Cindy Williams has always been much more than just “Shirley”
Shirley Feeney’s role came just in time for Cindy Williams.
Although she was recognized and nominated for awards for her work in films such as American Graffiti and Conversation, directed by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, she survived a period when she was not offered roles and considered postponing his acting career to move from Hollywood to Eugene, Oregon to get a job as a waitress.
“I couldn’t be a waitress in Los Angeles,” Williams said by phone from his home in California. “I was too informative from the movies. So Eugene, my intended destination was Oregon. “
Good luck intervened.
Williams recounts how she received a call from Gary Marshall to do what was supposed to be a one-time guest filmed in the number one TV series of the time (time to cable and hundreds of channels), “Happy Days”.
“Harry dragged his sister, Penny Marshall, and me to play a faithful rendezvous for Fonzi (Henry Winkler) and Richie (Ron Howard). We weren’t supposed to be regulars, but our characters became so popular that we were written in more scripts ”.
These scenarios led to a spin-off by ABC, “Laverne and Shirley,” which matched and even eclipsed “Happy Days” in the rankings. Williams was created as Shirley Feeney, queen of bottle corks at a brewery in Milwaukee.
“Laverne and Shirley” influenced Williams’ career, although she was involved in other stage and television work, and remains popular in reruns at various cable stations.
Although she was grateful for her acting career and regretted moving to Oregon, she struggled with a situation in the 1970s when film actors resisted television.
“Today, the biggest movie stars are killing to be in TV series. When I started filming, going on television was considered a downgrade. Film actors would withstand as much time as they could from television. I thought it was the wrong step in my career. In my opinion, I could never “allow” it.
“But my career came in a dry period. I was thrilled when I called Harry. I liked this part, and “Happy Days” became a big hit. Circumstances prompted me to “volunteer.” Looking back, I am so glad that Shirley appeared when she appeared and that I began to identify her so. Everything turned out to be positive. I’m not sorry, just grateful. “
Jokes from “Laverne and Shirley” and other stories about the life and career of Cindy Williams, including her audition with George Lucas for the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars”, are the basis for the 90-minute women’s show Williams. perform Saturday and Sunday at New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse.
Writing the show “Me, Me and Shirley” took Williams while shutting down COVID. It was one of the things she was told she had to do what she wanted and finally found a time when she faced a period when much of the world was at a standstill.
“I was going to do ‘Nunsense’ and was in the middle of another show when everything stopped.”
Work, Williams says, is what she does. “I would like to talk about my achievements in cooking and gardening,” she said when asked what she enjoys in her free time, “but I have been working since I was a teenager.” When I wasn’t performing, I was writing or producing. Gathering “Me, Myself and Shirley” was a blessing. I quarantined, doing what I like best. “
Williams was careful not to reveal everything she presented at the Bucks County Playhouse, but she was a kind interlocutor and said she would talk about “Laverne and Shirley,” as well as the films she made and the relationship she had. with some contemporaries such as “Happy Days” stars Howard and Winkler and American graffiti colleagues such as Howard and Richard Dreyfus.
Shows are not just conversations.
“After a short introduction to greet the audience, there’s a song,” Williams says. There are also clips and photos from different parts of her career.
“My goal was to make everything easy and give as much laughter as possible in the 90-minute show. The song is a summary of my career. Among the people who helped me was Danny Gogin, who created “Nancy” and its sequel. I worked with people on the phone and in Zoom, but we succeeded. “
“It” includes Williams, who talks about some of the “B” films she’s made, such as “Beware of Drops” and “Kelly Kidd,” and the titles, she says, are “arrogant.”
Shirley from “Laverne and Shirley” is one of the main characters of the show.
Before Shirley existed, Williams had already met her screen partner Penny Marshall, who played Laverne.
“Penny and I knew each other before we took part in Happy Days,” says Williams. “The first time we met on a blind date, like Laverne and Shirley from Fonzi and Richie. We were paired with two guys who took us to Coconut Grove to see this natural combination, Little Richard and Lisa Minnelli.
“Later, we were both hired as writers for a special comedy about the bicentennial. They wanted women in writing, and Penny and I were hired. Each pair of writers was assigned a different sketch. Ours was about “My country to you”.
“It never went on the air because we got a call from Harry about ‘Happy Days,’ and for the next long time I was Shirley Feeney.”
