Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, better known as "Fonzie" or "The Fonz" (or simply Fonz), was played by Henry Winkler for the entire 11-year run of the show Happy Days (1974–1984), and is one of the most important characters in the series. He was originally a secondary character, but was soon positioned as a lead character when he began surpassing the other characters in popularity. To many, Fonzie is seen as the epitome of cool and a sex symbol.
Fonzie is a greaser who is frequently seen on or near his beloved motorcycle, wearing a leather jacket and typifying the essence of "cool", in contrast to his circle of friends. At the beginning of the series, Fonzie worked as a mechanic, and later became the co-owner of Arnold's Drive-In, as well as a mechanic shop teacher.
Fonzie is one of only two characters (along with Howard Cunningham) to appear in all 255 episodes of the series.
Throughout the series, Fonzie is the personification of "cool" to everyone else, and though he maintains his tough reputation, he is also a loyal friend. Deep down in his heart, Fonzie longs for family, but he allows only his closest friends to see this facet of his personality.
Fonzie makes no secret of what he considers to be "cool" or "uncool", often showing his approval or objection with his signature "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", the former usually in tandem with his trademark expression, "Ay-y-y-y!". (In Requiem For A Malph, he gives a "half-thumb" - halfway between up and down- to Rebel E. Lee as he was about to fight Ralph Malph.)
Over time, Fonzie's thumb gesture came to mean more than just a stamp of approval; on a few occasions he used it to show his gratitude, his own way of saying "thanks". The most poignant example of this was in Richie Almost Dies, during which he quietly gives his "thanks" to God for bringing Richie back.
At the beginning of the series, Fonzie is a high school dropout, prompting establishment characters in the show to see him as a negative influence. After an unsuccessful attempt to drop back in again, Fonzie later decided to attend night school and ultimately earned his high school diploma. Through it all, Fonzie worked as a mechanic. He later became an instructor at Jefferson High School and finally a full-fledged teacher.
Fonzie's checkered past earned him a great deal of reverence from friend and foe alike. He has a solid moral code, treating others with respect and sticking up for those who can't defend themselves, particularly Richie, Ralph, and Potsie whenever they were confronted by various bullies and troublemakers. Even physically larger opponents backed down from Fonzie when confronted, and those who chose to go up against him never prevailed.
Throughout the series, while Fonzie served as defender and protector of his friends, he also expected those who looked up to him to follow his example. Case in point, after Chachi accidentally causes Arnold's to burn down, Fonzie strongly disciplines him for his carelessness in tossing his apron onto the kitchen grill and forgetting to shut it off before leaving, even though everyone else, including Al, understands it was unintentional.
Despite Fonzie's well-earned status, there were still some who chose to antagonize him, including Officer Kirk, an overzealous policeman who sometimes (though never successfully) tried to frame Fonzie or run him out of town.
Fonzie also had his whimsical traits as well, including a devotion to the Lone Ranger; in the season 9 episode Hi-Yo Fonzie, Away! the gang, for his birthday, arrange for Fonzie to meet the Masked Man in person (played by John Hart, who actually played the Lone Ranger in 1953). At the end of their brief meeting (during which Fonzie is rendered speechless), the Lone Ranger even gives Fonzie one of his silver bullets.
Friendship with Richie
Fonzie is shown to have respect for people willing to stand up for what is right no matter what the cost. When Richie first met Fonzie while he was a member of a gang called the Falcons, Fonzie initially resented him and threatened to beat him up, but when Richie refused to back down, Fonzie told him, "You got guts".
Unlike Ralph Malph and Potsie Weber, Richie does not readily compromise his own principles, and stands up to Fonzie on later occasions as well. Consequently, Fonzie begins to admire Richie and over time grows fond of him, eventually calling him his best friend.
Beginning in season 3, despite Howard's skepticism (although they could use the extra money), Fonzie moved into the attic apartment above the garage at the Cunningham house, and though things got off to a rocky start, all of the Cunninghams eventually became like a surrogate family to Fonzie.
- He became much closer to Joanie, affectionately calling her "Shortcake", and eventually became like another brother to her after Richie left.
