The Fonz once crashed his motorcycle on set exactly how we saw on the show
Henry Winkler admitted, "I've never ridden a motorcycle again in my life." They had to fake it after this mishap.
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Fonzie pops a wheelie the entire time he rips his motorcycle across the pavement, showing off for an astonished crowd gathered in Arnold's parking lot.
The two-part Happy Days episode "Fearless Fonzarelli" is notably the first time we see Arnold – he peeks out of the blinds of his restaurant to see what all the commotion is about.
What he sees is Fonzie, bravely giving a thumbs up before flying up a ramp to perform a daring jump that sends him and his iconic bike sailing, then crashing into a fried chicken stand.
By the third season of Happy Days, Henry Winkler had become accepted by fans as one of the coolest guys in the world. But the whole time we were giving him the thumbs up, he was hanging his head a little, knowing that not only did he not feel comfortable riding a motorcycle, but his first time on the bike was such a complete disaster, he stopped riding the motorcycle forever.
It happened during one of Winkler's very first days on set. He said producers asked him to get on the motorcycle and pull it up five feet.
That's all the Fonz needed to do for the scene.
Unfortunately, Winkler said his dyslexia led him to misread the controls, confusing how to give the motorcycle just a little gas. Instead of slowly rolling forward, Winkler told Emmy TV Legends that he shot straight ahead like a launched cannonball.
The scene Winkler describes looks a lot like the scripted version of the crash you see in "Fearless Fonzarelli."
"I gunned it and rammed into the sound truck," Winkler said, sincerely worried that his accident had nearly killed the director of photography.
He said that, in the moment, he had to think fast, so he instinctively tipped the bike to put it down on the ground. He and the bike slid under the sound truck.
Winkler joked, "They took the bike out first because they rented that, and then they said, 'Are you OK?'"
Once the Fonz assured them it was all good, he said everybody agreed, "Probably we're not going to let you do that again."
But the Fonz rides a bike! It's a big part of the character! They needed to figure out how to keep the Fonz's cool façade.
The solution they came up with is actually a pretty hilarious image to have in your head any time you see Fonzie "ride" the motorcycle on the show. However, it might ruin your idea of Fonzie as a "cool guy" forever, so proceed with caution….
Apparently, they rigged it so the bike sat on a board and crew members would simply pull Winkler where he needed to be, like a toddler in a wagon.
In the interview, Winkler said that's how he made it through every motorcycle scene for the next 10 years because, after that first scary ride, he had no desire to repeat that mistake and gave up ever revving up the motorcycle himself.
"I've never ridden a motorcycle again in my life," Winkler confirmed.
In the same clip, series creator Garry Marshall estimated that over the entire show's run, Winkler maybe rode the bike a total of 40 yards.
Because it turns out that Winkler actually had more in common with the type of guy in the real world who Marshall said inspired the character of Fonzie.
You see, the Fonz wasn’t originally supposed to be an actual cool guy. He was simply supposed to be a guy who had that reputation as a cool guy. In Marshall's memoir, My Happy Days in Hollywood, he wrote that he modeled the Fonz after a guy named Peter Wagner who he met at a YMCA camp as a young boy.
Marshall said that nobody ever saw Peter ride his motorcycle. They just knew he owned a motorcycle, and that alone was enough to make him cool.
"Even though he wasn't riding his motorcycle, we knew he had a bike, and that was cool enough," Marshall wrote.
Is the Fonz still cool with you, even if Winkler wasn't as confident on that motorcycle as he looked?