||This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (April 2014)|
|First appearance||"All the Way" (1974)|
|Last appearance||"Fonzie's Spots"|
|Portrayed by||Henry Winkler|
|Occupation||Mechanic, Part Owner of Arnold's Restaurant, Teacher (1956–)|
|Family||Vito Fonzarelli (father), Angela Fonzarelli (mother), Arthur 'Artie' Fonzarelli (half brother)|
|Children||Danny Corrigan, Jr. (adopted son)|
|Relatives||Grandma Nussbaum (grandmother), Louise Arcola (aunt), Chachi Arcola (cousin), Spike (cousin), Angelo "Angie" Fonzarelli (cousin)|
Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli (also known as "Fonzie", or "The Fonz") is a fictional character played by Henry Winkler in the American sitcom Happy Days (1974–1984). He was originally a secondary character, but was soon positioned as a lead character when he came to dwarf the other characters in popularity.
Fonzie first appeared in season one and was only one of two characters (along with Howard Cunningham) to appear in all 255 episodes.
Character traits and development
Arthur Fonzarelli was born to an Italian-American family in the fictional town of East Meadow. As a child, he and his mother were abandoned by his father. When the senior Fonzarelli disappeared, he left a locked box for his son, but not a key; the young Arthur did everything to open the box before finally repeatedly running over it with his tricycle, only to reveal that it just contained the key to the box. The only advice Fonzie remembered his father giving was "Don't go out in the rain in your socks". In the sixth season episode, "Christmas Time", a sailor delivers a Christmas present ostensibly from his father (played by Eddie Fontaine), who wishes to make amends. Fonzie is resentful, but at the end of the episode opens his father's letter explaining why he left and reads it. He also learns that the sailor was his father, who admits in the letter that he doubted he would have the courage to reveal the truth to his son. In a later episode, Fonzie unexpectedly meets a woman he believes is his mother in a diner. She convinces him she is not, but in the end, she looks at a picture of Fonzie as a small child and sighs.
Grandma Nussbaum appears to have been a primary caregiver to Fonzie through the age of six. When he (instead of Grandma Nussbaum) moves into the Cunninghams' garage apartment—a plot development that helped precipitate his domination of the program—he turns his old apartment over to his grandmother. She is rarely referred to after that but she is featured in at least one later episode.
Grandma Nussbaum (and she alone) calls Fonzie "Skippy". She is also the grandmother of Fonzie's cousin Chachi. Fonzie's devotion to her foreshadows his ongoing devotion to mother figures throughout the show, particularly to Mrs. Cunningham. For example, when Mrs. C. feels her family no longer needs her, she visits Fonzie to confide in him.
Prior to the starting point of the series Fonzie belonged to two different gangs, the Demons and the Falcons. He earned a particularly infamous reputation during this time, making many of his peers afraid of him. His redemption begins in the months before the series. The Fonz intervened in a rumble in which gang members had challenged high school student Richie Cunningham and his friends. Thanks to this intervention Richie developed respect for Fonzie, while Fonzie simultaneously developed respect for Richie for being willing to stand up to the gang, even when deserted by his friends. Despite their differences, the two gradually became best friends. While Richie learned the ways of the world from Fonzie, Fonzie learned about the closeness of a tight-knit all-American family from the Cunninghams. Though at first looked down on and mistrusted (a result of his past and him being a high school dropout), he eventually became accepted by Richie's family, especially when he rented an attic room over their garage. Even Richie's father, Howard ("Mr. C." to Fonzie and the most resistant to him living with them), a pillar of the community, came to regard Fonzie with affection.
Fonzie regards Richie's two best friends, Ralph Malph and Potsie Webber, as nerds, largely because of their willingness to do virtually anything to fit in. Because Richie doesn't compromise his principles as easily and sticks to what he believes is right, Fonzie doesn't subject Richie to this kind of treatment, and over time, grows fond of him.
At the start of the series, Fonzie is a high school dropout, prompting establishment characters in the show to see him as a rebel and bad influence. Fonzie is shown once attempting to go back to school with Richie, but he later decides it just isn't for him and drops out again. However, a few seasons later, Fonzie is secretly attending night school and ultimately earns his high school diploma. Throughout it all, Fonzie worked as an auto mechanic. He later became an auto mechanic instructor at the school and finally a full-fledged teacher.
Fonzie has a very high moral code. He always treats others with respect and sticks up for those that can't defend themselves. On the other hand, he often expects others to follow his example. After Chachi accidentally burns down Arnold's, for example, Fonzie very angrily yells at him for what he's done, even though other characters (including owner Al) understand it was just an accident.
