When Squiggy got MS

January 17, 2008 10:26:10 AM PST
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. More than 1 million Americans are living with this disability. One of them is actor David Lander, better know as "Squiggy."

Squiggy from the old TV show Laverne and Shirley was one of most recognized character on television. Diagnosed with MS in 1984, it was 15 years before he revealed that had been living with MS.

Last month, ABC7's Karen Meyer spoke with David Lander about his life.

From 1976 to 1983, David Lander, aka Squiggy, and his sidekick Lenny, played by Michael McKeon, were cast members of Laverne and Shirley.

"Michael McKeon and myself, we created Lenny and Squiggy in college, and the thought of doing them on television when we graduated from college was kind of amazing. We would never think that we would be doing these characters," said Lander.

It was a year after Laverne and Shirley went off the air when David was diagnosed with MS.

"I really didn't have it that bad, and I figured if I wanted to work I better keep it quite, 'cause once you say you got it, everyone may understand but that doesn't mean they're going to hire you," Lander said.

David's MS affects his walking and balance.

"Today is not a bad day, but some days are worse than others. I do think the one consistently bad thing is that I have is my balance, it gets worse and worse," said Lander.

In 2000, Lander wrote Falling Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody.

"The thing that made me think of writing it was basically, I think, that everyone that is diagnosed with MS, there's that initially period of you really don't know what the hell it means and how it's going to affect you, and this is basically-- it's sort of a memoir of my life but my life as it was affected by MS," Lander said.

After Laverne and Shirley, David appeared in some feature films, but most of his time is spent in baseball.

"I use to own a team in Portland. I owned 5 percent of the Portland Beavers, but now I'm a scout for the Seattle Mariners," Lander said.

Lander is now a one of the most recognized spokesperson and advocate for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"It's great to talk to the folk, having the same thing happen to me is happening to them," said Lander. "And sometimes I'll look at the audience and see 300 people, and I'll say, 'Here are 300 people I have nothing in common except one thing.' "

Laverne and Shirley can be seen in syndication. Lander says there has been some talks about doing an animated series of Lenny and Squiggy.