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Laverne DeFazio Biography
Name: Laverne Marie DeFazio
DOB: 1938-ish (Fillmore High, class of 1956)
Place of Birth: NYC (The Festival)
Father: Fabrizio “Frank” DeFazio
Mother: Josephine DeFazio (deceased)
BFF: Shirley Wilhemina Feeney Meaney
Laverne DeFazio moved from
Laverne struck up a friendship with her best friend, Shirley Feeney, while they were both in grade school, most likely kindergarten or first grade since they got “kicked out of the Brownies together” (Society Party). They were close friends all through out school and bonded even more closely by being members of an all girl gang (albeit a harmless one) called The Angora Debs, and by dressing identically, (Laverne & Shirley Move In). After graduation, they both got jobs as bottle cappers at Shotz Brewery and moved in their famous basement apartment together a mere six months later.
If the show’s chronology can be believed—something that
requires major suspension of disbelief—the girls shared the
Laverne was an only child, a rarity in the time period where
she was born, and in even bigger rarity for an Italian-Catholic family. Laverne’s mother died when she was very young, but she’s buried in a cemetery in
As with most people who have lost a parent early on, Laverne became very aware that people could—and would—leave her, albeit not voluntarily. Laverne alternately clings to and smothered by her father, Frank. Laverne is desperate for his approval, needing to prove that she can run the Pizza Bowl as well as a son could in “Bachelor Party”, nearly entering into a loveless arranged marriage to the son of a wealthy cheese magnate in “Laverne’s Arranged Marriage”, to promising him grandchildren on several occasions, most loudly in the Pizza Bowl during “Bridal Shower”. While the relationship between Frank and Laverne is loving, there is a lot of dysfunctional codependence interspersed with the affection. Frank was vehemently opposed to Laverne moving out, finally threatening physical violence to get her to stay. When Laverne disappoints him by not marrying the unattractive son of the cheese magnate and later refuses to visit her mother’s grave, he commits the ultimate cruel parental act to a needy child who’s already lost one parent—he threatens to cut her out of his life. While Laverne capable of holding down a full time job and sharing an apartment with a room mate, when things get rough financially, the first person she looks to bail her out of her jam is her father—even if she has to resort to a sort of school girl-esque wheedling to do it. In many ways this negatively shapes Laverne’s self esteem, and reinforces the mantra that she’s incomplete without a husband and children. Laverne’s self esteem issues come in to view most prevalently during “New Years Eve 1960” when her New Year’s date callously dumps her to reconcile with his former girlfriend, and in “Separate Tables” where Shirley makes Laverne confront her neediness and monophobia.
While Frank is very supportive of Laverne dating practically
anyone—preferably Italian—she is inversely very uncomfortable when confronted
with her father’s relationships with the opposite sex. Though she became accepting for the most part
with her father’s long term courtship with Edna Babish,
she was less than thrilled when she found out they were dating in “Hi,
Neighbor: Book Two”. She was even less
happy when Frank brought back a much younger and sophisticated “trophy
girlfriend” from a convention in
Men and Laverne seem to go together like Milk & Pepsi. When the character of Laverne DeFazio was first introduced on Happy Days, in the fall of 1975, she was portrayed as an uncouth and easy bimbo. When the girls go their own spin off in January of 1976, Laverne was a tad softer, and definitely painted as a brash, but “good girl” from the wrong side of the tracks. The dichotomy of her early incarnation, and the network’s need to sanitize the female lead character of a prime time show portrays how little the “if it feels good do it” 1970s weren’t really all that different from the repressed and judgmental 1950s.
Gender roles were very prevalent in L&S. In 1950’s
While Shirley remained pure as the driven snow, and Carmine Ragusa had the high water bill from his cold showers to
prove it—Laverne’s losing her virginity was hinted in at in a few
Laverne’s code in the earlier years of the show seemed to be the famous “good girl code”, aka anything but vodey-oh-doing. Laverne was rarely in a monogamous relationship—as were most of the of the characters on the show except for Frank and Edna—she tended to flit from man to man and back again, yet never technically cheated on anyone. However, when the show moved from Milwaukee to Burbank, and from the more conservative Kennedy era to the swinging sixties; Laverne became borderline promiscuous with a disturbingly desperate edge, as was shown in “The Most Important Day Ever”, “Some Enchanted Earring”, “Friendly Persuasion”, “Teenage Lust”, “Moving In”, “Life is the Tar Pits”, “An Affair to Forget”, “The Ski Show”, and “The Monastery Show”.
Her relationship with Fonzie was occasional, with no expectations of fidelity or long-term plans for either one of them. If the Happy Days episode that introduced the girls was to be believed, Laverne and Fonzie went to hot and heavy in his apartment above the Cunningham’s garage, to her leveraging dates with him by offering to be his back up singer, host bachelor parties, baby sit his godson, and save him from matrimony to a voluptuous Swedish farm girl. However, during “Shotgun Wedding” she did grin from ear to ear as she considered the honeymoon during her almost-shotgun wedding to Fonzie.