Fonzie was consistently portrayed as being very successful with women. Very few women turned down his advances or made him nervous. While displaying somewhat womanizer behavior, Fonzie always treated whomever he happened to be dating with utmost respect. His success with women made him a frequent source of advice for Richie, Potsie, Ralph and Chachi. In Season 10, Fonzie maintained a long-term relationship with a single mother, but they would break up by the following year. Though he never married, he adopted a young orphan boy named Danny Corrigan, Jr., in the final season, completing his transformation from rebel to family man.
Despite his aloofness, Fonzie had more whimsical traits, such as a devotion to the Lone Ranger, whom he excitedly meets in an episode. While confident with women, he blushed whenever Richie's mother Marion ("Mrs. C." to Fonzie), who became like a surrogate mother to him, kissed him on the cheek. She was the only person Fonzie allowed to address by his first name, Arthur, which she always did affectionately. Richie's sister Joanie also became attached to Fonzie; his pet name for her was "Shortcake." In one episode, when it is revealed that Fonzie had never been christened as a baby, the Cunninghams stood by him at church so that he could finally be christened.
Fonzie self-appointed the men's washroom at Arnold's as his "office," where he and Richie and his friends would gather to work out developing problems. Written on the walls were phone numbers of his many girlfriends (there was a payphone in there, too). On opening night of the newly built Arnold's (after Chachi burned the old one down), Al had a desk set up in the new men's washroom just for Fonzie. It included a desk telephone and organized pull-down sheet of all the phone numbers Al recovered from the fire.
Fonzie's rough past earns him a great deal of respect and fear from more antagonistic characters. Throughout the series he served as defender and protector of Richie, Ralph and Potsie whenever they were confronted by various bullies and ruffians. Various episodes indicate that the Fonz has extensive martial arts training. Even opponents larger than him are shown to back down from confrontations. Those who do fight him never come out on top. In one episode, he compares his nerve strike knowledge to that of a woman (Katmandu) while both use Ralph as a training dummy. In subsequent episodes, he out-dueled an expert fencer and mangled a gangster's prosthetic iron hand with one fist. Meanwhile, more sympathetic characters idolize Fonzie due to his success with women and his imperturbable "cool". Despite the respect he has earned, several people still antagonized him – including Officer Kirk (Ed Peck), an overzealous police officer who sometimes (though never successfully) tried to frame Fonzie or run him out of town.
Richie is the only person in the series to have ever struck Fonzie without retaliation. In the episode "Welcome Home Richie", Fonzie finds Richie (who has just returned home from the Army) drowning his sorrows in a local bar after resigning himself to a job at the Milwaukee Journal rather than follow his dream to become a Hollywood screenwriter, largely to please his family. Richie punches Fonzie in the face after Fonzie tries to take him home, but puts Richie in a full nelson after Richie takes a swing at him a second time. "What, you think you're gonna do that to me a second time?" is what Fonzie says prior to pinning Richie to a pool table. They make up and Richie returns home and decides to go to California.
Fonzie would at times demonstrate an almost magical ability to manipulate technology with just a nudge, bump or a snap of his fingers for things such as starting a car, turning on lights, coaxing free sodas from a vending machine, or changing the song selection on a juke box - occasionally pounding one with his fist and eliciting the response of a classic 1950s tune, such as the Elvis Presley song Hound Dog. Somewhat hyperbolic examples of his abilities can be seen in his dreamlike encounter with the extraterrestrial Mork such as a form psychokinesis triggered from the snapping of his fingers to a laser resistant, Lightsaber-like thumb.
Fonzie thinks he is never wrong and, consequently, has trouble saying the word (as evidenced in the episode titled "Tell it to the Marines", which originally aired on December 16, 1975). He also has trouble saying the word, "sorry" (as evidenced in the episode titled "My Fair Fonzie", which originally aired on November 22, 1977).
Fonzie seems to respect people brave enough to stand up to him, saying they "got guts".
Fonzie is involved with community projects. He endorses Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1956 presidential campaign. At a rally Fonzie declares, "Hey, he won the war, didn't he!?" and "I like Ike! My bike likes Ike!" Eisenhower carried Wisconsin with 62% of the vote easily defeating Adlai Stevenson (supported by Richie Cunningham's more-researched speech). In that election, Eisenhower got 457 electoral votes to 73 for Stevenson.
The Fonz becomes involved with other issues. Highlighting actor Henry Winkler's off-camera work, several episodes dealt with civil rights of people with disabilities. Concerned that students with epilepsy were denied their chance to attend public school and play sports, he intervenes to resolve the issue. And he learns sign language to communicate with a woman working at the municipal power company. Such advocacy builds on the previous season's episode where Fonzie hired wheelchair-bound Don King to work in his garage, promising to provide workplace accommodation for his employee.
