40 Little-Known Facts About Laverne & Shirley That Will Take You Right Back To Shotz Brewery

Laverne & Shirley, starring Penny Marshall as Laverne DeFazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, was a wholesome family show. Or at least it was while the cameras were turned on. But when they were turned off, things were a lot less innocent and a whole lot more chaotic, with friendships, careers and sanity all put through the wringer. Read on for 40 secrets you may not have known about the beloved sitcom… and maybe even some you didn’t want to know.

40. The cast didn’t appreciate moving from Milwaukee

According to HollywoodChicago.com, in 2009 Cindy Williams revealed a behind-the-scenes disagreement. She explained, “Penny and I fought against them moving the show from Milwaukee to Hollywood, but there were certain producers who felt that it was the best thing to do.” She didn’t name them, but she did say, “Both Penny and I were disappointed.”

39. There was meant to be a spinoff

Even though Laverne & Shirley was a spinoff in its own right, it nearly had one of its own, too. The final episode of the show, titled “Here Today, Hair Tomorrow,” was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a whole new televised story starring Eddie Mekka’s Carmine Ragusa. Alas, though, it never happened in the end.

38. Marshall thinks the show was overlooked for awards

In a 2013 interview with website The Huffington Post, Penny Marshall had some thoughts regarding Laverne and Shirley’s lack of awards success. “The writers did as well as Cindy and I and everybody else,” she said. “We were considered lower-class, which we were. We never got nominated for an Emmy. We never got nominated for nothing …”

37. The series was pitched before the Laverne and Shirley Happy Days episode aired

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Getting Laverne & Shirley green-lit was surprisingly easy. After the Happy Days episode about the girls had been shot – but before it went out on television – Garry Marshall had a chance encounter with the head of ABC television. He told the executive about the idea that would become Laverne & Shirley and was asked to make a pilot episode right away. It was that simple.

36. There was almost corpsing on the set

In a 2015 interview with the website MeTV, Cindy Williams remembered how much Michael McKean and David Lander made her laugh. “The challenge was keeping a straight face when they came in,” she admitted. “Sometimes I can actually see Penny and I biting the insides of our mouths, trying not to laugh, and then having to deliver a line.”

35. There were a lot of famous guest stars

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If you watch Laverne & Shirley now, you’ll recognize a lot of famous faces. For instance, Ted Danson played Randy Carpenter in a memorable season five episode. Penny Marshall’s best friend Carrie Fisher showed up, as did Marshall’s one-time boyfriend Art Garfunkel. Other guest stars included Mark Harmon, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Guest and Jeff Goldblum.

34. Marshall didn’t like her clothes

Penny Marshall wasn’t a fan of Laverne’s wardrobe. She told The Huffington Post, “I didn’t like the fashion when I lived through the ’50s. I certainly don’t want to keep the clothes from it. It wasn’t in our brains to say that they’d be worth money for auctions, which everything is now.” She kept a single robe, but that was it.

33. Boo Boo Kitty had to be kept safe

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Boo Boo Kitty wasn’t ever planned to be on the show, but Williams happened to find it under a bed during rehearsal. It was cute enough to become Shirley’s stuffed animal companion on the show. However, as there was just the one Boo Boo Kitty in existence, great care was taken to make sure it was safe and sound off-camera.

32. The cast would creatively object to things they didn’t like

In her 2013 interview with The Huffington Post, Penny Marshall revealed how she and Williams would react if they disliked the dialogue they were given. She said, “We’d do things like wear stupid hats for an entire scene… so the writers would know during the run-through, ‘Guess they don’t like that one!’”

31. The audience liked the characters right away

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After being given the go-ahead for the show, Garry Marshall hired Mark Rothman and Lowell Ganz to pen a short scene for the characters Laverne and Shirley. It was quickly shot on the Happy Days set right after an episode of that show, with the crowd still in place. And despite not knowing the characters yet, everybody clapped and laughed.

30. Lenny and Squiggy were created while high

The characters of Lenny and Squiggy were actually created before Laverne & Shirley ever came on the air. David Lander and Michael McKean previously portrayed characters called Ant’ny and Lenny onstage, who were very similar to Lenny and Squiggy – but much less family-family. And they’d come up with the idea for them while high on marijuana.

29. Marshall really did like Pepsi milk

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Penny Marshall started drinking milk with Pepsi when she was still a kid. Her mother would tell her to finish her milk if she wanted any soda, so Marshall just dunked soda in it instead. She developed a taste for it as well. And ever since Laverne & Shirley, people have been trying the concoction and finding out it’s quite nice.

