Known to sitcom fans as one half of greaser duo Lenny and Squiggy on “Laverne & Shirley”, David L. Lander has passed away at age 73.
Lander’s widow, photographer Kathy Fields, confirmed to TMZ that he died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles due to complications from multiple sclerosis, a disease he’d been living with for more than 30 years.
Lander (who played Squiggy) and his “Laverne & Shirley” co-star Michael McKean (Lenny) had been performing comedy together in L.A. when they were hired as writers for the show ahead of its launch in 1976.
As series co-creator Lowell Ganz told The TV Academy Foundation (via The Hollywood Reporter), producers figured the two could also be used onscreen if a script “ever needed two funny characters to go out and get a bag of sauerkraut.” According to Ganz, their characters were an instant hit. “We put them in the very first episode and then put them in every episode,” he said. “We closed up their writers office, and they were part of the cast.”
In a 1978 People interview, he explained the origin of his squeaky-voice character.
“Squiggy is a combination of people I knew and despised,” said Lander. “You have more freedom playing people you hate. There are people like them who haven’t outgrown their silly dreams. Squiggy looks in the mirror and thinks he’s the handsomest guy in the world.”
Other roles included voicing comedian Jerry Lewis in a 1970 Saturday morning cartoon, “Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down”, and the 1980 comedy “Used Cars”, which reunited him with McKean as a pair of tech nerds.
In addition to guest spots on such TV series as “Barney Miller”, “Rhoda” and “The Bob Newhart Show”, Lander also played taxidermist Tim Pinkle on “Twin Peaks”, cast by the show’s co-creator, David Lynch, who was also his neighbour.
After being diagnosed with MS in 1984, he kept his condition a secret until 2000, when he made the revelation in his book Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn’t Tell Nobody. He would later go on to become a goodwill ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Asked in 2001 why he kept his health issues a secret, Lander said: “I was afraid that too many people didn’t know what MS was, and I wasn’t in a wheelchair, I wasn’t having cognitive problems, so I thought as long as I wasn’t showing, why tell anyone? I just felt they wouldn’t hire me if they knew I had MS.”
Lander is survived by wife Kathy Fields and their daughter, actress Natalie Lander.
A number of celebs turned to Twitter to express their condolences:
David REST SOUNDLY… you have earned your peace https://t.co/M5mEggRtYy
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) December 5, 2020
Oh man. He made me and so many laugh. When I was a kid Henry, I used to sneak on the lot and watch you guys rehearse, then go next door and catch Laverne and Shirley rehearsing (and argue over lines) and I remember watching David and @MJMcKean just riff and riff. #RIPDAVID https://t.co/eUf3bGjSWC
— John Stamos (@JohnStamos) December 5, 2020
This funny man made my childhood happier with his work on “Laverne & Shirley” and his guest appearance on @TheSimpsons as himself still makes me laugh today (“Hello, Laverne…”). Rest In Peace David, and thank you: There’s a little Lenny & Squiggy in the DNA of Jay & Silent Bob. https://t.co/N0VYh6oPg3
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) December 5, 2020
He did so much great work with the @mssociety. He will be missed not only for his acting but for his advocacy helping us find a cure of ms some day.
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) December 5, 2020
Very sad to hear of David’s passing.
Rest In Peace ole man.
— Don Most (@most_don) December 5, 2020
David Lander pic.twitter.com/eCjwvLscwE
— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) December 6, 2020
— Jon Cryer (@MrJonCryer) December 5, 2020