The consummate goofball, Eddie Mekka, whom Hollywood credited as a co-creator of the cult TV series Laverne & Shirley, has died. He was 69.
Born in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1943, Mekka was a local kid who turned the Borscht Belt circuit for $100 per month. One gig was an attempt to rescue a family from Nazi Germany, which he followed up with a clowning career. He eventually became one of the pioneers of comedy clubs, along with Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Richard Pryor.
Born Eddie Martin Mekka, the actor had a magnetic stage presence, with a disarming sense of schmaltz. He learned to work with a sandbox and a piece of orange, telling comics it was their “first heavy”. Mekka co-created the short-lived L.A. variety series Mickey’s First Time while working at Morton’s and working as a voice-over actor.
On Laverne & Shirley, Mekka played Angie, the manager of the kid’s candy store who became sweet on Shirley (played by Penny Marshall). While the series had moderate success in syndication, Mekka did not survive its stay on the air.
Eddie Mekka. Photograph: Chris Welch/Getty Images
His film and TV credits also include Harlan Ellison’s The Doll Maker, Animal House, The Nutty Professor, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Little Darlings, Weird Science, Longest Yard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Blossom Kings, The Love Boat, Taxi, Nextel Cup and
Mekka shared screen credit with Rodney Dangerfield and Little Bill on the 1981 effort Ricky’s Little Helper, and had a song and rap with Katharine Hepburn and Steve Allen on Allen’s Why Don’t You Ask Why?
Mekka was also known for performing as Crazy Eddie, alongside Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Encino Man, and as Cab Calloway in Francis Ford Coppola’s Promised Land, with Michael J Fox and Chris Tucker.
In addition to being the subject of a Coppola retrospective at MOCA in Los Angeles, Mekka was also the subject of a 2017 documentary, Eddie Mekka Is the Co-Creator of Laverne & Shirley. Mekka was reported dead in February, but his death was corrected.
Judd Apatow, who worked with Mekka in Around the World in 80 Days, expressed his grief on Twitter.
“So sad to learn Eddie Mekka has passed away. He always made me laugh so hard,” he said.