'The buck stops here': Cindy Williams brings her one-woman show to the Annenberg Theater

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Actress and Desert Hot Springs resident Cindy Williams said the challenge of performing a one-woman show is it's just her on stage, so "the buck stops here."

Known for her role on the '70s TV sitcom "Laverne and Shirley," she's still "making her dreams come true" with an intimate tell-all about the highs and lows of her life working in the TV and film industry. The show, which will be 90 minutes sans intermission, will share Williams' favorite on-set memories and plenty of hilarious backstage stories. A Q&A session will follow the performance.

The West-Coast premiere of "Me, Myself and Shirley" takes place Jan. 20-22 at the Annenberg Theater.

"It's challenging to write it, put it in an order that is going to flow, and be 90 minutes worth of people's time," Williams said during a recent phone interview. "Hopefully, people will come out laughing and feel thoroughly entertained. That's a responsibility I lay awake at night thinking about and then think, 'I better get some sleep so I'm able to perform this.'"

"Laverne and Shirley" actress Cindy Williams' one-woman show "Me, Myself and Shirley" is making its west coast premiere at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on Jan. 20-22
"Laverne and Shirley" actress Cindy Williams' one-woman show "Me, Myself and Shirley" is making its west coast premiere at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on Jan. 20-22

Another challenge is memorizing her lines. Williams lives with dyslexia and said it wasn't properly diagnosed while she was growing up. The disorder, which makes reading and writing difficult, has also come out in the way she speaks at 74 years old. It was often a source of tension between her and co-star Penny Marshall on the set of "Laverne and Shirley."

"It takes me longer during rehearsals to learn everything and get the script out of my hand, and (Marshall) would be smoking a cigarette on the first day, throw the script down and she'd already know it," Williams said. "That would cause rough patches. We also got into it over things we didn't agree about, but we never brought it on stage with us."

TV censors 'made the show better'

"Laverne and Shirley" debuted on ABC in January 1976 as a spin-off of the popular show 'Happy Days." Set in Milwaukee during the late '50s about two friends who move to the city and work in a brewery, the show is remembered for its theme song that starts off with the two women skipping along on the sidewalk singing "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Shlemiel, schlemazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated." It ran for eight seasons until 1982.

Even during the '70s, there were censors assigned to every TV show airing during prime time and things they couldn't say, do or improvise. But Williams said that often "made the show better" and that the show had "smart writers."

"We didn't realize it at the time, but that was the beautiful thing about the censors, because in the end it was (written) for everyone," Williams said. "Instead of talking about getting romantic with someone, we'd use the term 'vo-dee-o-dodo' and it made the show funnier because everybody got it, and parents could sit there with their kids and watch it."

"Laverne and Shirley" actress Cindy Williams will perform her one woman show "Me, Myself and Shirley" at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on Jan. 20-22.
"Laverne and Shirley" actress Cindy Williams will perform her one woman show "Me, Myself and Shirley" at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., on Jan. 20-22.

In between the films "THX 1138" in 1971 and "Star Wars" in 1977, filmmaker George Lucas released the rock 'n' roll and hot rod-loaded film "American Graffiti." It featured the cast of Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Palm Springs resident Suzanne Somers. Williams was cast as Laurie Henderson.

"American Graffiti" was shot in Petaluma on a budget of $777,000. It was an unexpected box-office hit, taking in $115 million and making it one of the most profitable films of all time. The film also received many Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Williams said the film was a "brilliant idea," adding that Lucas first described it to her and Howard as a musical because the music never stops unless car radios are taken away, adding it has a "fabulous soundtrack" that becomes a character in the film.

"Two weeks into the movie, George had us come and see a 20-minute assemblage of the film with the music in it, and after the cast came and saw it, there was silence in the room and Harrison Ford said something about how it was great," Williams said. "He was right, and we couldn't believe that was the movie we were in.

When asked what TV shows she watches, Williams said she enjoys the shows "Everyone Hates Chris" and "The King of Queens" and likes British detective shows such as "Miss Marple." She's also a fan of comedian Ricky Gervais and quipped, "I wouldn't want him commenting on me at the Golden Globes" in reference to his controversial remarks while hosting the awards ceremony in 2019.

"I love murder mysteries and detective shows. I'd rather watch that than the news and it's a great escape," Williams said.

If you go

What: "Me, Myself and Shirley"

When: Jan. 20-22

Where: Annenberg Theater at Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs

Tickets: All seats $55

Information: psmuseum.org

Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at brian.blueskye@desertsun.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Cindy Williams brings her one-woman show to the Annenberg Theater