28. Williams always admired her character

In April 2012 Williams spoke to the blog Reel Life With Jane about her Laverne & Shirley role. “It was wonderful to play that kind of optimistic, idealistic character because in my own life, I’m much more self-critical,” she said. “And I shouldn’t be, and as I get older, I try to pull that tar from the wheat and get that out of my consciousness and be more like Shirley.”

27. The show used recycled scripts

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If you ever have the chance to see the little-known 1966 show Hey, Landlord!, you might notice that some of the plots bear an uncanny resemblance to Laverne & Shirley ones. That’s because its creator Garry Marshall just straight-up reused them. In fact, in some cases the names of minor characters weren’t even changed.

26. Marshall thought there were too many Italians in the series

Originally, the character of Squiggy was named Anthony Squiggliano. But that had to be changed to just plain Squiggy because Garry Marshall thought the show already had enough Italians in it. Both he and his sister Penny were half-Italian themselves, in fact. And Eddie Mekka, aka Carmine Ragusa, was part Italian and part Armenian.

25. Little Richard blessed the actors

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Before Laverne & Shirley started, Williams and Marshall had a spiritual encounter with famous musician Little Richard. Williams told the Reel Life With Jane blog in 2012, “He blessed us and said a prayer over us. And Penny and I often say that the success of Laverne & Shirley was due to Little Richard’s blessing.”

24. Williams and Marshall worked together before the show

In 1995 Williams talked to the Los Angeles Times about how she and Marshall first met. They had pals in common prior to being hired by the Zoetrope company, which was owned by revered director Francis Coppola. “They wanted two women,” Williams recalled. “We would be assigned a certain aspect of the history of America and write a spoof… It was like never say die. We never thought there wasn’t anything we couldn’t do.”

23. Marshall never liked being asked about a certain thing

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The Laverne & Shirley theme song was iconic, but for Penny Marshall it eventually outstayed its welcome. Indeed, after a lifetime of fans telling her to sing it, she started to become irritated. “I just don’t like when I’m asked to do ‘Schlemiel! Schlimazel!’” she told The Huffington Post. “No, I won’t. I’m too old for that.”

22. Marshall wanted Williams back

Laverne & Shirley famously finished its run without Shirley. Williams had been obliged to leave because the showrunners wouldn’t work around her pregnancy. And in 2016 Marshall revealed to the Archive of American Television that she told her co-star, “I don’t care, Cin… lay in bed the whole time and be the biggest pain-in-the-ass pregnant person you’ve ever seen.” But it didn’t happen.

21. Ariana Grande got the girls back together

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For a while, relations between Williams and Marshall weren’t good. But in 2013 none other than Ariana Grande, then the star of Nickelodeon’s Sam & Cat, helped to build bridges between the two. They appeared on a very special episode of the series to portray two warring showrunners. And in doing so, the pair made up.

20. The characters were “re-virginized” for the show

When Laverne and Shirley were introduced on Happy Days, they were clearly experienced gals. But not so on Laverne & Shirley. “The girls were no longer loose. They were re-virginized, I like to say, for the family hour,” wrote Penny Marshall in her 2012 memoir My Mother Was Nuts.

19. The word “sex” was not allowed

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The show was so wholesome, in fact, that the characters weren’t allowed to say the word “sex” or anything relating to it. “Even the word ‘it’ was controversial. For instance, we couldn’t say ‘Did you do it?’” Penny Marshall wrote in her memoir. “The writers came up with the nonsense word ‘voh-de-oh-doh-doh’ to use in place of the word ‘sex.’”

18. Cindy Williams didn’t jump at the role of Shirley

Cindy Williams was initially uncertain about playing Shirley. She wanted to be a film star, not a TV actress. Plus, she knew that Penny Williams would always have her brother Garry – the show’s writer – on her side on set. And so she was almost replaced with a similarly-named actress in Liberty Williams; eventually, however, she took the role.

17. One episode about mental disability was called “The Slow Child”

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Gradually Laverne & Shirley dipped into more serious topics, and in season three came an episode about mental disability. It was a well-meaning story about a teen called Amy, but it used terminology – such as the word “retard” – that would be shocking today.

16. Cindy Williams had a bad New York twang at first

In December 2016 Williams told Entertainment Tonight that she hated the accent she first had to use for Shirley. “If you watch those first 13 episodes, which I refuse to watch now, I got this hideous kind of New York accent that was terrible,” she said. Eventually, however, Williams was told to drop the twang, which she did with relief.

15. There was lots of bad feeling among the cast

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In Garry Marshall’s 2012 memoir, the writer lamented how much the writing crew on Laverne & Shirley loathed his sister and her co-star. “On a daily basis there was infighting, yelling, cursing and so much more,” he said. The actors thought the writers were incompetent, the writers thought the actors were full of themselves, and Garry Marshall even lost weight from the stress of keeping them all in check.

