A lesson in persistence from a childhood idol
“Happy Days” was all the rage with our Grade 2 class.
We talked about the ’70s sitcom endlessly, before school, during recess and lunch, and on the walk home after the bell rang.
We all wanted to be “The Fonz” or “Fonzie,” the show’s hero.
He was the epitome of cool, with his leather jacket and motorcycle, his ability to fix things with a simple tap, and his trademark sayings, “Aaaaaaaayyy,” “Whoa,” and “Sit on it.”
We wore “The Fonz” T-shirts and fake leather jackets with our GWG Scrubbies, the day’s most stylish denim.
Those were the innocent influences. Through the lens of an adult, there were also times when Fonzie may not have been the best role model.
For example, after one show, where he jumped 14 garbage cans on his motorcycle in front of Arnold’s takeout, we all tried jumping five-gallon buckets on our pedal bikes. Dangerous!
And I once wrote “The Fonz” on a math test instead of “Steve Bartlett.” Our teacher, the amazing Ms. Bannister, figured out whose exam it was by the power of deduction – mine was the only quiz without a name from the class list. She didn’t make a big deal of it, however, after I boasted about it to classmates, many of them signed “The Fonz” to their next test and Ms. Bannister was not too impressed.
All these memories resurfaced two weeks ago, when Henry Winkler, the actor who played The Fonz, won his first- ever Emmy Award for his role on the HBO series “Barry.”
He had five previous nominations, including three in the latter part of the ‘70s for The Fonz. Yup, his Emmy wait was more than 40 years.
Winkler’s win made me smile and trek down memory lane to that much simpler time, a period of my life with, thanks to my incredible parents, few cares or worries.
It also reminded me of my Fonz doll, one of two toys that has survived my teenage, university and adult years. The other is a Tonka truck with a hydraulic dump, which is a story in itself.
On back of the doll, which sits on a basement ledge under some plaques, is a lever that lifts his arms up to make a thumbs up motion. The Fonz would do so as he said, “Aaaaaaaaay.” I use it as a reminder never to take myself too seriously.
When Winkler accepted the Emmy, he repeated some career advice he once received: “If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you.”
“Tonight, I got to clear the table,” the 72-year-old told the audience.
It’s a great line about persistence, about holding on to your dreams, about not giving up.
Forty-plus years later, The Fonz is influencing me again. If only my Grade 2 class was convening in the yard at Country Road Primary to discuss. I would opine that The Fonz is cooler now than ever.
Steve Bartlett The Deep End