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A television icon in Chicken City
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Prior to this month, Cindy Williams had never set foot in Georgia, but she knows a thing or two about things Southern.

"Do you have fried okra?" asked Williams, who is best known for her role as Shirley Feeney in the ABC series "Laverne & Shirley."

Williams was born in California, but grew up in a suburb of Dallas, where her grandmother’s Sunday dinner often included fried okra and fried chicken.

On Wednesday, Williams and a touring company will take the stage at Pearce Auditorium for the musical, "Nunset Boulevard."

When I told her she would be playing in the Poultry Capital of the World, I gave her assurances that I could point her in the direction of her beloved okra with all the chicken she might want.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 30 years since "Laverne & Shirley" completed its run. Harder to believe is that next year will mark 40 years since a very young Cindy Williams played Ron Howard’s girlfriend in "American Graffiti."

But Williams still has that charming girl-next-door demeanor as we chatted by phone as the show is working its way toward Gainesville.

She has strong stage credentials, including the 2007 Broadway production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," where she played the role of Mrs. Tottendale.

"I’ve been playing before audiences for a long time," said Williams, who pointed out that the episodes of "Laverne & Shirley" were filmed before live audiences at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Her current role is Reverend Mother Mary Regina in "Nunset Boulevard," the latest in Dan Goggin’s successful "Nunsense" series.

The sisters of Hoboken are off to Tinseltown believing they have been booked to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. As it turns out, they are actually booked at the Hollywood Bowl-A-Rama. The musical comedy takes a few wild turns from there.

The show includes a little audience participation and Williams said that the reaction of the audience at various locations on the tour have made the show incredibly fun.

Williams left "Laverne & Shirley" in 1982 to begin her favorite role, that of mother to her two children who are now grown.

She continued to be active in the entertainment business including being a co-producer of the successful "Father of the Bride" films starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.

Williams is quick to admit that she is most often remembered for her role as a bottle capper at the fictitious Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee. The show was a spinoff from "Happy Days" and was filmed on an adjoining studio at Paramount.

While Williams and her "Laverne & Shirley" co-star, Penny Marshall, parted the series on less-than-good terms, she said that she maintains contact with her colleagues from the TV show.

Her television role earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.

She has found acting success in every medium and enjoys her current role and gives much credit to the talented ensemble cast.

Asked if there is anything on her bucket list that she would like to complete.

"Oh, I’d like to win an Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy in the same year," she said with a laugh.

Maybe she’ll settle for some fried chicken and okra at Longstreet Café.

I’ll buy.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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