Fonzie’s Leather Jacket Was Banned, And 12 Other Secrets From The Set Of ‘Happy Days’

Whether you grew up in the ’50s or not, there’s just something about Happy Days that takes us all back to a simpler time. Generations of families have watched the show together, but they probably never knew these behind-the-scenes facts.

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1. The cast all worked second jobs as athletes

Happy Days creator Gary Marshall came up with a creative way to raise money for charity and let the cast relax after hours. They all played together on a softball team named the Happy Days All Stars. The team played short charity matches before major league games.

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Fonzie's Leather Jacket Was Banned, And 12 Other Secrets From The Set Of 'Happy Days'
ABC

They also went on tours of U.S. military bases in Europe and Japan. All that and they managed to tape 11 seasons of the show. Not bad!

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2. There was a “Female Fonzie”

Dedicated Happy Days fans know that Roz Kelley joined the show in season three as Pinky Tuscadero, a female delinquent who became Fonzie’s love interest for three episodes. When the show was still on the air, the network made a huge deal about the new character and her relationship with the Fonz.

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But it just wasn’t meant to be. Tuscadero connected with fans, but Kelley butted heads with the show’s cast and crew. She blamed the friction on her modest background, and said she had trouble working with “rich kids” like Henry Winkler.

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3. Ron Howard joined the show to dodge the draft

After spending his childhood working on The Andy Griffith Show, Howard had no interest in being a TV actor and had his heart set on directing instead. But when the pilot for Happy Days was being filmed, going to film school wouldn’t have saved Howard from the Vietnam War draft.

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To stay in America, Howard had to prove that he was working a job that kept at least 30 other people in business, and of course the lead role in a TV show qualified. President Nixon ended the draft just after the pilot was filmed.

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4. Robin Williams turned the show on its head

Fonzie's Leather Jacket Was Banned, And 12 Other Secrets From The Set Of 'Happy Days'
ABC

Cast members called the script that introduced Mork from Ork “unreadable,” but the late great Robin Williams made it shine anyways. Creator Gary Marshall’s son asked him to make “a Martian episode” after seeing Star Wars in theaters. The original actor cast as Mork actually quit days before the episode taped.

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That led to up-and-coming comic Robin Williams getting an audition for the part. When he stepped into the audition room, producers asked him to take a seat. He sat on the chair upside down and won the part right away.

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5. Fonzie never drove his motorcycle

Fonzie’s iconic motorcycle – a 1949 Triumph Trophy TR5 Scrambler – started out as a real bike but was changed into a prop just a few days after the show started filming. Henry Winkler was supposed to drive a few feet during a scene, but Winkler is famously dyslexic and couldn’t read the dials on the bike.

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“I gunned it and rammed into the sound truck,” he explained, “nearly killed the director of photography, put the bike down and slid under the truck.” Needless to say Fonzie’s license was revoked. For the rest of the series, the bike was moved using a hidden wheeled platform.

6. The show was originally called ‘COOL’

Producers worried the name would remind people of cigarettes. The original premise for the show was also different: it was supposed to be set in the 1920s, not the 1950s. Since Gary Marshall was a child of the ’50s, he suggested that era instead, and the rest is history.

Keep reading to find out why Fonzie’s leather jacket was banned by producers…

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7. Notice the songs sound a little funny?

The music in the jukebox at Arnold’s was classic 1950s pop, but it didn’t always sound quite right. That’s because buying song rights was expensive, especially in the show’s early seasons. To save money, most songs were re-recorded by Anson Williams, who played Potsie. Williams also showed off his voice in several classic episodes.  

8. The moment Fonzie “Jumped the Shark”

This famous TV moment (or infamous, depending on who you ask) came about after Henry Winkler revealed his former job as a water ski instructor to the other actors. The show’s writers decided they had to find a way to include his skills in the show. Somehow, they settled on making the Fonz jump a live shark.

Since the episode aired, “jumping the shark” has become a term for when a show becomes so ridiculous it reveals the writers have run out of ideas. But to be fair, Happy Days had another seven seasons of very high ratings left after their shark jump.

9. The show had a LOT of spin-offs

Fonzie's Leather Jacket Was Banned, And 12 Other Secrets From The Set Of 'Happy Days'
‘Out of the Blue’ is one of the show’s forgotten spin-offs.Hollywood.com

Along with Joanie Loves Chachie, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy, there are other forgotten Happy Days spin-offs including Blanksy’s Beauties, which was set in the 1970s, and Out of the Blue, about a guardian angel-in-training. There were also Saturday morning cartoons featuring the show’s characters, like Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang.

10. Fonzie’s leather jacket was banned by producers

Sometimes, sharp eyed fans can spot Fonzie wearing a blue windbreaker in the show’s opening credits. While Fonzie was always meant to wear a leather motorcycle jacket, producers forced him to wear a windbreaker in early episodes. They said the biker look had too many associations with gangs and criminals.

Fonzie's Leather Jacket Was Banned, And 12 Other Secrets From The Set Of 'Happy Days'
ABC

Gary Marshall managed to change their minds, but only by claiming it was safer for Fonzie to wear a jacket while riding his bike. Producers still made sure a bike was present during all of Fonzie’s early scenes, so viewers knew he was dressed for safety, not style.

Of course, Fonzie’s jacket is now one of the most famous parts of the show, and one of them is on display in the Smithsonian museum.

11. Where did Chuck go?

In the first two seasons, Joanie and Richie had an older brother named Chuck. But by season three he basically vanished from the show, with no explanation from the other characters. So what happened?

Basically, producers didn’t realize how popular Fonzie would become. As he got more screen time, he filled in the “big brother” role that Chuck was meant to play. Plus, fans responded to Fonzie way more.

12. Pat Morita was almost fired over his accent

The future Mr. Miyagi ran into some trouble because of the accent he picked for Arnold the restaurant owner. Morita was born in California and has no accent, but producers insisted his character should have one, so he picked a stereotypical Chinese one for the role.

But a Standards and Practices worker told Morita he could lose his job for imitating a Chinese man (Morita’s ancestry is Japanese). To keep his job, Morita said that Arnold was actually half Chinese, half Japanese. No one questioned his accent again.

13. Happy days is still syndicated in 126 countries around the world

Don’t ask me why people in Mongolia or Chile enjoy a show about 1950s America, but I would guess it’s for the same reasons we all do: because it makes us laugh!

Share this list if you love Happy Days!

Emma C
Freelance Writer