Edward Rudolph Mekjian (June 14, 1952 – November 27, 2021), known professionally as Eddie Mekka, was an American actor, best known for his role as Carmine Ragusa on the hit television sitcom Laverne & Shirley.

Eddie Mekka
Eddie Mekka.jpg
Mekka at a Chiller Theatre convention in 2005
Born
Edward Rudolph Mekjian[1]

(1952-06-14)June 14, 1952
DiedNovember 27, 2021(2021-11-27) (aged 69)
OccupationActor
Years active1974–2018
Spouse(s)
DeLee Lively
(m. 1983; div. 1992)

Yvonne Marie Grace
(m. 1994)
Children1

Early lifeEdit

Mekka was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Mariam (née Apkarian), a dry cleaning presser, and Vahe Vaughn Mekjian, a factory worker.[1][2][3] His family was of Armenian descent. His father was a World War II veteran.[4] He graduated from Burncoat High School and attended the Berklee College of Music.[5]

CareerEdit

 
Cast photo of Laverne and Shirley (1976). Standing, L-R: Carole Ita White, Phil Foster, Eddie Mekka, Betty Garrett. Middle row, standing: Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams. Seated: Michael McKean, David Lander.

In the early 1970s, Mekka headed the Worcester County Light Opera in Massachusetts, teaching young people how to sing.[5] After performing on Broadway in The Lieutenant, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award,[6] he moved to Los Angeles.[7] He landed the role of Carmine "The Big Ragoo" Ragusa for Laverne & Shirley in 1976, acting on the series until it was canceled in 1983.[6]

Mekka starred in roughly 50 TV shows and movies throughout his career. His television credits included 24, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Bold and the Beautiful, and as Detective Murdoch in the Fox television movie Catch Me If You Can.[8] He had a small role in the Penny Marshall-directed 1992 film, A League of Their Own as the dance partner of Mae (Madonna) in the bar.[7][9]

Onstage, he performed in Hairspray at the Luxor in Las Vegas, Nevada,[10] and in a national tour of Grease with Cindy Williams.[11][12] Mekka returned to off-Broadway theatre on July 15, 2008, starring in Steve Solomon's long-running comedy My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm In Therapy! at the Westside Theatre.[8]

Mekka reunited with his Laverne & Shirley co-star Cindy Williams in a November 2008 regional production of the Renée Taylor-Joseph Bologna comedy play It Had to Be You.[13][14]

In 2008, Mekka wrapped production in the independent film Code Enforcer. He starred opposite Erin Moran of Happy Days.[15]

In 2010, Mekka starred as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, New York, from April 29 until June 20.[16][17]

Personal lifeEdit

Mekka was married to actress DeLee Lively from 1983 to 1992. He married Yvonne Marie Grace in 1994. Together they had one daughter, Mia.[18]

Mekka died in Newhall, Santa Clarita, California, on November 27, 2021, at the age of 69.[19][20]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1982 Assignment Berlin Soghomon Tehlirian
1988 Bum Rap Sammy
1989 Beaches Actor 3
1992 A League of Their Own Mae's Guy in Bar
1997 Top of the World Joe Burns
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself Cameo
2004 Land of the Free? Jerry
2006 The Last Stand Art
2006 Dreamgirls Club Manager
2006 Love Made Easy Mobo
2007 Stuck in the Past Grandpa
2008 Dirty Jokes the Movie Direct-to-video
2009 C Me Dance Lowell
2013 Through a Mother's Eyes Dr. Henry Myer
2014 Heaven Help Us Chuck Short film
2017 Diary of a Lunatic Mr. Karnofsky
2017 Silver Twins Rabbi
2017 Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel Himself
2018 Hail Mary! Danny Morelli Final role

