Statue of The Fonz
A series of statues commemorating famous TV characters was an idea championed by cable channel TV Land, starting in 2000 with the erection of the Ralph Kramden figure outside the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City. However, by the time Milwaukee decided to honor The Fonz, TV Land had "reevaluated" their marketing strategy, and was no longer funding civic sitcom statuary.
So in 2007, local booster groups decided that they would raise the $85,000 themselves and "Bronze the Fonz." TV shirts and thumbs up cookies were sold, and a public relations campaign began.
Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli was originally a minor character in the sitcom Happy Days, set in Milwaukee during the 1950s. The Fonz was a tough greaser hood, menacing if you crossed him. He originally wore a zip-up golf jacket, because network executives feared a leather jacket would make him look like a criminal. But Fonzie quickly became the shows favorite character, and was given more airtime, more humanity, started wearing leather jackets, and eventually moved in with the main characters, The Cunningham Family. Happy Days ran from 1974-1984, and Fonzies trademark thumbs-up gesture and catch-sound, "Aayyyy!" became a generation's lingua franca. One of his leather jackets made its way to the Smithsonian even before the show went off the air.
Despite the requisite detractors, including one screed published in Salon.com, the project was completed quickly and on August 19th, 2008, The Fonz was unveiled along the RiverWalk in downtown Milwaukee. Henry Winkler, who portrayed Fonzie, attended the unveiling, along with the two actresses who played Laverne and Shirley (a Happy Days spin-off also set in Milwaukee).
The statue shows the Fonz giving two thumbs up, and is made of the colored bronze made popular by Seward Johnson and resort town art galleries. The sculptor put the initials of Winkler and his wife in the veins in the hands, "like the David in Italy," according to a local news report.
When we visited, there was a steady stream of people who found the statue, which is not easy to see from the street, waiting their turn to pose with it. When you get up close, the statue is smaller than you imagined it would be, but Winkler himself is just 5'6".
We are all for more TV character statues. They're fun, popular, and importantly, tourists recognize who they are, and connect with them much better than they do to obscure civil war generals or letter carriers (the statue of Milwaukee letter carriers only two blocks from Fonzie had no visitors when we were there).
If we had one suggestion to make here it would be to add a shark fin sculpture jutting up from the river behind The Fonz. In a 1977 episode, Fonzie, still wearing his leather jacket, water-ski jumps over a shark, and the phrase to jump the shark has since become a universal term for anything that has passed its peak.