“Do you want to hear the Schlemiel Schlimazel story?” Cindy Williams asks.
When Shirley from Laverne & Shirley offers to explain the origins of the catchiest, most non-sensical theme song in television history, there is no other answer but yes. “It was a ditty Penny (Marshall, the actress who played Laverne) would do on the way to school with friends. They would count the steps. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated. That’s how they got the song. A schlemiel is Yiddish for a person who jumps out of the window for no reason and a schlimazel was the person they landed on.”
If this is the kind of pop culture history you love to hear, then you are in luck. From June 23-27 Cindy Williams will continue performing her one woman show, Me, Myself and Shirley at Boca Raton’s The Wick Theatre. The show has Williams recounting memories of some of her most famous roles from classic movies like The Conversation and American Graffiti, but a lion’s share of her memories is from the 1976-1983 sitcom that to this day has strangers calling her “Shirley”.
“I was supposed to be doing a musical at The Wick, but because of COVID it got shuttered. They suggested because of social distancing I do a one woman show. I was like great. What one woman show?” So over the next year she adapted her autobiography Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life into something she could perform on stage. “I had to ask how can I make being alone on stage entertaining to the audience. I put on old clips from my acting, talk about Hollywood stories and at the end I do a q&a with the audience.”
Amazingly this is the first time Cindy Williams has seen many Laverne & Shirley episodes.
“I never got to watch the show when it was on. It aired on Tuesday nights and we would film on Tuesdays so we were never home to watch them.” It sounds inconceivable, but this was an era before YouTube, Tivo, and even VCR’s. Rewatching the episodes to prepare for Me, Myself and Shirley, has brought back all kinds of visceral memories for Williams. “Watching them I feel physically what I felt when I was performing like those double slaps Penny and I did to each other.
In that era of only three channels it’s hard to relate today how popular Laverne & Shirley was as America’s most watched program. But it was so beloved they even made a bizarre Saturday morning cartoon out of it, Laverne & Shirley in the Army. “It was us in the army with a talking pig as our sergeant. Hanna Barbara did it and it was a lot of fun.”
On the telephone Cindy Williams sounded even more animated than her cartoon avatar about her excitement for her one woman show. “We’re still working on making it better and trying to hone it in. But hopefully in the future we can tour it around the country.”
And the way she says it you believe she’s gonna make all her dreams come true.