I owe a good portion of my career to Cindy Williams who, to the shock of all who knew and loved her, passed away suddenly on January 25, 2023.
My first interaction with Cindy transpired when my publisher asked her to share a few memories for my book, Glamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door: Television’s Iconic Women From the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. I didn’t interview Cindy directly, but rather, she emailed me a few wonderful paragraphs about her experience of appearing on her legendary sitcom, Laverne & Shirley.
Approximately two years later, I had the privilege of meeting Cindy in person when, in the spring of 2015, Hollywood’s historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop invited me to host a book signing for her then-new memoir, Shirley, I Jest.
That book title, of course, is a wink and a nod to Laverne & Shirley, in which she starred with Penny Marshall, whose brother Garry Marshall, created the show.
I was honored and excited to have been asked to host the event and, in the process, Cindy and I became fast friends.
Later that summer, the Burbank Barnes & Noble invited me to host weekly pop-culture-geared festivities for the month of July. This fun live event, which was titled Throwback Thursdays with Herbie J Pilato, featured many wonderful classic TV and film celebrities including Dawn Wells from Gilligan’s Island, Larry Mathews from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Lydia Cornell from Too Close For Comfort, and among many others, Cindy Williams.
The celebrities were not paid for their time, nor was I, for that matter. We all donated our efforts to the event because of the celebratory nature that imbued each weekly installment. And Cindy, right along with the others, dove in, full-throttle, and gave 100%.
Shortly afterward, Cindy then invited me to serve as moderator for another book event of hers; this time, at the Los Angeles City College, her alma mater. Again, I was honored to oblige.
A few months after that, when I received began production on the pilot for my classic TV talk show, Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, Cindy once more stepped up to the plate. I asked her if she would be a guest in the pilot. And without flinching, she said yes.
A few months later, when Then Again received the greenlight as a weekly series, though she was unable to be there in person, Cindy showed up with a special “call-in” guest spot for an episode that paid tribute to producer/writer Garry Marshall.
If that wasn’t enough, and again, without flinching, Cindy then happily agreed to offer an endorsement blurb for my book, Dashing, Daring, and Debonair: TV’s Top Male Icons of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
And on and on and on, Cindy was there. She showed up.
The last time I saw her was at one of the famed Hollywood Shows. She was signing autographs with those such as Lydia Cornell, and many other Hollywood luminaries.
My fondest memory of Cindy, who was down to earth, and unaffected by the "Hollywood machine," is that day at the Hollywood Show when I made her laugh.
At one point, while standing next to her, I was stopped by a loyal follower of my work. My heart was full, as this dedicated reader expressed how much he enjoyed my books, so much so, that he proceeded to throw his arms around me to give me a big ol’ hug.
When Cindy stood back and observed this embrace, she “lip-synced,” slowly in silence, the question, “Who…is…that?”
With my new-found fan’s back now facing Cindy as he bear-hugged me, I looked over his shoulder gasping for air, and returned my own “lip-synced” message to Cindy, saying, again, slowly in silence, “I…don’t…know.”
And that’s when threw her head back in silence and laughed.
I actually made Cindy Williams laugh.
“What an honor,” I thought.
That I made someone who brought so much laughter to millions for so many years; that I was now returning the favor, if even in the smallest measure.
But my little return favor to Cindy could never match the countless favors that Cindy had granted me…and, from what I have learned in just these last few days, so many many, many others…with her beautiful, sweet, talented, and unselfish life.
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