It’s not hard to imagine Happy Days character Arthur Fonzarelli. Perfectly crafted hair, motorcycle and a classic leather jacket that is as cool as it is timeless.
But our modern-day sensibilities didn’t exactly line up with the show’s creators when the program was first getting off the ground. In fact, Fonzie, played by the legendary Henry Winkler, didn’t really come into his character until after the show’s start.
A character shifting and becoming what people know and love over the course of a show isn’t unheard of. But time shifts perspective, and in the context of the past few decades since Happy Days was airing, it seems impossible that the program wasn’t set in stone from the jump.
But many details were called on the fly. In particular, Fonzie had some growing pains that fans may not remember, best represented by his attire.
Fonzie First Rolled Up in a Windbreaker on Happy Days
Before whipping on his classic leather jacket, the first appearances of “The Fonz” were in a windbreaker or “golf jacket” type scenario. While not an eternal sentence of lameness, it certainly didn’t give off the energy that show creators were hoping for.
But it wasn’t so simple a change. For one, ABC didn’t want Fonzie to come off as a “thug” or bad guy by wearing a leather jacket. In 2021, this seems ludicrous. But at the time, there was enough of a connection that executives apparently found it warranted to make him dress, well, average.
Fonzie was always cool and getting the upper-hand. For someone to deliver that attitude and character, being dressed up as an everyday schmuck wasn’t going to cut it. This is where the show’s creators stepped in.
In an interview with EW, Winkler explained exactly how Fonzie’s leather jacket came to be, as well as giving the reason for gratuitous appearances of the character’s motorcycle.
“The leather jacket came when [exec producer] Garry Marshall made a deal with ABC,” Winkler said. “[The network] said, ‘Yes, all right, you can use him in leather only when he’s with his motorcycle.’ Garry went back and said to the writers, ‘Never write a scene without his motorcycle again.'”
“So I always stood next to my motorcycle — inside, outside, in my apartment, in Arnold’s. Didn’t matter where, I was always with my motorcycle. And that’s how I got out of the golf jacket and into leather.”
The rest, they say, is history.
Henry Winkler Beat Out The Monkees Frontman for Part
Winkler became a TV icon due to his role in the show, but it almost wasn’t to be. Frontman for iconic pop-rock group The Monkees, Mickey Dolenz, was considered to be a favorite for the role.
So much so that Dolenz once described an interaction with Winkler, in which the actor explained seeing Dolenz attend auditions for the part.
In a conversation with the Washington Post, Dolenz said:
“I remember my audition. I don’t remember Henry, but Henry remembers me, and he actually has talked about it, saying he walked in an saw me there and thought, ‘Oh s****! I’ll never get it. Mickey Dolenz is here.'”