Asked de rigueur whether she had influenced Shirley’s eight seasons, she was chosen to do another job, Williams was sure.
“Of course, yes. No matter what I thought or wanted to do, everyone saw Shirley. I never had a chance to make the transition, in my school classmate Sally Field.
“I was never upset or angry. I understood the situation. I even filmed another series (“Getting By”), but Shirley was an integral part of my personality.
“I worked on stage. I came to Philadelphia in “Death Trap” with Elliott Gould and was in New Hope before the pandemic in “Middletown” with Donnie Bridge, Didi Conn and Adrian Zmed. On Broadway, I replaced Joan Worley, who replaced Georgia Engel in “Sleepy Companion.” I also did a lot of guest videos on TV. ”
Williams also co-produced a 1991 remake of the classic film “Father of the Bride” starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. (The second remake is due out this year on Amazon Prime.)
The acting role was not Williams ’first ambition.
“As a teenager, I wanted to be a nurse.
“I don’t know how I missed that I enjoyed performing. As a child, I remember writing scenes and imitating sketches made by Imagen Coco and Sid Caesar on “Your Show Show”.
“I didn’t think about becoming an actress until I was in high school and auditioned for the show. The school was in Hollywood, so there were classes not only in productions. Sally Field got all the lead roles, but I enjoyed performing and soaking up everything I could from great teachers.
I wasn’t interested in science, and when I graduated, I got roles in series like Room 222 and “I Love American Style,” and then movies came along.
Except for that period right in front of Laverne and Shirley, when I thought acting was a thing of the past, I was constantly working. Beginning in high school, after one period of falling and working in a writing room, I was able to continue to be active on television and on stage.
“Now there’s ‘Me, Me and Shirley,’ so the story goes on.”
“Actual” election advertising
While doing personal research to prepare for the primary election in Pennsylvania next month, I was faced with this type of story and style of reporting that I hadn’t seen and welcomed for a while.
Matt Barkar, a WGAL-TV reporter for Channel 8 in Lancaster, has taken on the once-popular but now-old-fashioned task of checking political candidates’ TV ads for facts.
Barkar was impressed not only by his return to the enterprise. His report was thorough and helpful. Even if something potentially harmful turned out to be factual, the context provided by Barkar put the issue into a clear, unbiased perspective through transcripts or footage from the incident, really giving viewers and voters useful information. I can tell you that in my case it gave me an understanding and led to a determination of who I was going to vote for.
Also admirable in the Barkar segment was its complete neutrality.
Barkar chose the “Dragnet” approach, verified facts, ma’am, only verified facts. He never imposed opinions or attitudes that could show his preferences or contempt. This alone is priceless these days for guerrilla headlines and television newspapers that have flaunted themselves fashionably politically correct.
The piece I saw was looking at a Republican contender Mehmet Oz’s ad in which he attacked his main rival Dave McCormick. Two-thirds of what Oz claimed, according to Barkar’s investigation, turned out to be true.
Learning that has caused some reflection on my part does not necessarily end in the direction that Oz and his advertising agency might want.
What positively distinguished Barkar’s report from most of the fact-checking stories I’ve seen is that he found and aired McCormick’s speech, which supported Oz’s critique, and told his audience that it had been since 2005, when McCormick worked in the George W. Bush administration, not since 2015, as printed with errors or deliberate misinformation in Oz country advertising.
Again, the part included content and context without spin. It was a good, thorough, refreshing report that covered all the key basics and left the decisions to the viewer.
Other TV stations and reporters may conduct fact-checks as primaries approach and when some candidates, lacking the resources of Oz or McCormick, begin to afford and buy time for television. (In addition to Oz and McCormick, the Republican field includes Katie Barnett, Jeff Bartas, Sean Gale, Carla Sands and others. Democrat leaders John Fetterman and Conor Lamb are already advertising.)
So far, I haven’t seen any fact-checks, and I wouldn’t have seen Barkar if he hadn’t appeared as a choice on Google if I looked at each of the “R’s” candidates ’websites.
If any local station dares to verify the facts of various ads, I suggest they look at Barkar’s work as an example of how to make such a report, especially when it comes to objectivity.
Barcara is on a family vacation with WGAL until the end of the month, but I’ll be back at Google to see anything else that he’s broadcast this major season, and look for his restored seats as the primaries approach.
Neil Zoren’s TV column is every Monday.