‘Happy Days’ Creator Garry Marshall Used People from His Life for Character’s Names

by Chris Haney
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Fans of the classic television show Happy Days know the famous cast and characters well. But they may not know that the show’s creator Garry Marshall named many of the characters after real-life people.

The classic 70’s and 80’s television show introduced the world to some of the most beloved characters in TV history. From 1974 to 1984, the cast helped Happy Days become one of the most popular American television shows to ever air.

The sitcom revolved around teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), his family, and his three best friends who collectively made up the core of the cast. Potsie (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Don Most), and fan-favorite greaser Fonzie (Henry Winkler) became household names because of the show.

Yet many fans likely don’t realize that the famous character’s names were inspired by Marshall’s real life. For example, Marshall’s wife attended grade school with a kid named Potsie Webber, hence Williams’ character’s name. Additionally, Richie Cunningham was named after a “nice boy” that went to the same church as the show’s creator. Charles “Chachi” Arcola, played by Scott Baio, was named after the address of Marshall’s first home off of Arcola Street.

Finally, everyone is sure to want to know the origin of Fonzie’s name. It’s almost inconceivable to think the famous character could ever have a different name, but that was almost the case. Marshall originally named him Arthur Masciarelli, which was the Happy Days creator’s original surname. However, “The Mash” just didn’t work, so they went with Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli instead. Hindsight is 20/20, but it was a solid decision to change the name we’d say.

How the ‘Happy Days’ Creator Came up With the Idea For Fonzie’s Girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero

In an older interview, the Happy Days creator opened up about the inspiration for another popular character on the show – Fonzie’s girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero. In 2000, Marshall gave a career-spanning interview to the Television Academy Foundation where he covered his work on the classic sitcom at length.

He spoke about The Fonz’s girlfriend saying that, “Fonzie finally got a girl that was his equal.” In addition, Marshall called Tuscadero’s first episode a personal “favorite.” He then shared the amusing story behind how he came up with the Happy Days role.

“I was driving with my family to Carmel, California – a lovely place we took a vacation to – and the car broke down. So while we’re waiting on the AAA, I’m really upset. The kids are crying, it’s hot, and I’m getting aggravated. My wife says, ‘Walk around, you’ll think of something. You’ll make something up, something will happen,’” the Happy Days creator recalled.

“And I looked up, and the name of the exit was Tuscadero. That’s a great name. All my kids have these pink things on… I said, ‘That’s the character. I just got it.’ ‘What?’ she said. ‘Pinky Tuscadero, that’s a character.’ ‘Well, which show?’” Marshall amusingly said of the roadside conversation he had with his wife.

Outsider.com