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|First appearance||"All the Way" (1974)|
|Last appearance||"Passages Part 2" (1984)|
|Portrayed by||Henry Winkler|
|Occupation||Mechanic, co-owner of Arnold's Drive-In, high school teacher|
|Children||Danny Corrigan Jr. (adoptive son)|
Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, better 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 began surpassing the other characters in popularity.
Happy Days producer and writer Bob Brunner created both Arthur Fonzarelli's "Fonzie" nickname, and the invented put-down, "Sit on it." The character was a stereotypical greaser who was frequently seen on his motorcycle, wore a leather jacket, and typified the essence of cool, in contrast to his circle of friends.
In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 4 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. In a 2001 poll conducted by Channel 4 in the UK, the Fonz was ranked 13th on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters. On November 8, 1980, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Paramount Television produced the ABC Saturday morning The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang animated series during the Saturday morning schedule on ABC.
Fonzie is one of only two characters (along with Howard Cunningham) to appear in all 255 episodes.
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Arthur Fonzarelli was born to an Italian-American family. 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 Season 6 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 he 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. In the final season, Fonzie meets his half-brother 'Arte' Fonzarelli, who informs him that their father is by-then deceased. Fonzie has mixed emotions upon hearing this, as this left so many questions about his past unanswered, but Fonzie bonded with Arte, who helped him cope. Grandma Nussbaum appears to have been a primary caregiver to Fonzie since the age of six. When he (instead of Grandma Nussbaum) moves into the Cunninghams' garage apartment--a plot development that helped precipitate his increased presence in the series--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 Marion Cunningham, whom Fonzie affectionately calls "Mrs. C." For example, when Marion feels her family no longer needs her, she learned the ways of the world from Fonzie, and 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 being a high school dropout), he eventually became accepted by the Cunninghams (his friend Richie's family), even more so after 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 and said "Ayyyy" when Fonzie moved into the garage.
Fonzie shares a very close relationship with his younger cousin Chachi. They often had plots in the episodes together, especially after Richie left the show. Fonzie was able to be the older brother figure that Chachi needed in his life. In having Chachi come to live and work with him, Fonzie grows too, becoming an overall better, more responsible and caring person. Fonzie serves as Chachi's best man when he marries Joanie. In the long shot at the end of Chachi and Joanie's wedding, Fonzie is the first person who comes to congratulate his younger cousin. He and Chachi embrace for several seconds. They share another hug at the end of Mr. C's toast. These are just a couple examples of Fonzie and Chachi's relationship. The last couple of seasons show how close Fonzie and Chachi really grew to be.
Fonzie seems to respect people brave enough to stand up to him, as evidenced in the episode where Richie recalls meeting Fonzie for the first time while he was a member of a gang called the Falcons. Fonzie resented Richie at first, threatening to beat him up; but when Richie refused to back down, Fonzie told him "you got guts". Early on, Fonzie almost invariably addressed Richie and his peers by their surnames. Fonzie regards Richie's two closest friends, Ralph Malph and Potsie Webber, as nerds, largely because of their collective willingness to do virtually anything to fit in. Contrary to Ralph and Potsie, Richie doesn't readily compromise his own principles and sticks to what he believes is right, and on occasion even stands up to Fonzie himself. Because of this, Fonzie begins to admire Richie and over time grows fond of him, eventually referring to him as his best friend.
At the beginning of the series, Fonzie is a high school dropout, prompting establishment characters to view 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. Through it all, Fonzie worked as an auto mechanic. He later became an auto mechanic instructor at Jefferson High 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 who 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 disciplines him severely for his carelessness in forgetting to shut off the kitchen grill and then tossing his apron onto the grill, 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 of a womanizing 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 (played by Linda Purl), but they would break up by the following year. Though he never married in the series, 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 (played by John Hart). While confident with women, he blushed whenever 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 him 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 is able to be the big brother figure Joanie needs after Richie leaves for California. Fonzie and Joanie grow to be very close, especially in the later seasons. Fonzie gives Joanie advice about everything from boys to schoolwork. Fonzie is naturally delighted when his cousin who is also his best friend decides to marry a young woman he has grown to love as a little sister. Fonzie serves as Chachi's best man at their wedding.
Fonzie self-appointed the men's restroom at Arnold's as his "office", where he, 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 rebuilt Arnold's (after Chachi accidentally burned the old one down), Al had a desk set up in the new men's room exclusively 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 hoodlums. Various episodes indicate that Fonzie has extensive martial arts training. Even opponents larger than he 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: Part 2" from Season 11, 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 patch things 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, making girls respond, or changing the song selection on a jukebox - 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 an energy resistant thumb capable of resisting Mork's finger.
