"The Fonz" In Bronze!

Tourists and locals alike can now get to take a photo with a piece of TV history: Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli giving the thumbs-up.

A life-size statue of the leather-jacket-wearing character from "Happy Days" was dedicated Tuesday in downtown Milwaukee, along the Milwaukee River.

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

Two booster groups, VISIT Milwaukee and Spirit Milwaukee, spearheaded the statue's fundraising. 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 City, Samantha from "Bewitched" in Salem, Mass., and Andy Griffith in Raleigh, N.C.

"Happy Days" was set in Milwaukee for 11 seasons, but no scenes were filmed there.

Henry Winkler, who portrayed "The Fonz," along with Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham), Erin Moran (Joanie), Don Most (Ralph Malph) and Anson Williams (Potsie), attended the dedication, along with the show's creator, director/producer, Garry Marshall.

Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams from the spin-off "Laverne & Shirley" were also expected.

Winkler, who played Fonzie during the show's run from 1974 to 1984, said he doesn't take it lightly that a character he created will soon be a permanent addition to Milwaukee, where the show's executive producer, Thomas L. Miller, was born.

"What you do is you just remember you are not any taller," joked Winkler, whose height is listed as 5 feet 6 on imdb.com, an Internet movie database. "I didn't grow because I have a statue."

Winkler told The Early Show's Debbye Turner Bell the statue is "one of the great honors of all-time."

He recalled that the Fonz was only a minor character when the show began, but grew as the ratings did.

Now, he told Bell, "No matter where I go in the world, I'm invited to people's homes for dinner."

Ross joked to Bell that she "ran the whole show!"

Bosley and Winkler were the only two cast members to appear in every episode. Bosley told Bell the one in which Winkler tried to jump a shark "had to be one of my favorites."

Various cast members told Turner how much they miss working with each other.

"When we see each other, really, it's like seeing your own family," Ross observed.

There was a lot of practical joking when the show was filming, they recalled.

They all then gave Milwaukee a hand.

Giuseppe Ganelli, 40, is the president of the International Happy Days Fans Club. He made the trip from Codogno, Italy, to speak at the ceremony. By instant message with The Associated Press, Ganelli said "Happy Days" was one of the first sitcoms aired in Italy in the 1970s and has been wildly popular. He said Richie Cunningham is his favorite, but he and every guy wanted to be the Fonz.

"He is cool and then he is even a good guy, not only a biker," he wrote.

He planned to spend two nights in Milwaukee.

"To be in Milwaukee, it'll be like to be in 'Happy Days,"' he wrote.

But Mike Brenner isn't so happy. He would have rather had the donors put the effort and money toward the local arts scene.

Brenner founded Hotcakes Gallery in Milwaukee and threatened to shut it down in protest after hearing of the statue. He already wasn't doing well financially and closed it in the spring. Before the statue went up, Brenner planned to spread bird seed all over the site.

"I want the largest birds with the fullest bellies to constantly be flying overhead the fans of the Bronze Fonz," he said in an e-mail. "It's a truly symbiotic relationship. I give a present to the birds and the birds give a present to the Bronze Fonz fans."

Winkler said he doesn't expect to please everyone.

"I hope for this gentlemen's sake he doesn't spend the rest of his life buried in birdseed," he said.

Dave Fantle, spokesman for VISIT Milwaukee, which markets the area, said the statue was intended to attract tourists. It is located downtown, close to the convention center and other attractions.

"It was really intended as a photo opportunity," Fantle said.

Other cities say they don't know specifically how much the statues have impacted tourism, but say anecdotally people love them.

Connie Stelter, spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis, said the Moore statue of her tossing her hat - acting out her signature moment from the show's opening credits - attaches the city permanently to a beloved show.

"Locals think it's fun and people who are visiting think it's fun," Stelter said. "People take pictures with it, throwing their hat up in the air."

In Massachusetts, Kate Fox, executive director for Destination Salem, said she doesn't get calls asking the location of the 9-foot Samantha statue from "Bewitched," but people seem to find it.

"Ninety percent of the tourists stop and take their picture with Samantha and people just love her," she said.
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