Happy Days recreated the moment Joan Jett decided to become a rockstar

The Runaways rocker was 15 when Suzi Quatro — better known to Fonzie fans as Leather Tuscadero — blew her mind.

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In 1977 on Happy Days, Arnold's got "all shook up" when rocker Suzi Quatro appeared as Leather Tuscadero to perform Elvis songs for a crowd of dancing teens. It was a moment that proved to a large TV audience that Suzi Q was undeniably the queen of rock & roll.

For Joan Jett, who was 19 when this episode aired and a member of the pioneering rock band the Runaways, watching this two-part Happy Days episode, "Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur," must've been like a flashback, to when she was just a teen (well, a younger teen) bopping to the latest hits herself.

The same year the episode aired, Jett told The Los Angeles Times that growing up, before she ever picked up a guitar, she used to dress up like Suzi Quatro.

Just look at any photo of Joan Jett, and you'll see Jett never really dropped the Quatro look. Suzi's style clearly helped Jett form her "Bad Reputation."

Suzi's influence on the Runaways goes further than just looks, of course. It's also evidenced in the songs, as noted by every review forever linking the two seminal female rock acts. No doubt what critics were hearing in a Runaways hit like "Cherry Bomb" (well, it was No. 1 in Japan) was Jett's pure fandom for Suzi's Sixties sound.

"I was 15 the first time I saw her, and it completely blew my mind," Jett told the Times in 1978.

And she noted that: "Suzi, of course, got it all from Elvis."

That's what makes the Happy Days episode so perfect for Suzi Quatro fans in the audience like Jett. Seeing Suzi clad in leather singing classic Elvis songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" must've felt right as rain.

Jett said watching Suzi Quatro perform when she was 15 was the moment that she knew she wanted to join a band like the Runaways.

"Suzi Quatro was the first girl to get up there and do it," Jett said. "She's the one who made think, wow, if she can do it, so can I."

In the episode, Joanie Cunningham is essentially Joan Jett (they even pretty much have the same name!). After seeing Leather Tuscadero rock, she decides she must runaway (get it?) to join Leather & The Suedes. It makes you wonder how many girls watching Leather Tuscadero rock Arnold's diner were inspired to find their inner rockers, too.

In 1978, the L.A. Times described Quatro as "a cranked up, leather-clad rocker in the Presley tradition" who "exuded a hard-edged cool that had previously been off-limits for women."

Jett said she hoped that the Runaways could help make "being cool" even more accessible, so all the Joanie Cunninghams of the world could be viewed as hip and cool as all the Fonzies.

"I think Suzi Quatro and the Runaways both have made it a little easier for other women rockers," Jett said. "Not much, but hopefully we've helped."

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vinman63 5 months ago
Quote Shemp Howard “The niece is nice”
jimmyvici 6 months ago
I had a huge crush on Joan Jett when I was growing up. ❤️❤️❤️
Sooner 6 months ago
Funny, I was in a rock band in the 70s, and everybody in every band I knew thought Susie Quatro was total dork music, and Joan Jett not much better.
CaptainIncredulous Sooner 6 months ago
And yet Quatro and Jett are still famous. And you are . . .?
Deleted 6 months ago
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What on earth does that have to do with Leather Tuscadero?
katyrichards 6 months ago
This wrong or misunderstood.Joan Jett did get influenced by Suzi, but it was WAY before Happy Days. The Runaways were already a band by then.
MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
I never understood how a show about the late 1950s would have a character with a 1970s David Cassidy-type shag haircut. 🤔
LalaLucy MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
Exactly my thought. Never been a fan of this era of the show.
Lillyrose MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
I agree! The older shows were better.
Andybandit 6 months ago
Cool story about Joan Jett. I like her songs.
cperrynaples 6 months ago
Anyone notice the contradicting ages? The headline says Joan Jett was 15 and the story said she was 19, which is the correct number!
BrittReid cperrynaples 6 months ago
Your right.JJ was 19 and NOT 15.
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 6 months ago
The way its written is confusing, I think JJ was 19 when the episode aired but 15 when she first saw her, it doesen't say where she first saw her though? Just a guess.
MichaelGreene LoveMETV22 6 months ago
Joan Jett was already performing with the Runaways as early as 1975. According to Wikipedia, she was born September 22, 1958, in Wynnewood, PA, just outside of the Overbrook section of Philadelphia. Her family moved twice, first, to Rockville, MD in 1967, then to West Covina, CA, a bit east of Los Angeles ca. 1972.
katyrichards BrittReid 6 months ago
She was 15 when the Runaways got together, had nothing to do with Happy Days. They were fans of Suzi tho
Barry22 katyrichards 6 months ago
Suzi Quatro was releasing albums in 1973 (did better in England than The US.) The Runaways first album came out in 1976 (and was in bargain bins by 1978, I got it at Zayre for 1.99). So Joan Jett and crew could have been influenced by her. I thought Quatro was terrible on HD, but by then the show was pretty bad.
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