date published: August 13, 2007
by Josh B. Wardrop
Worcester, Mass. native Eddie Mekka is best known to television audiences as Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa from the beloved sitcom “Laverne & Shirley.” Additionally, the Tony-nominated singer/dancer/actor boasts numerous TV and film credits, and has enjoyed a successful stage career on and off-Broadway in shows like Fiddler on the Roof and Damn Yankees. Mekka returns home August 17 to perform at the Sorrento Cheese Fisherman’s Feast in Boston’s North End.
Q: Growing up in this area, did you come to Boston much as a kid?
A: I spent a lot of time in Boston—going to Red Sox games, and studying at the Boston Conservatory of Music. I love Boston—I’m looking forward to some good lobster!
Q: Do people still call you “Carmine”?
A: Oh, all the time. I love that, though—it means I did something good that people remember fondly.
Q: How much of Carmine was based on the real Eddie Mekka?
A: (Producer) Garry Marshall really observed what people could do. One day I’m singing a Tony Bennett song backstage, and before long they had Carmine singing, “You know, I’d go from rags to riches.…” I was a gymnast, too, so they’d write bizarre stuff for Carmine to do…like walking on his hands while singing a song. Then, they’d cut it before it aired. (laughs)
Q: Do you ever see the “Laverne & Shirley” cast today?
A: I talk to Penny [Marshall] occasionally, and David “Squiggy” Lander. Oddly, Cindy Williams and I didn’t socialize much during the show, but years later we toured in a production of Grease together. Now we’re best friends!
Q: What can audiences expect from you at the Feast?
A: An old-fashioned concert—lots of standards by great Italian singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Louis Prima. Family-friendly entertainment, which there isn’t much of anymore.