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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Bronze Fonz !

Thought Arthur Fonzarelli couldn't get any cooler? Meet the bronze Fonz.

Actor Henry Winkler, left, poses with a bronze statue of the 'Happy Days' character he portrayed, Arthur Fonzarelli, also known as 'The Fonz,' at an unveiling, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008, in Milwaukee. The program, which ran from 1974-1984, was based in Milwaukee.

MILWAUKEE - His hair will always be in place, he doesn't mind if you touch the leather and he's far too heavy to jump the shark.

Dozens of people lined the Milwaukee River on Tuesday to cheer the unveiling of a statue of the "Happy Days" character, including Henry Winkler himself. The man who was cast as the Fonz — then cast in bronze — pretended to comb the statue's hair and put his arm around the smiling, life-size likeness, which is giving two thumbs up.

"To see it in real life and that it exists it's just, it's just unbelievable. It really is," Winkler told the invite-only crowd and others gathered nearby trying to hear.

Milwaukee joins at least six other cities around the nation that have erected statues of classic television or movie characters.

Though no scenes were filmed here, "Happy Days" took place in Milwaukee during its TV run from 1974 to 1984. Most of the cast was on hand Tuesday, along with the show's creator, director and producer Garry Marshall, and actors Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams from the spin-off "Laverne & Shirley."

Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham, was filming a movie and wasn't able to make it. Winkler's two sons, daughter and wife were also in the audience.

Garry Marshall was playful at the podium, making the crowd laugh.

"Hi, I'm Penny's brother," he said, referring to his well-known sister, actress-director Penny Marshall.

The show's executive producer, Thomas L. Miller, talked him out of basing the show in the Bronx, where the Marshalls grew up, Marshall said. Miller was born in Milwaukee.

"To think back and I made up a character, you know, and just made it up but suddenly a man came named Henry Winkler, and he made this character real."

He then gave Winkler a hug.

The sculptor, Gerald Sawyer, put the initials of Winkler and his wife in the veins in the hands, "like the David in Italy," Winkler said.

Two booster groups, VISIT Milwaukee and Spirit Milwaukee, helped raise funds for the statue. The cable network TV Land also contributed.

TV Land fully sponsored six other statues, but since ended the program. Those are Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis; Bob Newhart in Chicago; Elvis Presley in Honolulu; Ralph Kramden in New York; Samantha from "Bewitched" in Salem, Mass.; and Andy Griffith in Raleigh, N.C.

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