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1976–1983 Laverne & Shirley Carmine Ragusa 150 episodes
1977 Blansky's Beauties Joey DeLuca 13 episodes
1977–1979 Happy Days Carmine Ragusa 2 episodes
1979 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Uri Episode: "The Story of Esther"
1979–1982 The Love Boat Bert Brodie / Jason Clark / Stanley Corson / Mike 3 episodes
1979–1983 Fantasy Island Charles / Ken Jason / Johnny Detroit / Wilbur Wilson 3 episodes
1981 The 6th Annual Circus of the Stars Himself (performer) Television special
1982 The 7th Annual Circus of the Stars Himself (performer) Television special
1989 Moonlighting Guido Viola Episode: "In 'N Outlaws"
1989 True Blue Elvis fanatic Episode: "Oldies, But Goodies"
1990 Mulberry Street Vincent Savoia Television pilot
1990 The Munsters Today Mr. Sweetzer Episode: "The Reel Munsters"
1990–1994 Family Matters Mr. Nutting / Charlie 2 episodes
1992–1993 Guiding Light Grady Unknown episodes
1993 Taking the Heat Barbaro Television film
1994 The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A. Gus Television film
1994 California Dreams Uncle Frank Episode: "Harley and the Marlboro Man"
1995 Dream On Mel Episode: "Significant Author"
1995 The Laverne & Shirley Reunion Himself Television special
1996 Weird Science Tommy Svachino Episode: "Men in Tights"
1997 The Big Easy Joey LaVern Episode: "Heavenly Body"
1998 The Jamie Foxx Show Danny Episode: "It's All Good, Fellas"
1998 Sunset Beach Summons Process Server 2 episodes
1998 Deadly Game Det. Murdoch Television film
2002 Power Rangers Wild Force Don Episode: "The Tornado Spin"
2002 Laverne & Shirley: Together Again Himself Television special
2005 The Bold and the Beautiful Las Vegas Minister 2 episodes
2006 24 Ned Episode: "Day 5: 7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m."
2006 It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Bobby Thunderson Episode: "Hundred Dollar Baby"
2007 Crossing Jordan James Talbot Episode: "Shattered"
2007 The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Western Director Episode: "The Suite Life Goes Hollywood: Part 2"
2008 Pastor Greg FJ 2 episodes
2008 ER Jenkins Episode: "Under Pressure"
2011 The Young and the Restless Bud 2 episodes
2012 Childrens Hospital Frankie Episode: "Wisedocs"

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Gates, Anita (5 December 2021). "Eddie Mekka, a Star of 'Laverne & Shirley,' is Dead at 69". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Smith, Kat (February 22, 2013). "Eddie Mekka: One-Man Show". Naples Illustrated. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  3. ^ O'Donnell, Monica M. (September 1985). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. ISBN 9780810302419.
  4. ^ Kappes, Serena (February 4, 2003). "Former 'Laverne & Shirley' star Eddie Mekka still singing, dancing". CNN. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Duckett, Richard (February 16, 2011). "Young love led Eddie Mekka to Worcester County Light Opera stage". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Lawler, Sylvia (May 22, 1993). "MEKKA HAUNTED BY HIS 'LAVERNE & SHIRLEY' CHARACTER". The Morning Call. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Dillon, Nancy (December 19, 2018). "Penny Marshall was a generous mentor to 'Laverne & Shirley' co-star who played Carmine 'The Big Ragu' Ragusa". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Fitzgerald, TJ (July 8, 2008). "Mekka The Big Ragu Gets Therapy in The Big Apple". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved July 8, 2008.
  9. ^ Wong, Wilson (2 December 2021). "Eddie Mekka, 'Laverne & Shirley' actor, dies at 69". NBC News. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth (March 28, 2006). "Paul Vogt and Eddie Mekka Are New Stars of Las Vegas Hairspray on May 1". Playbill. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  11. ^ Ehren, Christine (June 16, 2000). "Laverne & Shirley"'s Williams & Mekka Star in Westbury Grease June 16–18". Playbill. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  12. ^ Potempa, Philip (December 3, 2010). "'Laverne & Shirley' star Eddie Mekka here to star in hit Broadway musical". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew (October 31, 2008). ""Laverne & Shirley" Stars Williams and Mekka to Reunite for It Had to Be You". Playbill. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
  14. ^ Byrne, Terry (May 27, 2014). "Song-and-dance man Eddie Mekka back on familiar turf". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  15. ^ O'Connell, Joe (October 13, 2008). "Shortcake and the Big Ragu Invade Lakeway!". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  16. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 6, 2010). "Eddie Mekka Leads Fiddler on the Roof at Engeman Theater". Playbill. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  17. ^ Jacobson, Aileen (May 7, 2010). "God and Family, and the Changes to Come". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Wardr, Tommy (January 22, 2012). "R-JENERATION: Performing a family affair for actor Eddie Mekka". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  19. ^ "Eddie Mekka, 'Laverne & Shirley's' Carmine Ragusa, Dies at 69". Extra. 1 December 2021. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  20. ^ "Eddie Mekka, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star and Tony Award Nominee, Dies at 69". The Hollywood Reporter. 2 December 2021.

External linksEdit