Laverne’s next multiple story beau
was Officer Norman Hughes, on of
Laverne had a brief infatuation with Jerry Cavanaugh, the handsome writer who lived in the girl’s building. We only saw Jerry twice, once during “Once Upon a Rumor” and “Angel’s of Mercy”, but Laverne was clearly smitten both times. It would have been interesting if the powers that be had shown us more of Jerry. In “Once Upon a Rumor”, he callously pumps Laverne for information about Shirley since he mistakenly thought the latter was a “fun” date. In “Angels of Mercy”, Laverne throws herself at him by doing his laundry and even volunteering as a nurse’s aide in the hospital when he had knee surgery. By the end of the episode, Laverne put some limits on their friendship, which led him to finally ask her out, thereby rewarding Laverne for having some self-esteem—in a roundabout sort of way. Ironically, when Michael McKean and David L. Lander were first hired as writers, the suits weren’t too crazy about having them perform as Lenny & Squiggy on the show. As Michael McKean once stated in an interview, “we were both offered the part of the handsome guy upstairs, which would have been boring”. It’s hard to imagine either one of them playing anything boring on that show, but it does lead to some “what if?” questions.
Laverne was briefly engaged to Sal Malina in both of the episodes the character appeared in, “Falter at the Altar”, and “Whatever Became of Sal?” and both times she broke it off because he didn’t give her “goose bumps”. The story around this character was interesting because both episodes were so similar, involving Laverne’s dreams come true by a handsome man proposing, and then her getting cold feet as the implication of a lifelong, yet basically loveless, commitment sink in. Although, it was more understandable for a younger Laverne to hold out for true love than it was the California-era Laverne, who’d pretty much decided to settle and was much more anxious get married since she was nearing thirty. It also was very telling about the inner workings of Laverne’s psyche—as eager as she was to marry to please her father and society; she wasn’t naïve enough to believe for long that she could forego physical satisfaction for the long term.
Laverne’s next big romance was with Jake the Snake of the Purple Fiends. This character was described and only seen from behind during the poignant “The Slow Child” episode, but was brought to full bad boy splendor when Larry Bishop (one of Penny Marshall’s costars in “The Savage Seven” and “Why isn’t Anyone on Our Side”) portrayed him in “The Robbery”, when he holds up a grocery store with an unsuspecting Laverne in tow. If you read between the laughs (something L&S fan fiction writers are known for) you’ll see a lot of sadness in Laverne’s lack of self esteem and her tendency to judge her self worth through the eyes of a boyfriend. When she finally has her epiphany and realizes that Shirley and Carmine have been right about Jake, the revelation and her admission of it is downright painful to watch.
Laverne’s next multi episode beau was, Ted Nelson, Fireman. Ted was the handsome fireman who put out the fire in the girl’s bedroom when they unsuccessfully tried to use a plugged in waffle iron as a bed warmer in “The Fire Show”. While both girls were initially attracted to him, “Carmine and I have an understanding. I’m allowed to date other men, and he’s allowed to date ugly women”, Laverne won the firefighter’s heart.
Speaking of firemen, no character study on Laverne would be complete without the mention of her late, great love, Randy Carpenter. Randy was only in one episode, “Why Did the Fireman…”, and he fell in love with Laverne very quickly. Randy was preparing to propose to Laverne before he was tragically killed in a three-alarm blaze. “Why Did The Fireman?” is one of the most emotional L&S episodes, ranking up their with “Visit to the Cemetery”, “The Slow Child”, “Look Before You Leap”, and “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor” in the pathos department. In retrospect, it was interesting that they brought in a new character to sweep Laverne off her feet, while they had already established a relationship with the very similar firefighter, Ted Nelson. Once again, Laverne’s lesson that the people you love leave you is cruelly reinforced.
Laverne’s next major romance occurred when she landed in
Laverne’s next multiple episode beau was Michael, the
photographer she met during “A Window on
One thing that always stood out with Laverne is that she was
rarely one to ever consider a male/female relationship EVER one hundred percent
platonic. Case in point: Carmine
No essay on Laverne’s love life would be complete without the inclusion of Leonard Kosnowski, better known as Lenny of Lenny & Squiggy. Lenny and Squiggy had apparently grown up (for lack of a better phrase) with the girls and they, and Carmine had all graduated Fillmore High. For most of the first season, Lenny and Squiggy’s time was spent annoying and harassing the girls for dates. It is highly noticeable in the first episode, however, that Lenny was very focused on Laverne in particular. Or, as he said so diplomatically in “The Society Party”, “So I guess I get you.”, In “Falter at the Altar” Lenny and Laverne were seen doing the stroll together in the epilogue, and in “Hi, Neighbor”, Lenny planted a huge, albeit unwanted, kiss on her for repairing his Lone Wolf jacket. Of course by Season two, Lenny was offering up the first of his five marriage proposals to Laverne (“Look Before You Leap”, “2001: a Comedy Odyssey”, “Lenny’s Crush”, “That’s Entertainment”, and “The Mummy’s Bride”). Quintuple marriage proposals aside, there were several other instances that strongly suggest that Lenny was interested in Laverne as more than A) a friend or B) a casual fling. Although Laverne only accepted two of his five proposals, the dream/fantasy sequences of “2001” and “That’s Entertainment”, there were more than a few signs that his attentions may have been reciprocated on even the tiniest level. My personal favorite is the surprisingly shy smile she gives him after he pecks on her on the cheek and says that he’s happy that she agreed to go with him in “The Debutante Ball”. The slightly more than obligatory kiss Laverne gave Lenny at the end of “Hi, Neighbors: Book Two” also said volumes, as did their onstage chemistry during, “Sing, Sing, Sing!”. Even though they never “really” got together on the show, most of the fandom doggedly labels them as “The couple that never was, but should have been”.
