Cindy Williams, who rose to great fame as the eternally optimistic Shirley Feeney on the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley, died Wednesday after a brief illness.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” said her children Zak and Emily Hudson in a statement. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Born August 22, 1947 in Van Nuys, California, Williams began her professional career by landing national commercials, which included TWA and Foster Grant sunglasses. In 1970, she began appearing as a guest star in a host of TV series, including My World and Welcome to It, Barefoot in the Park, Nanny and the Professor, and the high school drama Room 222. Her first regularly scheduled role was in the short-lived romantic-themed musical sketch comedy The Funny Side in 1970.
In 1973, Williams scored a huge theatrical hit care of American Graffiti and opposite her soon-to-be Happy Days co-star Ron Howard. Once Happy Days took off, ABC developed the first of its three spin-off series, Laverne & Shirley, centered on the Shotz Brewery bottle cappers and best friends, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney. An immediate sensation, Laverne & Shirley finished its first week (and seasons two and three) as the top-rated show in all of primetime.
More to come…