Fonz Pic.PNG
First appearance "All the Way" (1974)
Last appearance "Passages, Part II"
Created by Jesse Delamotte
Portrayed by Henry Winkler
Gender Male
Occupation Mechanic, Part Owner of Arnold's Restaurant, Teacher (1956-)
Family Vito Fonzarelli (father),
Children Danny (adopted son)
Relatives Grandma Nussbaum (grandmother),
Chachi Arcola (cousin), Spike (cousin and a child burle sque of Fonzie), Angelo (cousin)

Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli (also Fonzie, The Fonz, or Fonz) is a fictional character played by Henry Winkler in the American sitcom Happy Days (1974–1984). He was originally a secondary character, but eventually became the lead. By the mid 1970s, he dwarfed the other characters in popularity.[1][2][3]

In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 4 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.[4]


Character traits and development

Born in the fictional town of East Meadow as a child, he and his mother were abandoned by his father. The only advice Fonz remembered his father giving was, "Don't wear socks in the rain." When he disappeared, he left a locked box for his son, but not a key; Arthur did everything to open the box, finally running over it with his tricycle. The contents? "The key, and that's it!" In the sixth season episode "Christmas Time", a sailor delivers a Christmas present ostensibly from his father, who wishes to make amends. Fonzie is resentful, but at the end of the episode reads his father's letter explaining why he left and opens 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, Fonz 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 Fonz as a small child and sighs.

Though he takes pride in his Italian-American heritage, at one point in the series, his "Grandma Nussbaum" moves in with him, suggesting that he is actually of mixed ethnic heritage, possibly German-American or Jewish-German-American on his mother's side. (Evidence of this is mixed. When the other characters first learn her last name, they do doubletakes, and Grandma replies that she had been married a few times, but shortly after, when asked what she thinks of the apartment over the Cunningham's garage, refers to it as a "schlep"—a Yiddish term. Winkler himself comes from German-Jewish parents who emigrated before World War II.) In the episode in which Fonzie is baptized, he makes a point in noting his appreciation for the Jews—possibly maternal relatives—who attended the ceremony. 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 Cunningham's 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.[5]

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.

Fonzie previously 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 to which gang members had challenged high school student Richie Cunningham. Thanks to this intervention, Richie developed respect for Fonzie. Despite their differences, the two became best friends. While Richie learned the world from Fonz, 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's right and wrong, Fonzie doesn't subject Richie to this kind of treatment, and over time, comes to become 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 whoever he happened to be 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 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 allows to address him by his first name, Arthur, which she always did affectionately. Richie's sister Joanie also became attached to Fonzie; he called her "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, "Sticks" and Richie in his "office", 1975.

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. 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 (always unsuccessfully) 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, changing the song selection on a juke box or getting free sodas from a vending machine. Somewhat hyperbolic examples of this 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.

Civic involvement

Fonzie is involved with community projects. He endorses Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1952 presidential campaign. At a rally Fonzie declares, "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.[6]

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. 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.[7][8]

And 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.[9] 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.[5]

Production details

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 alternate resulted in Henry Winkler landing the role.[10] 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. One of the jackets is in the Smithsonian Institution.[11] Henry Winkler gets 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." He always insisted in interviews that Fonzie was a role he played and that he was just an actor. According to Winkler, "The Fonz was everybody I wasn't. He was everybody I wanted to be."[12] 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 "Aaay" catchphrase), traveled through time.

References in popular culture

The Bronze Fonz, a sculpture of the Fonzie character located in Milwaukee


Fonzie has been referenced in episodes of Friends, Boy Meets World (in-jokes of Boy Meets World being a "modern" Happy Days was a repeated theme throughout the show's run), Futurama, Family Guy (where the main character Peter Griffin is a huge fan of Fonzie, to the extent of starting a religion of his worship), That '70s Show (which has a number of homages to Happy Days), Kim Possible, The Replacements, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Simpsons, Scrubs, Newsradio, Clerks the Animated Series, The Oblongs, South Park, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, 21 Jump Street, Bo' Selecta!,[13] End of Part One, Robot Chicken, Doctor Who, Supernatural, IT Crowd, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, The L Word, George Lopez, Friends, Gilmore Girls, The Office, Peep Show. How I Met Your Mother,[14] Flight of the Conchords, Lost, King of the Hill, SuperNews, 30 Rock and Pulp Fiction.