- Marion became a mother figure to Fonzie, and is the only one permitted to call him by his real name, Arthur. She is also the only woman who can make Fonzie blush when she kisses him on the cheek.
- Though he does not fully approve of his lifestyle, Howard gradually accepts Fonzie and grows to treat him as one of the family.
Fonzie's real family
Fonzie's parents were Angela and Vito Fonzarelli. He once mentioned that his father had abandoned him when he was three years old, leaving him a strong box but no key. When Fonzie finally broke the box open (running over it with his tricycle) the only thing inside was the key.
Fonzie has a cousin nicknamed Spike, who looks up to Fonzie like an uncle. He appeared in Not With My Sister, You Don't, in which he went on a date with Joanie. Fonzie has another cousin named Chachi (Scott Baio) who dated and later married Joanie. In a later episode Fonzie's half brother, named Arthur (Artie), visits to tell him that their father died, and had left Fonzie a broken pocket watch. Near the end of the series, Fonzie adopted a young orphan boy named Danny Corrigan, Jr., completing his transformation from rebel to family man.
Another significant part of Fonzie's reputation was his enormous success with women. Similar to when he raps the jukebox to play music, all Fonzie has to do is snap his fingers and a girl (sometimes several girls) will come running to his side. When asked how he does it, he simply replies, "It's a gift."
Very few women turned down Fonzie's advances or made him nervous. While displaying something of a Casanova-like behavior, he always treated women with utmost respect. His success with the fairer sex made him a frequent source of advice for most of the other males in his circle of friends (Richie, Potsie, Ralph, and eventually Chachi).
In season 10, Fonzie began a long-term relationship with a single mother (Linda Purl), but it didn't last. During the series, Fonzie never married, although in season 2 he nearly did (Fonzie's Getting Married), but Richie and Howard found out that Fonzie's fiancée worked as a stripper and was keeping it a secret from him.
Another of Fonzie's trademarks was his signature brown leather jacket, which he was almost always seen wearing. During the earliest episodes of the series, ABC executives were reticent about Winkler wearing leather because they didn't want him looking too much like a hoodlum, so to circumvent their fears, creator and executive producer Garry Marshall decided to keep Fonzie close to his motorcycle for every scene so he could continue wearing the leather jacket as safety equipment; in scenes where it wasn't possible to have the bike nearby, Fonzie would wear a gray cloth windbreaker. As the series progressed, ABC relented, and permitted Fonzie to wear the leather jacket everywhere.
In season 7, after Chachi accidentally burned the original Arnold's to the ground, Fonzie reluctantly agreed to become part owner of the rebuilt Arnold's. Fonzie eventually sold his interest back to Al, who became partners with the drive-in restaurant's original owner, Arnold Takahashi (Pat Morita, seasons 1–3, and 10 & 11) in season 10 before selling his interest in it to Arnold in season 11.
Fonzie, a highly skilled mechanic, wound up purchasing and becoming the owner of Bronko's Garage, where he worked. He also became shop teacher in Jefferson High School season in seasons 8-10 of the series and a Guidance Counselor and Dean of Boys of George S. Patton Vocational High School in the series' final season.
- "Sit on it."
- "Cool it!"
- "Correct-amundo!" (or "Exact-amundo")
- "Sorry girls, it was a slip of the fingers."
- "Let's see Tarzan do that."
- "Why? Cause I'm the Fonz!"
- "Well, I'm playing chess, what does it look like I'm doing?!" (Fonzie's sarcastic response to two friends who watch him ironing and ask him what he is doing)
- In casting the role of Fonzie, Garry Marshall originally wanted ex-Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, who had just played the role of a biker in a 1972 episode of Adam-12, but Dolenz was significantly taller than the rest of the cast, and Marshall decided that Fonzie needed to be on the same eye level as the others. A search for a shorter actor as an alternative resulted in 5-foot-6 Henry Winkler landing the role.
- In My Fair Fonzie, he reveals to Richie that he hates 'peanut butter and jelly'.
- Fonzie has a verbal tic around the word "wrong", sometimes he can say it, but other times, he just makes noises.
- Fonzie does not want anything bad to happen to his hair.
- Fonzie is the only one who can hit the jukebox at Arnold's and make it work.
- One of Fonzie's leather jackets is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.