Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! Shirley has left us.

Variety’s obit.

Here’s a nice recent interview.

Of the Laverne and Shirley principals, only Lenny (Michael McKean) survives. Both Laverne and Shirley have now passed on, as have Squiggy and The Big Ragu. They all died relatively young – aged 69 to 75. (McKean is 75 now.)

I suppose I haven’t thought about Cindy Williams in this millennium. If you had asked me yesterday to guess whether she was alive, my likelihood of a correct answer would have been the same as my chance of calling a coin flip correctly.

And yet her passing makes me sad. I reacted to her passing the same way I react when I hear of the loss of a high school classmate that I remember fondly, but have not thought about since graduation.


She never did a nude scene. The closest she came, oddly enough, was when she mounted a comeback at age 50 in Meet Wally Sparks, the cast of which gave a fresh spark to the word “eclectic” (A few examples: Cindy, Rodney Dangerfield, Burt Reynolds, Gilbert Gottfried, Ron Jeremy, Jerry Springer, Sir Mix a Lot. Full list here.)

image host

17 thoughts on “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! Shirley has left us.

  1. The top 5 Nielsen shows for the 1977-78 season were all mediocre-to-crappy ABC sitcoms: “Laverne and Shirley,”, “Three’s Company,” “Mork and Mindy,” “Happy Days,” and “Angie.” After that things got better: “60 Minutes,” “M*A*S*H,” “All in the Family,” and “Taxi” all ranked in the top 10, and farther down you had “Barney Miller” and “Soap.” Taken as a whole, though, I think late 70’s TV was as bad as bad got.

  2. Cindy Williams was the main guest on the Andy Kaufman special. He got Cindy Marshall to discuss if she had travelled anywhere over the summer, I think she said she had gone to the Soviet Union because she wanted to see if it was really as bad as people claimed, and would interrupt her to ask “so, did you travel anywhere over the summer?”

  3. One of my favorite comedic actresses. Grew up watching her. Her timing and playing straight to Penny Marshall’s broader character was pure gold. She was also cute as hell and just full of charm.

    That combo of cute with a sharp move behind the baby blues stuck with me. I think every time I go gaga over a Daddario part of my brain is seeing Cindy there. Laugh if you want, but those formative years are important, and crystal blues, porcelain skin, and brunette hair are a combination she stamped on my DNA forever.

    What a woman. What a loss.

  4. Check out a movie she was in called “The Killing Kind” from ’73. Some nice bikini and underwear scenes.

  5. I never associated her with L&S since I didn’t watch it. At the time, even as a kid, I thought it was a mindlessly stupid sitcom that ABC was relentlessly pushing down our throats via endless promos. “Shirley has a date… with Squiggy! Will Laverne get jealous? Tune in to find out! Tuesday at 8 on ABC!”

    I do remember Cindy very well from Coppola’s masterpiece The Conversation. She repeated the same phrase at least 30 times in that film: “He’d kill us if he got the chance”, which eventually drive Gene Hackman insane.

    1. The thing I remember most clearly about Laverne and Shirley was that it was the loudest show on TV, not even excluding the war shows like Combat. Everyone shouted their lines as if they were projecting to the back row of an immense theater. I guess they were trying to portray how working class people talk, but it was really a superficial way to do it. I remember asking my ex to turn down the volume during that show so I could concentrate when I was correcting papers.

      1. I used to look at the TV ratings back then, and I recall that show either topped the list or was in the top 10 for several years. I couldn’t figure it out. I came to the conclusion it was brainwashing; just put it in a good time slot & force those promos down throats until people start watching it religiously. And as you said, make it really LOUD to grab attention; Lenny & Squiggy kicking open the door on every show was intentionally obnoxious.

        Penny came mostly from TV crap, but Cindy came from good film stock with Lucas & Coppola. I couldn’t figure why she’d do shit like that, but it was a cash cow so I guess there’s the answer. And it was apparently a lot of fun to do, based on the bloopers. The actors could barely say those stupid lines without cracking up. I won’t say I hated the show – garbage like Tenspeed & Brownshoe and The Hardy Boys Mysteries was pissing me off even more at the time, but I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Only 3 networks plus PBS; slim pickin’s.

        1. 1.It followed Happy Days, so it definately was in a great timeslot, but it got better ratings than Happy Days for a number of years.

          2.The show was meant to be following the physical comedy of shows like I Love Lucy.

          3.Apparently Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams didn’t like each other very much (they were jealous of each other’s position on the show or something, after all Penny Marshall’s brother was behind the show) so that created tension on the set. However, the show ran for something like 8 seasons, so it couldn’t have been that bad.

