In its time, Happy Days was a global hit, sparking fan crazes across the world, and particularly in the U.S. All that attention got to be a little much for the stars of Happy Days, who at one point basically couldn’t make public appearances without being mobbed.
In a 1974 interview on the Mike Douglas Show, the actors discussed the intense popularity of Happy Days and detailed how they handled the ups and downs of fame. The show was especially popular among young girls, or teenyboppers, as Douglas called them.
“I feel it’s really a responsibility,” Potsie actor Anson Williams said. “I mean, you really have to watch your—well, watch what you say. Because I mean everything you say is taken like the Bible… I like to get on a human level with the kids. And I try to let them know that, through my experience, that they have happiness kind of right in their own backyard – family, friends, God, love and nature. And I try to get away from the groupie bubblegum image and try to get on a more human, personal level.”
Happy Days Stars Had Some Hair-Raising Experiences with Crowds
As for Williams’s co-star Don Most, he offered a story about a “thrilling” experience that he had in Paramus, New Jersey with Fonzie actor Henry Winkler. Given the unpredictability of large crowds, the experience sounds less thrilling than frightening, but, spoiler alert: they made it out of there safely.
“We’d been traveling around, and there were a lot of crowds,” Most explained. “But when we got to Paramus, we got inside a mall, and they put us with our back to a fountain, and there had to be over 5,000 people in this shopping mall.”
“We had nowhere to go,” Most recounted. “And the crowd was getting a little bit, a little panicky. And I started to shake. My mother was there, and Henry’s mother was there, and they’re going, ‘Wave to the people over there!’ I’m going, ‘No, ma!’”
“And then finally, it was so bizarre, they had to get us out,” he went on. “We couldn’t even sign one autograph… So what we did, there was a layered fountain, two stories high. Henry and I had to climb up this fountain on a little perimeter, maybe three inches… There was water all around us. And there were people screaming… We had no [other] way of getting out.”
Watch the interview here (at 6:40):
Winkler Handled Fame Coolly
Fonzie was arguably the most popular character on Happy Days, and so the fan craze hit Winkler particularly hard. But according to Williams, through it all, Winkler never lost his cool or his down-to-earth demeanor.
“Henry was, he became the number one star in the world,” Williams told Australia’s Studio 10 in 2017. “But Henry always, always kept his cool. Never put it into anyone’s faces. Always collaborative, always a team player. But it was just quite remarkable to see the effect of that character. And believe me, that character was invented by Henry. He invented that character.”
Like his co-stars, Winkler had to endure a period of typecasting after Happy Days, but he managed to transcend the role and now has a successful career in his golden years. And while the teenyboppers have all long since grown up, he and the rest of his co-stars still have plenty of fans.