Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams dead at 75

Williams played the cheeky, upbeat Shirley for all eight seasons of the Happy Days spinoff.

Cindy Williams, who played the perky, upbeat Shirley on the hit ’70s sitcom Laverne & Shirley, has died, the Associated Press reported Monday. She was 75.

Williams’ children, Zak and Emily Hudson, confirmed the news in a statement to the publication, according to the Associated Press. Williams reportedly died in Los Angeles on Wednesday after a short illness.

“The death of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us an overwhelming sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement read to AP. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was unique, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and sparkling spirit that everyone loved.”

Williams originally played her most famous character, Shirley Feeney, in three episodes of “Happy Days” Season 3, with her and her roommate, the wilder Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall), acting as friends and supporting characters for the show’s breakout character , who served Fonz, (Henry Winkler).

The two were quickly adapted into their own series, which starred the two bottle cappers at a Milwaukee brewery. Running for eight seasons from 1976 to 1983, Laverne & Shirley rivaled Happy Days for success and saw Williams and Marshall alongside a large ensemble cast including Michael McKean, David Lander, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, Betty Garrett, and Leslie Easterbrook.

Marshall, whose brother Gary Marshall helped create Laverne & Shirley, died in 2018.

Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and grew up in the city and in Dallas, Texas. After studying theater at Los Angeles City College, she began her acting career with roles on TV shows such as Barefoot in the Park, Love, American Style and Hawaii Five-O. In 1972 she starred in the George Cukor film “Travels with My Aunt” and in 1973 she starred in the ensemble cast of George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” with “Happy Days” Ron Howard and received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She reprized her role in the sequel More American Graffiti and also had a supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.

Following the success of Laverne & Shirley, Williams briefly voiced the character in an animated spinoff, Laverne & Shirley in the Army. Over the years, she has remained a frequent guest on sitcoms such as “CHiPs,” “8 Simple Rules,” and “Girlfriends,” and reunited with Marshall in a 2013 episode of the Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat.”

On stage, Williams has appeared on the national tours of shows such as Grease, Deathtrap, and Moon Over Buffalo. In 2007 she made her Broadway debut starring in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Marquis Theatre.

Williams is survived by her children, Zak and Emily Hudson, from her ex-husband, actor and musician Bill Hudson.

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Lindsay Lowe

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