          4.I watched the show with my family for a few seasons, but looking back all I could remember was how much I hated it because of how loud it was.

          5.In addition to the 3 networks and PBS, there was also, in bigger cities anyway, supposed to be one if not two independent stations (they usually played movies and there were syndicated television shows both old and new (The Adventures of Superman was the first really successful syndicated television show) and a ‘cable access’ channel.

          There was also cable starting in the mid 1970s with HBO, CNN and ESPN.

          There were 12 places on the television dial in the 1970s and here in Vancouver, every one of them was filled:
          1, intentionally nothing
          4.Cable Access
          6.CHEK TV, an independent station in Victoria
          7.French CBC
          10.Either KSTW or KCTS, an independent station in Seattle, can’t remember which
          11.BCTV, CTV the private Canadian network
          12.KVOS, an independent station from Bellingham, Washington
          13.CKVU, an independent Vancouver station

          KVOS was created to air in Vancouver but be based outside Canada as it allowed the station to both avoid Canadian content regulations, and, I believe, Canadian taxation.

          1. Sorry, not that it really matters, but KCTS is the local PBS affiliate. It was either KSTW or KCPQ, which were independent stations at the time that aired out of Seattle. I believe one of them became the local Fox affialiate, and the other the local affiliate of either Paramount or Warner Bros. before they merged to become CW.

            KVOS is now Me-TV (one of the ME-TV channels anyway.)

            This time in the mid to late 1970s was the first real success for ABC. For its early years after it started up it aired on the weaker signal televsion stations picking up many of the former Dumont Network affiliates, as well as a number of the independent stations as carriers. It wasn’t until the late 1960s early 1970s that the technology improved to allow for both more stations and better broadcast signals.

          2. In Rochester we had only two full-fledged stations when I was a kid. Channel 6, WHAM, was an NBC affiliate. Channel 10 was really a weird one. The ABC and CBS affiliates (WVET and WHEC) shared it!

            Channel 6 couldn’t seem to find a home on the dial. First they moved it to channel 5, then 9, then 8 because it kept getting and causing interference between its broadcasts and the signals of nearby channels in Buffalo, Toronto and Syracuse. The early days of television were messy.

            Our local channels also picked up a few shows from the old Dumont Network, but that shit was weird! Talk about messy! They ran mostly 15-minute shows, but they never seemed to run the full 15 minutes, so you’d tune in at (let’s say) 7:13 for a 7:15 program and you’d get nothing but dead air, because the 7:00 show ended early and they didn’t provide any filler! The only really good thing about Dumont is that they did live NFL broadcasts (kinda rare then), so our local channels would broadcast some of their games.

            It was not until 1962 that Rochester got a third network station. WOKR signed on as a full-time ABC affiliate, allowing channel 10 to go fully CBS.

            We would not get a fourth major channel until the PBS affiliate signed on to Channel 21 in 1970, forcing Rochesterians to learn how to operate the unwieldy UHF dial for the first time.

          3. Nostalgia:

            I thought you might enjoy seeing Rochester’s listings in November, 1950, when we had only one channel. On this Monday schedule, there were no entertainment programs for adults in the evenings.

            In the daytime, one might catch Bert Parks or Kate Smith hoisting variety shows, but the night was reserved for news-style programming, starting at 7:45 with John Cameron Swayze and the Camel News Caravan.

            In the late afternoon there were some kiddie offerings: “Howdy Doody” and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”

            It is no wonder that I Love Lucy became an instant hit the following year. There was literally no scripted comedy entertainment for the adult audience!

            (Some nights had adult variety shows like Berle and Caesar. Some nights had drama anthologies. One night had The Lone Ranger, which was the highest-rated scripted series with a recurring cast and characters. The top-rated scripted “comedy” was I Remember Mama, which didn’t really have a lot of laughs.)

            image host

            NBC totally dominated. It had the top six programs and 14 of the top 20!

          4. It’s not on your schedule but one of the three types of programming made up at least 80% of early prime time television was along with news and variety, boxing.

            With all that we’ve learned about ‘supply chains’ in the past year or two, it’s not a surprise that one of the reasons was very ‘technical’: boxing especially could be filmed with a single mounted camera. Shortly after, bowling became a staple of television.

            Similarly, although film studios and sets existed at the time, I presume that one reason it took about 3 years to get scripted shows was the need for studio sets.

            Of course, most of the original scripted t.v shows were long time radio shows as were many of the first television variety show hosts/

  6. I remember hoping to see a nude scene from her in this movie called “The First Nudie Musical” but it was rather disappointing.

    1. I saw that (at a drive-in, I think) with my ex. Cindy stayed dressed, but she cussed up a storm.

Comments are closed.