The Big Ragoo' Has Died at 69

Actor Eddie Mekka played Carmine Ragusa on '70s sitcom 'Laverne & Shirley'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2021 9:25 AM CST

(Newser) – For those who sat in front of the boob tube in the late '70s and early '80s, the Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley likely made its way into their TV-watching schedules. Sad news for that demographic, as loved ones announce the death of actor Eddie Mekka, who played Carmine Ragusa (aka "The Big Ragoo") on the show, at the age of 69, reports Extra. A Facebook post from friend Pat Benti notes Mekka died on Saturday at his Newhall, Calif., home, though no cause of death was given. Mekka's brother, Warren Mekjian, tells TMZ that the police were sent to the residence after friends and neighbors became concerned they hadn't heard from him for a few days.

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Forbes notes that Mekka, a native of Worcester, Mass., first saw an acting brush with fame on Broadway, when he earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in the 1975 musical The Lieutenant. A move followed to Los Angeles, where Mekka played Carmine Ragusa, the sometimes boyfriend of Shirley Feeney, played by Cindy Williams. He also appeared in another Garry Marshall vehicle, the 1977 sitcom Blansky's Beauties, which aired just 13 episodes. From there came a slew of TV and film credits, including appearances on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Family Matters, and a cameo in the movie A League of Their Own.

He also performed in a Las Vegas production of Hairspray and teamed up again with Williams onstage in a national tour of Grease. Mekka was married twice: to fellow Laverne & Shirley actor DeLee Lively from 1983 to 1992, and to Yvonne Marie Grace, whom he married in 1994 and shares a daughter, Mia, with. "Rest In Peace Eddie. We had some fun," friend Benti says in his online post. Check out Mekka's singing chops in a scene from Laverne & Shirley here. (Read more celebrity death stories.)

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