memories of the ’70s – Fonzie

Although not a real person, for all those tv viewers of the 1970s, Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie was a definite influence on pop culture.

A fictional character portrayed by actor Henry Winkler in the successful tv series Happy Days, Fonzie first appeared in 1974 when the sitcom debuted on ABC.

Producer/writer Bob Brunner created Fonzie, a mechanic who is initially a temporary character. But his appearances made him a series regular who then became known for his phrases – like “sit on it” – and the sound eh which he uses as a comment with different inflections in all kinds of situations.

Fonzie becomes the older mentor to the Happy Days characters, and family members of his are soon introduced to the cast, integrating the older set and the younger set.

He uses his past experiences as a gang member to advise his friends and hopefully help them steer clear of the mistakes he made, and becomes a favourite of Mrs. Cunningham.

He’s also well-known as a ladies’ man, who is always attractive to women and uses Arnold’s Drive-In’s washroom as his office for mentoring his buddies Richie, Ralph, Potsie and Chachi and approve or disapprove whatever is going on with a snap of his fingers.

His signature style, the slick hair, white tshirt, jeans and boots became a pop culture influence as well as his sayings. He soon became imitated off screen as well as was integral to the success of the series, which ran from 10 years.

As a young child of the 1970s, Fonzie was the older character who seemed cool and had the answer to everything. Don’t we all wish we had someone like that with us now.

memories of the ’70s – Laverne & Shirley

For the 1970s, two funny single girls, just trying to make a living, were one of the popular sitcoms of the decade – Laverne &  Shirley.

Created by Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz and Mark Rothman, Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off from the successful series Happy Days, starring Penny Marshall as Laverne and Cindy Williams as Shirley.

Set in the early 1960s, the show debuted in 1976 on ABC and featured characters from Happy Days as guest stars.

Set in Milwaukee, Laverne de Fazio lives with her best friend Shirley Feeney, working as bottlecappers at the local Shotz Brewery. The two  girls deal with their work life, as well as their odd fellow employees and neighbours, Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman (David Lander) who they communicate with through the building’s old dumbwaiter.

The girls deal with single girl issues – living together, dating, and trying to survive on their meagre salaries. Shirley has an on again off again boyfriend Carmine, known as The Big Ragu (played by Eddie Mekka), a former boxer now dance instructor hoping for his big break one day on Broadway. Laverne’s father Frank (played by Phil Foster), is a single Dad who runs the Pizza Bowl, one of their local hangouts.

Laverne is more fearless and aggressive, sporting a bold L on all her clothing and fond of Pepsi and milk when she needs some fortification, while Shirley is more conservative and demure, keeping her Boo Boo Kitty close by when needed. The two were a popular duo – gaining top ratings, even beating out Happy Days for viewers.

With the early success, the two stars recorded an album called Laverne & Shirley Sing, including a few original songs and several 1950s and 1960s standards. The theme song of the series, Making our dreams come true, sung by Cyndi Grecco, became a top 30 hit on the Billboard charts.

I watched this show for its slapstick humour and silliness, not always getting the more serious themes that were incorporated into the half hour. I liked how each character had its odd quirks, which although seem wierd, its more like real life.

The girls eventually would be in the Army (with Vicki Lawrence playing their sergeant) and move to Los Angeles after losing their jobs in Milwaukee due to automation. But for the 1970s, the halcyon days of the late 1950s and early 1960s were happily showcased in Laverne & Shirley as the idyllic time in American history.

memories of the ’70s – Happy Days

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days

Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,

Thursday, Friday Happy Days,

The weekend comes

My cycle hums

Ready to race to you…

The opening lyrics of the tv show Happy Days set the stage for the zany and silly actions of 1950s highschool students Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph and the uber cool Fonzie.

Launched in 1974, Happy Days starred Ron Howard as teen Richie Cunningham, well-known to viewers as little Opie from popular 60s tv series The Andy Griffith Show. Showing an idealized version of the 1950s rock ‘n’ era, this half hour sitcom was a hit for ABC and created a new star, Henry Winkler as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli.

Winkler’s character was supposed to be minor, but soon caught on with tv viewers enamored with his uber-cool status as the highschool dropout/mechanic, who wore the black leather jacket, rode the motorcycle and always was a chick magnet. Fonzie’s dialogue spawned many sayings that became pop culture gems, such as “Sit on it!, “Heyyy”, and the infamous thumbs up.

Richie, Potsie and Ralph learned from the Fonz as they navigated the mean streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and spent time at their fave hang-out, Arnold’s Drive-In. Created by director Garry Marshall, Happy Days was his first series after working on several hits including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Joey Bishop Show and The Danny Thomas Show. The series had a strong secondary cast with the Cunningham family – Howard, Marion and Joanie as well as Pat Morita as Arnold, and eventually newer characters such as Scott Baio as Chachi, Fonzie’s cousin, and Al Molinaro as Big Al, a replacement for Pat Morita.

I loved watching the teenage lives of Happy Days, as they dealt with their problems and crises and then danced to the tunes of the juke box at Arnold’s, snacking on burgers and fries. I wanted to be older and have my own hangout and hoped that it would happen for me in small town BC one day.

This successful series aired for 10 years and spawned several sitcom spinoffs, including Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Joanie Loves Chachi, Blansky’s Beauties and Out of the Blue. Its also credited with the phrase ‘ jumping the shark’ for its episode about Fonzie’s escapades to waterski over a shark in the fifth season of the show, and a noted time when the show was past its prime.

Garry Marshall is now a successful film director as is Ron Howard and their presence in this uber-positive tv series was polar opposite to many of the cutting-edge television of the day, but it provided a family show that was a quick escape to the halcyon days of the 1950s.