Henry Winkler played Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development (a show executive produced and narrated by Ron Howard). In the episode "Altar Egos", Barry briefly does the Fonz pose in a bathroom mirror. Another reference occurs in the episode "Motherboy XXX", in which Barry jumps over a shark. Scott Baio, the actor who played Chachi, was also featured as a lawyer in Arrested Development, and in the episode where the Bluth family was arguing about replacing Zuckerkorn as their lawyer, it is said that Baio's character was "brought in to appeal to a younger demographic," a reference to the show.

In the movie Scream, Winkler played a school principal. He struck a Fonz pose in the mirror when he combed his hair.

Originally, Fonzie wasn't supposed to be the "cool character" that he became; Potsie was intended to fill that role. But after Fonzie gained popularity, Potsie then became a supporting character who was somewhat naïve.

Ron Howard created a Barack Obama PSA campaign video which featured Richie Cunningham and the Fonz discussing the need for change with Obama.

A wax figure of the Fonz has been featured prominently on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. The hand positioning of the wax figure causes host Conan O'Brien to comment that the Fonz was finishing up at the urinal.


In Downtown Milwaukee, the setting of the show, a statue of Fonzie has been erected near the Riverwalk. He is in his trademark thumbs-up pose.

"Jumping the shark"

The phrase "jumping the shark", a term originating from a melodramatic Happy Days scene in which Fonzie jumps on water skis over an enclosure of sharks, 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.[15]


XBXRX sing a song named "The Fonz". Eugene McGuinness sings a song named "Fonz". Smash Mouth also have a song named "The Fonz". He is also referenced in many songs, including "A Pack of Dogs" by Lightyear, Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song", the Evil Dead: The Musical song "Do The Necronomicon" and the Weezer music video of "Buddy Holly". In the video game Saints Row 2, one of the compliments is called "Happy Days" and mimics Fonzie's thumbs up greeting. It even plays a voice similar to his. In the DC Comics publication Booster Gold, Booster is seen to admire The Fonz, and imitates his thumping of the jukebox and thumbs up greeting upon going back in time. In his 1970s heyday, MPC issued a model kit of 'Fonzie & His Bike' featuring the character and the Triumph TR5 Trophy he rode.[16]

Fonzie had a habit of hitting electrical equipment to make it work, and this became known as the Fonzie touch, a term that is still in use today.[17] The Fonz is also parodied in the "Let's Go to the Hop" episode of Family Guy, where Peter imitates his thumbs-up greeting and hits a jukebox to try to make it work. After this fails, he hits it again and smashes the glass, severely injuring his hand. In the debut episode of Trailer Park Boys, Ricky calls Cyrus "Fonzie" because he wears a leather jacket and has a similar haircut.


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 leather jacket; he got all the chicks; he even made the thumbs-up sign look good."[18]

See also


  1. ^ Waters, Darren (12 August 2004). "Remembering Happy Days". BBC News. (BBC). Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "From failure to Fonz -- actor Winkler aims to inspire". Reuters. 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  3. ^ "Is Uncool Urkel the '90s Answer to the Fonz?". The Los Angeles Times. 1991-01-04. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  4. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. pp. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Happy Days is here again". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Remarks to Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Winfrey Show, original airdate February 26, 2008
  13. ^ "Episode 5". Leigh Francis, Ben Palmer. Bo' Selecta!. Channel 4. 2004-07-16. No. 5, season 3.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Ball, Sarah (July 7–14, 2008). "‘Jump the Shark,’ Meet ‘Nuke the Fridge’". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Krautstrunk, Matt (May 17, 2011). "How To “Fonzie” Your Online Marketing Jukebox". Resource Nation. Retrieved August 06, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Whatever happened to the stars of 80s TV? - The Fonz (Happy Days)". (Virgin Media Inc.). Retrieved 2 August 2010. 

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