Cindy Williams, Star of ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Laverne & Shirley,’ Dies @ 75

I feel like everyone in my 1977 copies of Tiger Beat is dying.

Williams as Shirley (Image via ABC)

Out of the blue comes word that Cindy Williams aka Shirley Feeney died on Wednesday, January 25, at 75. She had endured a brief illness.

Extra reports her children Zak and Emily said, via statement:

"The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed. 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. We have always been, and will remain, SO proud of her for many things," the statement goes on. "Her lifelong mission to rescue animals, her prolific artistry, her faith, and, most of all, her ability to make the world laugh! May that laughter continue in everyone, because she would want that. Thank you for loving our Mom. She loved you, too."

(Zak and Emily are her adult children with ex-husband Bill Hudson of the Hudson Brothers, to whom Williams was married from 1982-2000. Incidentally, Hudson is the father of Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson with ex Goldie Hawn.)

Cindy was born August 22, 1947, in Van Nuys, California. She grew up in Dallas for part of her childhood, then returned to L.A. ahead of what wound up to be enviable acting career.


Cindy Williams Classic Foster Grant TV Commercial RIP!

♬ original sound - Matthew Rettenmund/BoyCulture

Williams was an attention grabber in ads for Foster Grant and TWA, and made her TV debut on the series My World and Welcome to It (1970).

Her film debut was in Roger Corman's Gas-s-s-s (1970), and Corman was one of several top directors for whom Williams worked.

After a part in the Larry Hagman-directed campfest Beware! The Blob (1972), she appeared in Old Hollywood legend George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt (1972), and in Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 drama The Conversation, one of the most acclaimed films of the 1970s. She was also a delight in The First Nudie Musical (1976).

Her performance in American Graffiti is an American classic. (GIF via GIPHY)

Williams's first major break as an actor came when she was cast as Laurie in George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973). The film was a box-office hit that ignited a wave of '50s/'60s nostalgia among the general public, even though the evening depicted in the movie was taking place just 11 years before its release!

Williams was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1975 for American Graffiti, along with ... wait for it ... Ingrid Bergman, Sylvia Sidney and Sylvia Syms (who also died this week)!

She came back for More American Graffiti (1979).

In the meantime, Williams was cast as Shirley Feeny alongside Penny Marshall's Laverne DeFazio on a 1975 episode of Happy Days, which led to one of the most successful spin-offs in TV history, Laverne & Shirley (1976-1982).

Williams's Shirley Feeney was pretend-virginal, for-real-uptight, adored her stuffed cat Boo Boo Kitty, enjoyed teasing her amorous boyfriend Carmine and more than kept up with Laverne's over-the-top antics. The comedy classic was fueled by the duo's unsurpassed physicality and chemistry. They were friends — and friendly rivals — for real, and it showed.

After 158 episodes, Williams exited before Laverne & Shirley ended.

Man, I will never regret the money I spent going to the Hollywood Show in 2012. I met Cindy, Penny, Garry Marshall, David L. Lander, Eddie Mekka — all now gone — as well as Leslie Easterbrook and Carole Ita White, still with us. A joy.

My Trip to Meet the Laverne & Shirley Cast in 2012 HERE

Williams later focused on TV movies, among them 1988's Tricks of the Trade with Markie Post and John Ritter, and the 2016 Hallmark holiday film A Dream of Christmas.

Some of her episodic-TV guest spots include 8 Simple Rules (2008), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2004), Girlfriends (2004 & 2005), Sam & Cat (2013) and The Odd Couple (2016).

Other features in which she appeared included The Creature Wasn't Nice (1981), UFOria (1984), Big Man on Campus (1989), Rude Awakening (1989), Bingo (1991), Meet Wally Sparks (1997), The Biggest Fan (2005), Stealing Roses (2012) and her last film, Still Waiting in the Wings (2018).

She was also a co-producer of Father of the Bride (1991) and its '95 sequel.

Williams had extensive stage credits, including her Broadway debut in 2006 in the Tony-winning The Drowsy Chaperone and her recent one-woman show, Me, Myself & Shirley, which just wrapped.

Her immensely entertaining memoir Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life (written with Dave Smitherman) was published in 2015.

To end with a smile, watch this insane CHiPs roller disco segment with Cindy and ... everyone else!


INCREDIBLE '70s Disco Sequence from 'CHiPs'

♬ original sound - Matthew Rettenmund/BoyCulture

1 Response

  1. She was the best.

    BTW: I believe Bill Hudson is the father of all four children you mention, two with Goldie and two with Cindy.

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