Veteran TV and stage actor, Eddie Mekka best known for his role as Carmine Ragusa aka “The Big Ragu” on the ABC sitcom, Laverne & Shirley has died at the age of 69.
According to fellow Berklee College of Music alum, Pat Benti in a tribute on Facebook, the actor passed away peacefully in his Newhall, California home on November 27th. Benti did not share Mekka’s cause of death but asked that all media inquiries “be withheld during his family’s time of grief.” He adds that “we welcome you to share your memories of Eddie and your condolences to his family on his fan page.”
“Rest In Peace Eddie. We had some fun, my BCM Alumni. Thank you for having our pic, as your profile pic.” Benti said at the end of his Facebook tribute to Eddie Mekka.
In an interview with TMZ, Mekka’s brother, Warren Mekjian says no one heard from his brother in a few days, concerned for his safety, friends and neighbours called the cops to check up on him. Before that Eddie Mekka was recently hospitalized for blood clots and could barely walk.
Eddie Mekka was born on June 14th, 1952, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Mekka rose to early fame in 1975 in Broadway musical The Lieutenant which he was nominated for the Tony Awards in the best performance by a leading actor in a musical category. He later moved to Los Angeles and landed the role of Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa in the Happy Days spinoff, Laverne & Shirley.
The series starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams aired from 1976 to 1983 featured Mekka playing Shirley’s high school sweetheart in an on and off again romance. Eddie Mekka’s role on the sitcom showcased the actor’s song-and-dance talents prior to his TV actor where he would break into song on the show.
The Laverne & Shirley series finale was backdoor pilot to another spinoff that would follow Mekka’s Carmine move to New York after landing a role on broadway musical, Hair, the spinoff didn’t see the light of day. Following Laverne & Shirley, Mekka would guest star on a number of shows including The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Moonlighting, True Blue and Family Matters.
Mekka’s additional credits include Sunset Beach, The Bold and the Beautiful, The Young and the Restless; 24, ER; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Mekka married actress DeLee Lively from 1983 to 1992, following he would later marry Yvonne Marie Grace in 1994 and would have one daughter together, Mia. Right now Cindy Williams and Michael McKeon are the only surviving cast members from Laverne & Shirley.