‘Happy Days’: How Fonzie’s Girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero Actress Roz Kelly Came Up With Inspiration for Her Role

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Happy Days producers saw the popularity of Fonzie and figured they could add to the hype by giving Henry Winkler’s character a girlfriend.

You may or not remember Pinky Tuscadero, the motorcycle-riding/demo-derby driving character played by Roz Kelly. ABC hyped the Fonzie/Pinky storyline that kicked off the 1976 season of Happy Days. Fonzie was a ladies’ man, but would this fearless woman steal his heart?

Fonzie’s girlfriend even got a story in People. And Roz Kelly told the magazine that she came up with Pinky based on her own personality and a pair of “rubber boobs.” She likened herself to Vivien Leigh, but the 1970s version of her. Leigh, the British actress, was most famous as Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind.

However, Kelly grew up in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, “singing and dancing my way through a rotten childhood.” Hell’s Kitchen used to be an Irish-American working-class neighborhood in Manhattan.

She said while waiting for her Happy Days audition, she walked up to another actress vying for the part. “I was twitching nervously, trying to look cool, and I could see the other girl was suffering, too. So I went over and said, ‘How’s your cardiac arrest, honey?’ “

On Happy Days, Pinky Tuscadero basically was the female version of Fonzie. But while Fonzie favored denim and black leather, she was everything pink, her signature color. Her clothes were pink. She rode a pink motorcycle. And she even wore a pink scarf in her red hair. Kelly and Henry Winkler knew each other from a previous movie, Richard. Her other credits included The Owl and the Pussycat. She also told People that she’d done some soft-core porn. But “I never drop my drawers,” she said.

ABC Hyped the Happy Days Coupling

ABC promoted the meet-cute Happy Days relationship. But what happened? In hindsight, what went so wrong with Pinky? Why didn’t Fonzie love a character created just for him? We’re talking Hollywood, after all.

Well, she and Winkler didn’t get along. Her quote in People probably didn’t help. She told the magazine “I grew up on welfare, so I don’t relate to rich kids.” Winkler earned his Master’s degree from Yale.

Kelly’s career flamed out after the 1970s. She did the guest star rounds, appearing on shows like The Love Boat, Baretta, Kojak, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island and The Dukes of Hazzard. She was in line to replace Paul Michael Glaser in Starsky and Hutch. But Glaser decided not to leave his lucrative Starsky role.

IMDB lists her last role as in 1983. She guest starred on Trapper John, MD, the M*A*S*H spinoff.

Kelly, who will be 78 next month, also suffered from mental illness. She was diagnosed as bipolar. She fired a shotgun into a neighbor’s home and at a car in 1998. A judge sentenced her to three years of felony probation.

In 2000, she used her cane to assault a homeless man. Kelly was in jail for 98 days while awaiting trial. A judge sentenced her to time served and also ordered her to go to counseling and stay on her medication.