Fonzie thinks he is never wrong and, consequently, has trouble admitting so. He attempts to say he was wrong in the episode titled "Tell it to the Marines," which originally aired on December 16, 1975, but can only get as far as an r with an unidentifiable vowel. He also has trouble apologizing, saying the word, "sorry", as evidenced in the episode titled "My Fair Fonzie," which originally aired on November 22, 1977. This feature of his personality was parodied by Winkler's character in Children's Hospital, an administrator who cannot admit he was wrong about a decision. (The staff assumes he is having a seizure.)
One of Fonzie's few soft spots were for his beloved iconic motorcycle, and it is learned without it he no longer feels cool, as evidenced by his explanation in the season 3 episode, "The Motorcycle", when it turned out Ralph Malph accidentally destroyed it with his car when he didn't see it parked. Mr. Cunningham tried to reason with Fonzie by saying "it's just a motorcycle", to which Fonzie explained it's what made him cool when nothing else worked.
During the episode when Fonzie jumped the shark tank on the visit to California, it is revealed that sharks are just one of his fears the other was liver as seen in episode 135 "The Muckrakers" in 1975.
Fonzie is involved with community projects. He endorses Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1956 presidential campaign. At a rally Fonzie declares, "Ayyy, he won the war, didn't he!?" and "I like Ike! My bike likes Ike! Ayyy.." 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.
Fonzie 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; he also learns sign language to communicate with a woman working at the municipal power company. And he pushes Chachi to continue working with his disability when Chachi himself just wants to quit because things will be hard. Such advocacy builds on the previous season's episode where Fonzie hired wheelchair-using 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 welcomes 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 Howard that people cannot be forced to change their minds overnight. In a later episode, Fonzie volunteers to go south with Al and a group of 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 racial issues 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. Fonzie was able to get the black biker acquitted. Like Fonzie, the black biker rode a Triumph motorcycle. However, his model was the Grand Mark 2, made in England. Prior to the 1970s, British motorcycles were manufactured with the accelerators on the left handlebar. The robber had snatched the purse of the woman with his left hand. Therefore, there is no way that the black biker could have sped off on his bike if the purse was in his left hand.
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 supposedly resulted in a 500 percent increase of library cards in the United States. This proved not to be the case. Winkler, did, however, appear as Fonzie on several 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 a 1972 episode of Adam-12 called "Dirt Duel," was Garry Marshall's original choice to play Fonzie. The six-foot-tall Dolenz was several inches taller than the other cast members, however, 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 5-foot-6 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 tan windbreaker. Eventually, Fonzie was allowed to wear the leather jacket even when not near his bike and Marshall used this opportunity to have the tan jacket destroyed. One of the leather 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.
To many, Fonzie is seen as the epitome of cool.
In the episode The One Hundredth of Friends, Phoebe's doctor is obsessed with 'Fonzie'.
Footage of Fonzie dancing to Hava Nagila is used in the music video for Weezer's 1994 song Buddy Holly.
In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction, the character Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) tells Yolanda (Amanda Plummer) to "be like the Fonz". When Jules asks Yolanda what The Fonz is like, she replies "cool".
In 2019 it was reported that Dominic Cummings, special political adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, paraphrased Jules by telling Conservative MPs to "be cool like Fonzies" as political pressure built to request an extension to the date of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.
In Italy, Fonzies is the brand name of a popular cheese-flavoured maize snack, currently produced and marketed by Mondelez. It was named after Fonzie's coolness by its original producer, Ferrero, who launched it as "The coolest snack [ever]".
Among the many pieces of Happy Days-related merchandise to feature Fonzie was Fonzie Favorites a record album produced by Jukebox International featuring a photo of the character on the sleeve and a selection of 1950s-era original recordings within. One original track on the album consists of an uncredited performer reciting Fonzie's various catch phrases to musical accompaniment.
Although gestures like it have always been around, Fonzie popularized the thumbs up sign with a positive, "Eyy!" 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 their ground-crew. Winkler claimed that he borrowed this from the sign (incorrectly believed in the popular imagination) made at Roman gladiator fights. The term "Eyy!" 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 sequence. In the cartoon spin-off of the show the animators were unaware of this, and depicted Fonzie combing his hair in the title. In the series, Fonzie's thumbs-up gesture came to be not only a sign of approval, but also on a few occasions was a quiet gesture of gratitude, his own way of saying "thank you".
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 contrived extensions of its theme, usually as a result of the writers being unable to maintain its quality indefinitely.
Fonzie had the ability of hitting electrical equipment to make it work, and this became known as the Fonzie touch, a term that is still in use today. A garage apartment is sometimes called a Fonzie flat.
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."
The character was so popular by 1976, and being in the #1 show on television, that there was an unofficial Fonzie For President campaign during the US election that year, with buttons and stickers, and even a few such songs on 45-rpm records made by the groups The Heyettes and Bob Daveys. Given the relative unpopularity of incumbent President Ford and the largely unknown challenger Jimmy Carter, some predicted that had Henry Winkler actually entered the race he could have won.