A Brooklyn fistfight at 2AM inspired the characters of Laverne and Shirley on Happy Days

Garry Marshall said his girl turned to him and said, "Garry, can you hold my coat?"

"This is Laverne DeFazio – she's mine!" Fonzie said as he introduced Penny Marshall to the Happy Days universe in the episode "A Date with Fonzie."

The plot of the episode found Fonzie helping Richie to muster the courage to ask out girls by going on a double date with Laverne and Shirley, two cool chicks from Fonzie's little black book.

In his memoir, My Happy Days in Hollywood, Garry Marshall wrote, "There are a few episodes that I look back on as gold because they changed so many actors' lives forever and were remembered by audiences as being extra-special. One of these was 'A Date With Fonzie,' when my sister and Cindy Williams first appeared as Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney."

That first appearance of Laverne and Shirley came about in a rather abrupt, but organic way.

Garry called Penny up one day with an invitation that she couldn't refuse: "Do you want to do a Happy Days? We need two fast girls…. If Cindy wants to do it, she can play opposite Ron. They were good together in American Graffiti. You can play opposite Fonzie."

Penny and Cindy quickly agreed, so that's exactly what wound up happening, and that first appearance of the characters was such a hit that a spin-off series was immediately ordered. It all happened fast for these "fast girls" who were originally meant to be a flash in the pan on Happy Days.

To create the spin-off, Marshall had the concept of two brewery bottle-cappers who are best friends, but he needed to do more to flesh out the characters, and that's when he got inspired to draw upon an electrifying experience he had while dating during his youth.

"To create the characters of Laverne and Shirley, I took pieces from their Happy Days appearances and then took material from two characters I had once seen in Brooklyn," Garry wrote.

He goes on to describe a scene that took place in 1958 after he and some army buddies had returned from serving in Korea. They were out late one night performing at a nightclub.

"We met some girls and took them to a coffee shop at 2 a.m.," Garry said. "Suddenly another girl said something rude to my date. My girl turned to me and said, 'Garry, can you hold my coat?' And then my date beat up the other girl."

Garry said he was wide-eyed, having never seen a fistfight break out between two girls before.

"It fascinated me," Garry said. "The tough-as-nails quality of Laverne and Shirley was based on that single night fight in Brooklyn." On Happy Days, Shirley has a much tougher edge than her Boo Boo Kitty-hugging persona on the spin-off.

When "A Date with Fonzie" first aired in 1975, Penny wrote in her memoir, My Mother Was Nuts, "I was not expecting anything to come of it."

"What happened, of course, is now television history, because Laverne & Shirley ran for eight years," Garry wrote.

"Penny was a girl from the Bronx, who came out West, put a cursive 'L' on her sweater and transformed herself into a Hollywood success story," Penny Marshall’s family once wrote in a tribute, praising her indomitable determination to become a star.

Let's just say that both Penny Marshall and her most famous character Laverne DeFazio are made of tough stuff.

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


ELEANOR 41 months ago
Penny had an interesting childhood. Her mother ran a children's dance studio and Penny was automatically included in the lessons and revues. Her grandparents lived with them and her grandmother spent her days watching out the window, checking on Penny. And there was the "fence" where all the kids hung out. Penny spent a lot of time at the fence. And then there was her big brother Garry who always looked after her. So, yes she had the talent, but her big brother gave her the breaks. And everyone knows her from L&S. After L&S, she went from being in front of the camera, to being behind the camera. She made movies. She became a director of movies.
Deleted 41 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Wiseguy 41 months ago
Laverne and Shirley also appeared two more times on Happy Days before the premiere of Laverne & Shirley, the second time the week before, and the third time immediately before the L&S premiere.
StrayCat 41 months ago
Both Laverne and Shirley were protrayed as tough women and probably a little loose as well, within the confines of broadcast TV at the time. The characters were definitely softened up for their series.
Deleted 41 months ago
This comment has been removed.
justjeff 41 months ago
There's an old Jewish joke that a "schlemeil" goes through life spilling soup, and the "schlemozzle" has the soup spilled on him.... That's where those words [in part] come from.
41 months ago
This comment has been removed.
justjeff 41 months ago
Didn't Penny Marshall once say this was a childhood paytime chant she'd remembered from her New York Days? "Hassenpfeffer, Incorporated" was just like the nonsense "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - his name is my name too"...
chickensocks 41 months ago
Pluto (free streaming channel) has happy days and L&S (and mork And mindy) back to back pretty much all day, everyday. Under classic tv tab on the left of the screen 😁
stephaniestavropoulos 41 months ago
I hate streaming services! You are at their mercy. You have to watch whatever they choose, at whichever time they choose to air the shows. If you have a desire to watch a specific episode and that Streamer channel isn't showing it, then it's a let down. I prefer being in control. By that I mean, I can make up my own schedules of what episodes, from which shows to watch, at whenever I want to see them. That's why I have, {along with many, many others tv shows,} have L&S on dvd. What I don't have on dvd, I can see on You Tube.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?