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R.I.P. Eddie Mekka, Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa from Laverne & Shirley

Eddie Mekka, best remembered for his role on the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley as Carmine Ragusa, Shirley's on-again-off-again high-school sweetheart, has passed away at the age of 69.

While Laverne & Shirley propelled Mekka into the public eye, it was not his first accomplishment in acting. In fact, in 1975 he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the rock opera The Lieutenant.

A year later in 1976, he would land the role that would define him as the aspiring singer and dancer Carmine Ragusa. Not only would he stay on the acclaimed series until its cancellation in 1983, but he would also play a lead role on the short-lived Happy Days spin-off Blanksy's Beauties. Mekka played different characters on the two shows running simultaneously, a rare occurrence in television.

Mekka would play the Big Ragu again on a guest appearance on Happy Days, and reunite with the Laverne & Shirley cast in both reunion specials in 1995 and 2002.

After Laverne & Shirley ended, Penny Marshall didn't forget her friend Mekka and cast him in her 1992 hit movie, A League of Their Own. Mekka plays a bar patron who has a memorable dance scene with Madonna.

He would act with his Laverne & Shirley co-star Cindy Williams several times after the series ended, notably in a national tour of Grease and a 2008 regional production of It Had to Be You.

Mekka would go on to have guest appearances in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and The Young and the Restless among others.

He had a good sense of humor about being remembered as The Big Ragu, even making a cameo in the David Spade film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star where he poked fun at his early fame and celebrity.

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