‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler’s ‘The Fonz’ Almost Had a Drastically Different Nickname on the Show

by Keeli Parkey

When you think about the classic sitcom “Happy Days” one of the first things that most likely pops into your mind is one of its breakout characters.

That character is, of course, Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli. Known better as “The Fonz” or “Fonzie” this icon television personality was played to perfection by Henry Winkler. It’s hard to imagine the character being played by anyone else. It’s also difficult to imagine the character being known as something other than “The Fonz” or “Fonzie.”

However, according to an article on History101.com, Winkler’s character almost had the last name of “Mascarelli.” “Mascarelli” was the name of creator Garry Marshall’s family before it was changed to Marshall. The reason for the change was to make the last name “more American,” according to the article.

Had he been given the last name “Mascarelli,” Winkler’s character’s nickname would have been “The Mash” on “Happy Days.”

However, Marshall decided that calling him “The Mash” might lead to confusion with “M*A*S*H*. That was another popular show airing at the time. So, the creator settled on the last name Fonzarelli. And, “The Fonz” was born.

Developing the name of Winkler’s character wasn’t the only time Marshall looked to his life for inspiration. History101 also reports that the character of Chachi Arcola on “Happy Days” was named for Arcola Street. Marshall lived on that street while growing up. The characters Richie and Potsie were named for childhood friends of Marshall and his wife.

Henry Winkler Selected to Play ‘The Fonz’

Speaking of Henry Winkler as “The Fonz,” did you know that he almost didn’t get cast in the part. Seems crazy, doesn’t it?

Well, Micky Dolenz almost had the part. Dolenz was already a Hollywood star and was a member of The Monkees a very popular band at the time.

In the end, Dolenz reportedly lost out on part because he was too tall. Winkler, however, was the right height. It has been reported that Marshall wanted all of the actors on “Happy Days” to be of similar height. Because Marshall thought Dolenz was too tall, Winkler became “The Fonz.”

Original Name for ‘Happy Days’ Blasted by Focus Groups

“Happy Days” ran on ABC for 11 seasons. It premiered in 1974 and ended its popular run in 1984. According to Fox News, the show that made its viewers long for the happy days of the 1950s almost wasn’t called “Happy Days” at all.

Marshall, the show’s creator, originally planned to call his new show, “Cool,” according to the article. This title was tested with focus groups. They reportedly did not like it at all.

Marshall reportedly talked about the change in the show’s name in his book, “Wake Me When It’s Funny.” In that book, according to reports, Marshall wrote: “Test audiences thought (‘Cool’) was about Eskimos who might have smoked.”