The most important male/female platonic relationship in Laverne’s life would have to be her relationship with Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman. While there relationship only became physical in one dream sequence “Perfidy in Blue”, Laverne and Squiggy had almost a brother and sister like rapport. The two most notable instances were their conversation in Squiggy’s uncle’s wax museum in “You’ve Pushed Me Too Far” and in Laverne’s kitchen during “Defective Ballet”. There’s an odd give and take between these two who probably see each other more realistically—warts and all—than anyone else on the show.
Careers, Marriages, and Other Life Plans
Neither Laverne nor Shirley was ever serious about having careers or goals that didn’t include marriage and motherhood. Of the two girls, Shirley was more likely to take any opportunity to better herself, but it was usually to get noticed by a classier breed of men, or to financially enhance herself so she could afford to congregate with classier men. Laverne was even less driven career wise. While she didn’t enjoy bottle capping per se, she rarely showed any initiated to better herself either through more education or working harder. Both women viewed working outside of the home as merely a way to pay their bills until they were lucky enough to marry men who could support them. As shortsighted as this line of thinking is, it was sadly the prevalent mindset through out the country until the women’s movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like most women of the era, the girls never seemed to look much further down the road than the honeymoon and the soon to be pitter patter of little feet. Marriage to them was the holy grail of societal acceptance and family validation. All other goals and dreams paled in comparison. In “The Bridal Shower”, both girls were extremely upset to be the only unmarried members of their old gang, The Angora Debs, and Frank DeFazio’s harping on his daughter’s singleton status is the fuel for her futuristic nightmare in “2001: A Comedy Odyssey”. Both girls nearly walked down the aisle a handful of times; “Shotgun Wedding” and “I Do, I Do!”; Laverne in “Falter at the Altar” and “Whatever Became of Sal?”, and Shirley in “I Do, I Don’t.” In the girl’s skewed view, it almost seems like a disastrous short marriage would be better than no marriage at all.
Shirley Feeney was the yin to Laverne’s yang, the female Felix to her feminine Oscar. The girls grew up together, were best friends, and temperamental opposites. While Laverne was the impulsive sensualist, Shirley always had her eye on the prize and her mind focused on her endgame—in her case, her Mr. or Dr. Right. Shirley made Laverne tow the line, and Laverne enabled Shirley to loosen up and have some fun. Their chemistry was amazing, and they played off one another beautifully, a case brought fully into the forefront in the Shirley-less Season eight. The combination of the two girls was greater than the sum of their parts. They would do anything for one another, and their friendship knew no limitations. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t the occasional/regular squabble. The girls loved each other like sisters, and fought as viciously as sisters, yet they always made up in the end.
Such boundless devotion as led to a lot of speculative “slash” fiction about the girls and their relationship. Fan fiction exists to fill in the missing scenes of an episode, to draw in additional back story, and to let the writer answer the age old question of “and THEN what happened?”. With that mindset, Laverne/Shirley slash is not that far off of the beam. While much ado was made about Roseanne Barr sharing a same sex kiss with Mariel Hemingway in the 90’s, Laverne and Shirley had already kissed in “Talent Show”, “Child’s Play”, and “Whatever Happened to the Class of ’56?”. Although Laverne went on to kiss Rhonda in “Ghost Story”, she seemed the more reticent of the two girls to kiss. This was most graphically played out in “”Child’s Play”, where Shirley is forced to take over Camine’s role as Prince Charming and kiss a Sleeping Princess Laverne in front of an audience. Laverne’s reluctance can also be seen as being uncomfortable with Shirley taking her temperature (the old lips to forehead method) in The Pizza Bowl, and being the one to actually slip the wedding ring on Shirley’s finger in “The Mummy’s Bride”.
Laverne and Shirley ended in the spring of 1983, albeit
without Shirley. The last we saw
canon-wise of Laverne, she was working as a tester for Ajax Aerospace and
living alone in her apartment in