People Magazine began publication in March 1974 and is still going strong today. The weekly magazine is a wonderful resource for 70s pop culture and we’ll peek inside various issues from time to time here at Bionic Disco. Today, let’s take a look at the January 30, 1978 issue which featured the cast of TV’s Laverne and Shirley on the cover. Specifically, Lenny and Squiggy aka actors Michael McKean and David Lander are in the spotlight.
Direct from People:
“Michael McKean and David Lander: Prime Time’s Dumbest Duo Is Just An Act.
Admirers with clout never hurt, so when Rob (TV’s ‘Meathead’) Reiner and his wife, Penny Marshall, invited underemployed actors Michael McKean and David L. Lander home for a party and commanded, ‘Do ’em,’ the boys were on. ‘ ‘Em’ were a couple of blue-mouthed greaser characters named ‘Lenny’ and ‘Ant’ny’ that McKean and Lander, both now 30, had created back in college 12 years earlier. Fortunately for them, a Happy Days spinoff was in the works and most of its formative figures were at the party—not to mention in the family. Penny’s brother was to be co-creator and executive producer, her dad producer, and she herself was to play a character called Laverne. Cindy Williams was cast as co-star Shirley, and the McKean-Lander team was hired as writer-consultants.
They wrote themselves into the premiere as Lenny and Squiggy (Ant’ny was renamed Squiggmann to add a Teutonic touch to the otherwise disproportionately Italian cast). ‘The show looked like a disaster at that time,’ McKean marvels now. ‘I had never been involved in a network show before and didn’t know something that seemed to be a mess could end up an enormous hit.’”
People Quote continued:
“That’s one of the few understatements of TV history. Those bubble-brained beer bottlers, Laverne and Shirley, and their even dimmer Schotz Brewery truck driver neighbors, Lenny and Squiggy, are as of their second anniversary this week the No. 1 series in TV. Though they themselves have sometimes been at loggerheads on the set, Penny and Cindy are in accord about their second bananas. ‘I don’t know any better guys to work with,’ says Marshall. Williams calls both ‘terrific actors. That’s why they convince people they’re creeps.’ ”
You can read the entire article if your interest is piqued. I’ll leave you with a bonus advertisement below. In the next post we’ll take a look at TV’s James at 15 from this same juicy issue.