date published: August 13, 2007

5 questions with...

Eddie MekkaEddie Mekka
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?
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”?
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?
(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?
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?
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.