Did you have horseriding on your “Happy Days” bingo card when it comes to Henry Winkler’s famed phrase? If not, then read on.
Winkler, in a 2015 interview with The Guardian, reveals the storied background of The Fonz’s “Heeeey.”
“Everyone who’s ever played a Fonz-like cool character has always done the same things: combed their hair, stuck cigarette packets up the sleeve of their T-shirt,” Winkler said. “I swore I wouldn’t do any of that. Then, in the pilot, I had to look in a mirror.
“I told the director: ‘I can’t comb my hair, I made a deal with myself,'” Winkler said. “He replied: ‘It’s written. You have to.’ So I walked up, held up my comb, then went: ‘Heeeey … that’s perfect, I don’t need to comb.’ That moment defined the Fonz. I got the ‘Heeeey’ and the ‘Whoaaa’ from my favorite sport at the time: horse-riding.”
The Fonz Not An Immediate Star On ‘Happy Days’
Some people might think that Winkler’s character, Arthur Fonzarelli, was immediately in the top-tier of “Happy Days” characters.
In the first season, The Fonz was not featured prominently. He also didn’t wear a leather jacket all the time. In fact, some scenes with Winkler will find him in a white-colored jacket. Yes, he did ride a motorcycle and act tough around Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard, and his friends.
It’s also worth noting that the first few seasons of “Happy Days” were filmed but not in front of a studio audience. Once that dynamic changed, though, the studio audience always would react with cheers and applause for Winkler’s character.
The Fonz became so beloved that “Happy Days” scripts began focusing their attention more around Fonzie and a little less around Richie. Show producers even kicked around the idea of renaming the show Fonzie’s Happy Days to take advantage of the character’s popularity.
Producers Wanted To Actually Change Show’s Name
Howard, who was good friends with Winkler, was called into a meeting with producers. Here’s how he remembered that discussion.
“They did come to me and said, ‘Well the network would kind of like to change the name of the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days,'” Howard said in an interview with ET Online. He didn’t like the idea one bit.
Howard said that in the meeting, he responded with, ‘That’s fantastic. But you know, I signed on for this other thing and I just really don’t wanna do that. I think I’d go back to film school.”
Show producer Garry Marshall was not at that meeting. When he met with Howard afterward, Marshall asked the young star how it went in the meeting. Howard told Marshall that he didn’t feel good about it. Marshall said right then and there that it was not going to happen.
It didn’t and Happy Days kept its name until the final episode.