Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days, said the cast didn’t realize they were famous right away. In fact, it wasn’t until they were standing in front of 50,000 screaming fans that they realized their lives were about to change forever.
Williams told the story of “When I Realized I Was Famous” to Pop Goes the Culture TV last year.
The reason for the delay, he said, was because of how the network broadcast Happy Days. They had only filmed a few episodes when the show began to air. So, the cast knew the show was getting good reviews, but they had no sense of scale.
“We had to keep working to make sure there was a show every week,” he said, “So we knew the show was popular, but we never really felt it because when we were working 17 hours a day, you know, from dark-to-dark. It’s, you know, you’d work, you sleep, you’d eat, you get up, you work, you sleep, you eat, you get up.”
When they finally caught up and had enough episodes in the hopper, ABC sent the cast on a personal appearance tour. The plan was for the entire cast to meet in Houston then split up. Williams would go with Ron Howard, while Donny Most and Henry Winkler would tour other cities. They’d meet up in Philadelphia at the end of the tour with an appearance on the Mike Douglas Show.
But when they arrived in Houston, the Happy Days cast couldn’t have imagined the size of the crowd that would be waiting for them.
Williams Still Overwhelmed by ‘Happy Days’ Success
As the Happy Days cast pulled into the Houston amphitheater where they were to make their appearance, Williams said he noticed the crowd long before they got there. He assumed the Rolling Stones were playing there that night and, he joked, that he may be able to use his newfound success on the show to score tickets.
But those fans were there for them. And they made that known as soon as they spotted the limo.
“We were like speechless,” he said. “We had no idea!”
Fans start shaking the car and police hasd to pull screaming fans off of the limousine so they can pass, he said.
“It was an out-of-body experience,” he said. “It was just like ‘Oh my god, it’s the Beatles,’ you know. The cops are taking us out of the car, protecting us as we’re going through (the crowd). … It’s like, this is better than my bar mitzvah!”
Shortly thereafter, Williams recalls, they’re shoved out on stage in front of 50,000 or more screaming fans “like schlubs.”
No one had prepared what to say. So, Winkler, in a proud Fonzie moment, gives the crowd a thumbs up and his trademark “aye!”
“You needed new ears (it was so loud),” Williams joked.
“And from that point on, it was a roller coaster ride,” he said.