‘Happy Days’ Character Names Were Inspired by Real People

by Madison Miller
Photo by: Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The popular American sitcom, “Happy Days,” took a lot of inspiration from creator Garry Marshall’s real life.

The show was on television from 1974 to 1984 and is meant to express the “Happy Days” of the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Marshall wrote about the time period he grew up in to bring the show a real sense of reality.

So, how did Garry Marshall’s real life impact the show?

Names on the Show Based on Real People

According to Mental Floss, Marshall’s wife, Barbra Sue Wells, went to school with someone with the name Potsie Webber. This would be the inspiration behind Anson Williams’ character.

Richie Cunningham went to the same church as Marshall and he once described him as a “nice boy.” This would be the inspiration behind Ron Howard’s character.

Marshall’s first home was on Arcola Street. The show is actually set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Originally, Fonzie was going to be named Arthur Masciarelli, which was Marshall’s surname. However, Henry Winkler’s character ended up being Fonzie instead. He was often called “The Fonz.”

Marshall used a lot of his time growing up in The Bronx, New York to inspire his characters. While the personalities and livelihoods were different, Marshall found a lot of inspiration in his childhood. It was all based on the “Happy Days” of his childhood.

Original Name of the Show

While the names were inspired by people he grew up with, Marshall had originally been asked to make “Happy Days” to be set during the 1920s. It was going to focus on the flappers of the ’20s and ’30s, but Marshall decided to go in another direction.

According to The Guardian, Marshall said that ABC at first didn’t like the idea of changing it to the 1950s. However, the movie “American Graffiti” helped change the network’s mind. Fonzie was not in the original concept of the show. Marshall said he ended up adding him and inspiring him from a guy in his Bronx neighborhood.

Marshall said the guy could tie a rope to an ice truck and proceed to pull it with his teeth.

As for the name of the series, Marshall was turned down for his original idea.

“I wanted the show to be called COOL, but test audiences thought it a brand of cigarette, so my producer said: ‘How about ‘Happy Days’? That’s what we’re going to show,'” Marshall said.

“Happy Days” clearly ended up being the perfect pick to induce the same nostalgia and feel-good feeling the show gives viewers.