14. The higher-ups didn’t want Phil Foster on the show

Phil Foster played Laverne’s dad, but he almost didn’t get the part. Indeed, producer Mark Rothman told Mental Floss in 2015 that some ABC executives couldn’t decipher Foster’s Brooklyn accent, so wanted him out. Eventually, however, he was kept and the writers just decided to include jokes about nobody being able to understand him.

13. Penny Marshall’s father locked her paycheck away

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Penny and Garry Marshall’s father Anthony Marshall was also a producer on the show, but this usually made things harder rather than easier. For example, on one occasion Marshall senior felt that his daughter had been disrespectful to him. And so as punishment he locked her wages away in a drawer, and her brother Garry had to negotiate to get them back.

12. The actors decorated the set themselves

In her 2015 book Shirley, I Jest! Cindy Williams revealed that on first seeing the set for the show, she and Penny Marshall were shocked at its luxury. Their characters were blue-collar workers! And so the two women decided instead that they would decorate the set with their own stuff from their houses. The set designers were angry at first; in time, however, they finally came round.

11. Cindy Williams’ manager counted her lines

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Pat McQueeny, Cindy Williams’ manager, was a constant presence on the set. And she was determined that her client not be overlooked – so much so that she would actually count the lines given to Williams and Marshall and complain if Marshall got more. “She made [Cindy] insecure about a job that she was doing extremely well,” Marshall wrote in her memoir.

10. There were multiple injuries on set

When asked in a 2012 interview if there were any injuries on Laverne & Shirley, Cindy Williams revealed that there had been plenty. In fact, she herself had been injured so badly during one stunt that she still suffered from health problems such as sciatica years later. “But it was worth it,” she told Reel Life with Jane.

9. We can thank Penny Marshall for the intro

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The “Schlemiel! Schlemazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” chant in the Laverne & Shirley introduction is a Yiddish chant Penny Marshall used to sing as a child. Marshall explained in her memoir, “It came about when my brother was working on the opening montage and asked me what that funny saying was that I used to do with my friends in the neighborhood.”

8. One writer fantasized about running over the actors

Producer Garry Marshall recalled one particularly unsettling anecdote in his autobiography. At one point he hired a new writer, Arthur Silver, to keep his egotistical actresses in check. But Silver had been on the show for mere weeks when he ran to Marshall and told him while driving past the actors, he had actually been tempted to run them down. Marshall then wisely made the decision to let him go.

7. David Lander used Squiggy to raise MS awareness

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When David Lander revealed his MS diagnosis, the actor decided to use his Laverne & Shirley character Squiggy to raise awareness. He produced a mock public service announcement while in character, but some MS charities objected. In particular, they took exception to a line where Squiggy claimed to have “caught” MS, as MS can’t be transmitted.

6. Garry Marshall wouldn’t let his children on the set

Garry Marshall thought, probably correctly, that the atmosphere on the Laverne & Shirley set was no place for children. And so although he let his kids visit the Happy Days set, the set where their own aunt worked was out of bounds.

5. The lead actresses found there were many perks to the job

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Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams found their TV fame worked out very well for them, and Cindy Williams detailed one such incident in her book. When the actresses accidentally ordered their new chauffeur to drive down a one-way street, the police pulled them over. But when the authorities realized that the passengers were Laverne and Shirley, no-one got a ticket. In fact, they even got a police escort back to their hotel.

4. There were Laverne and Shirley dartboards

Williams and Marshall did acknowledge that the writing staff found them hard to deal with. In fact, one Christmas they handed out dartboards featuring pictures of themselves dressed as Christmas elves in the middle. “It was the hands-down favorite gift of everyone who worked on the show,” Marshall wrote in his memoir.

3. David Lander and Cindy Williams dated on set

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After David Lander split from his wife, he ended up dating his co-star Cindy Williams. But it didn’t last. And in her memoir My Mother Was Nuts Penny Marshall recalled the tension their break-up caused on set. “I had to put up with that s**t,” she explained.

2. Garry Marshall loathed working on the show

In an interview with The New York Times in 2012, Garry Marshall called Laverne and Shirley “my worst show experience.” But he also said that, although the relationship between him and his sister became strained over the course of the show, they fortunately managed to remain friends.

1. Cindy Williams quit because of the producers’ reaction to her pregnancy

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Cindy Williams became pregnant in March 1982 and expected that the show would work around it. They didn’t. In fact, they even scheduled her to work on the very day her baby was due. So she quit and also filed a $20 million lawsuit. It was settled out of court, and the show inexplicably continued on without one of its leads.

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