Concerned about other equal opportunity issues, Fonz wants Milwaukee racially integrated. Personally friends with African Americans, he becomes upset when a party in which Richie will welcome Hawaii into the Union gets boycotted. People have grown anxious because it will be racially integrated. Initially wanting to force people to attend, Fonzie learns from Mr. Cunningham that people cannot change their minds overnight. He volunteers to go south with Al and Freedom Riders to help integrate a segregated diner. Normally flirtatious with women, Fonzie is instead disgusted that the waitress does not serve black customers. At one point he tells her that he cannot date her because of her compliance with the diner policy. Another episode that dealt with race was where Fonzie was a juror in a trial of a black biker accused of robbery. The episode dealt with circumstantial evidence and jury nullification. Mr. Cunningham, who was on the same jury, went to bat for Fonzie saying all jurors are permitted to present arguments and he took it very seriously about taking a man's freedom away, which he refused to do without rocksteady proof of guilt. The episode was based on Twelve Angry Men.
An urban legend, repeated even by some of the cast and crew, was that Fonzie's applying for and receiving a library card in the episode "Hard Cover," dated September 27, 1977 resulted in a 500% increase of library cards in the United States. This proved not to be the case. Winkler, did, however, appear as Fonzie on random episodes of Sesame Street, usually in one-to-two minute segments explaining a letter of the alphabet.
Micky Dolenz, on the strength of his performance as a biker on an episode of Adam-12, was Garry Marshall's original choice to play Fonzie. Dolenz was several inches taller than the other cast members, and Marshall thought it might be better for Fonzie to be on the same eye level as the other characters. A search for a shorter actor as an alternative resulted in Henry Winkler landing the role. ABC's censors refused Fonzie a leather jacket, thinking it made him look like a hoodlum. Garry Marshall got them to allow Fonzie to wear his jacket close to his motorcycle (a Triumph TR5 Trophy) since a leather jacket was considered safety equipment. Marshall put him near his motorcycle as often as possible, even to ride it into Arnold's. When it wasn't possible to have the bike in the scene, Fonzie would wear a white windbreaker. Eventually, Fonzie was allowed to wear the leather jacket even when not near his bike and Marshall used this opportunity to have the white jacket destroyed. One of the jackets is in the Smithsonian Institution.
Winkler receives requests to "be the Fonz" in real life. "People expect me to be this guy who can walk into a dark room, snap my fingers, and turn on the lights. Or they want me to pound my fist on the hood of a car, and start the engine. I can't do it. I've tried! I think the silliest request I ever got was when somebody asked me to quiet the animals in a zoo." According to Winkler, "The Fonz was everybody I wasn't. He was everybody I wanted to be." On Happy Days, Fonzie met Mork, an alien. Played by Robin Williams, Mork proved so popular that he received his spin-off series, Mork & Mindy. Fonzie, Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph starred in a Saturday morning cartoon spin-off, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, where the characters, with a female character named Cupcake and a "Fonz dog" (an anthropomorphic dog named Mr. Cool that imitated the Fonz's thumbs-up "Eeey" catchphrase), traveled through time.
Although gestures like it have always been around, Fonzie popularized the thumbs up sign with a positive, "Ay!" remark that became ubiquitous to his character and is still in use today. The gesture was routinely used by pilots starting in World War II as a signal to grounds-crew, and then subsequently when many of them joined motorcycle gangs. Winkler claimed that he borrowed this from the sign (incorrectly believed in the popular imagination) made at Roman Gladiator fights. The term, "Ay!" came from an improvised moment due to Winkler's refusal to constantly comb his hair or have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve. Network executives at ABC insisted he make the combing action, but when filmed he instead stopped himself and said the line. It received huge laughs from the audience and the scene was made part of the opening title sequence. In the cartoon spin off of the show, the animators were unaware of this and depicted Fonzie combing his hair in the title.
The phrase "jumping the shark", a term originating from a melodramatic Happy Days scene in which Fonzie jumps on water skis over a shark enclosure, has become part of popular culture. The expression denotes the moment when a television series loses its credibility due to predictable repetition or contrived extensions of its theme, usually as a result of the writers being unable to maintain its quality indefinitely.
Virgin Media included Fonzie in their "80s finest" segment and stated: "He was the coolest dude in suburban America on the classic sitcom Happy Days. He wore a jacket; he got all the chicks; he even made the thumbs-up sign look good."
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Fonzie|
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