The unveiling of the Bronze Fonz
Podcast: John McGivern introduces Garry Marshall at the Bronze the Fonz unveiling
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They came to see the Fonz. They lined the Wells Street bridge. They lined the Riverwalk across the river and south of the ceremony on the river's left bank. They watched from windows, terraces and rooftops and they watched from pontoon boats on the river, itself.
Fans lined up along Wells Street to the east of the river, where they couldn't even get a glimpse as actor Henry Winkler and sculptor Gerald Sawyer unveiled the much-discussed Bronz Fonz Tuesday morning in Downtown Milwaukee.
"I just want to say, this is truly beautiful," said Winkler after the sheet was removed. "You can hear about it, you can talk about it, we had conversation though e-mail, but to see it in real life and that it exists, it's just unbelievable, it really is."
The 10 a.m. ceremony -- emceed by local actor and comedian John McGivern -- opened with a welcome from Dave Fantle, vice president of public relations for VISIT Milwaukee, the organization that spearheaded the effort to bring the Fonz to Downtown.
"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the man who made Arthur Fonzarelli and immortal TV icon," said Fantle. "We're not just dedicating a bronze Fonz today, we're honoring Henry, an actor, an author, a director, a writer, a producer, a family man, a tireless children's advocate and a great humanitarian. Fonzie is a character, Henry is the real deal. Thank you, Henry."
On a small platform to the left of the podium were seated most of the stars of television's beloved "Happy Days." There was Anson Williams (Potsie), Don Most (Ralph), Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham), Erin Moran (Joanie), Penny Marshall (Laverne) and Cindy Williams (Shirley). With them were the show's co-creator Garry Marshall and co-producer Bob Boyett.
Although of them only Garry Marshall addressed the invited crowd of media and dignitaries, each of the others was introduced.
"This is a great honor for all of us of the cast," said Garry Marshall. "But for me it's a great honor … I made up a character but suddenly a man came named Henry Winkler and he made this character real. He made it real in your minds and in your living rooms and in your hearts … and he made Fonzie a person who not only you wanted to watch but you wanted to put on your lunch box, your pajamas, your shirts, your hats and everything. … Even though I have no plaque, I'm going to give him a hug. How happy I am he was in the "Happy Days" show."
The real star of the event, of course, was Winkler.
Winker smiled throughout the event and rose to shake hands with speakers like TV Land's Karen Cummins and International Happy Days Fan Club president Giuseppe Ganelli -- who traveled from Italy for the unveiling -- and to receive proclamations from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker.
Just before the unveiling he was introduced by McGivern and spoke of his appreciation for the way Milwaukee has received him and his fellow cast members over the years.
"Thirty years ago we came here for the first time to Milwaukee and form the moment that we landed in this city we were so welcomed by the compassion, the hospitality, the warmth, the culture of this great city. And we are here again 30 years later and nothing has changed. It is the same warmth the same hospitality the same compassion that greeted us when we got off the plane.
"We are here to celebrate this amazing honor in my life, that I share piece by piece, finger by finger. It's taller than I am, I can't believe that, I've never actually been this tall. But I share every inch of this statue with my family, with my television family and with my adopted family, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you."
The sculpture itself is more or less life-size, standing at five feet, six inches tall and Winkler was moved to see that the veins in the right hand spell out his initials and those of his wife, Stacy.
"I hope that this statue really represents in the way that this city deserves," said Winkler. "This is one of the great cities in the United States of America and everyone should actually come here to enjoy the the theater, enjoy the good food, enjoy the warmth of the people and the Fonz!"
At the event, Craig Culver, of Culver's presented a check for $10,000 to the Boys & Girls Club for its literacy program, in honor of Winkler's charity work with children.
The celebrations continue throughout the day with an ice cream social at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, a Downtown parade and with Anson Williams singing the national anthem and the entire cast throwing out the first pitch tonight at Miller Park.
Bottom line: its not art. Its a tribute to a character, a testiment to Henry who is a great guy and brought that character to iconic status, putting Milwaukee on the pop culture map many years ago by association with the show. Its a photo op and a point of interest on the Riverwalk--not a big shrine or larger than life monument. I think that's why its lifesize--so its unobtrusive on the Riverwalk and people may want to take a picture with it. People can say what they want about its likeness to the Fonz but, I'm not sure what good that will do anyone at this point. End of story. It is what it is.
Given Milwaukee's uncomfortable relationship with "art", the backers should have realized that the statue had to look exactly like the Fonz. In a city where it is difficult to have a discussion about art, there is no room for "artistic interpretation." We have learned that Milwaukeeans for the most part dont want Blue Shirts or Torquise jeans and want things to look "straight" forward.
Am I the only one that thinks that a Fonzie statue is cheesy? What is the real significants here? I for one would like to get a way from Milwaukee being know as the place where Happy Days and Laverne and Shirely took place. These shows werent even taped in Milwaukee. I'm not againts the statue but its just corny. Unfortunately fonzie with his thumbs up reminds me of John McCain every time he is on tv he gives a thumbs up with his old, shriveled up thumbs and that fake smile.
So what's the over/under on when this thing gets tagged? I give it two nights and it's going to be covered in graffiti. Who's going to end up paying for the upkeep on this thing, too? I mean, the jacket and jeans are going to fade in time. Are we going to pay to repaint it every year?
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