Actor Eddie Mekka, who played Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa on Laverne & Shirley, has died at the age of 69.
Our sister site Variety reports that Mekka died Saturday at his California home. No cause of death was given, but the actor’s official Facebook page says that he “passed away peacefully.”
A stage performer who earned a Tony nomination in 1975, Mekka is best known for playing Shirley’s sometime boyfriend Carmine Ragusa, aka “The Big Ragoo,” on the hit ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley, appearing in 150 episodes from 1976 to 1983. Carmine was a boxer who owned a dance studio and dreamed of making it big as a performer. His dream came true in the series finale, which saw Carmine move to New York to star in the Broadway production of Hair.
Mekka’s costar Cindy Williams, who played Shirley, called Mekka “a world-class talent who could do it all” in a tribute on Twitter. “I love you dearly. I’ll miss you so much. But oh the marvelous memories…”
Michael McKean, who played Lenny, also offered his condolences on Twitter: “A sad goodbye to Eddie Mekka this morning. A genuinely good guy and purveyor of cheer whenever things got cheerless. Value these people. RIP, Eddie.”
Along with Laverne & Shirley, Mekka also had roles on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Family Matters, 24 and ER. His movie credits include A League of Their Own and Dreamgirls.