During a 2006 interview with Happy Days star Henry Winkler, the Fonzie actor addressed how “gigantic” the show became. In fact, they even had to tell audiences to stop screaming constantly from excitement during tapings.
When Happy Days first aired in 1974, no one could’ve known just how huge the show would become. Winkler in particular definitely didn’t expect the Fonzie frenzy that ensued not long after. Especially since the Fonz was never meant to be a main character on the show. Yet Winkler and the rest of the cast became household names as stardom quickly followed the popularity of the sitcom.
As the second season started, the show began filming in front of a live studio audience. Each Friday, a 300-person audience would be welcomed to set to watch the Happy Days production. As Winkler says, they wanted cheering and screaming, but often had to ask the fans to tone it down so they could simply get through filming.
“It was fun to hear them scream,” Winkler said in a Television Academy Foundation interview. “We wanted them to scream, but you didn’t want them to scream too long because it got in the way.”
“So we talked to the audience. From about 12 in the afternoon in a shoot day, I would start to get into character and I would only talk like the Fonz. And then I would get into makeup and then I would like really act to anybody like the Fonz,” he added.
Therefore when the cast would come out and speak with the crowd, Winkler would typically be the only actor already in character. So if you were in the audience screaming with excitement, Fonzie may have asked you to chill out just a bit.
‘Happy Days’ Actor Henry Winkler Shares Anecdote About 25,000 Crazed Fans
The Happy Days star shared another story about crazed fans of the hit show during the same interview. Winkler and a few of his co-stars made a mall appearance at the peak of their stardom, which had an enormous turn out to say the least.
There were certain times when The Fonz and the rest of the Happy Days crew couldn’t avoid their fame. For instance, when making an appearance with Richie, Potsie, and Ralph at a Dallas, Texas mall. Once the event was over, they still had to exit the mall and get back to their car. A difficult task with thousands of wild fans watching your every move.
“25,000 people separated us from the car,” Winkler said. “It was the very first time, and one of the only times, I ever used the character off the soundstage.”
“I looked at the group and I said [as Fonzie], ‘Alright, look, there are a lot of you. There’s four of us. You’re going to separate like the Red Sea. We’re going to get to the car, you’re not going to touch us, ya understand?” Winkler said as he made a parting motion with his hands.
The crowd obeyed Winkler’s commands to his surprise. It was as if he had just snapped his fingers on Happy Days and put everyone under The Fonz’s trademark spell.
“Somebody said, ‘Wow, you are so cool.’ I went, ‘Right.’ Somebody said, ‘You are so short.’ I said, ‘F–k you.’ They went, ‘You are so cool,’” Winkler recalls as he bursts out with laughter. “It was also the only time I ever cussed in character. But hey, it worked and we got in that car.”