Happy Days indeed! Most of the cast is still rockin’ and rollin’ all week long; find out what they’ve been up to.
Happy Days, which ran on ABC for ten years starting in 1974, has a big legacy. For one, it gave us The Fonz, a character so iconic in American culture that his leather jacket was on display at the Smithsonian for years. It also gave us the expression “jumping the shark”, which happens when a TV show does something desperate to attract a new audience or revive ratings. In Happy Days’ case, Fonzie literally jumped over a shark on water skis.
In addition to its squeaky-clean portrayal of life in Milwaukee in the 1950s, many of its stars went on to huge success in the entertainment industry, inspired and mentored by the show’s creator, Garry Marshall, who died earlier this year.
Often a career-launcher, Marshall made some great decisions about guest stars along the way. Penny Marshall (Garry’s sister) and Cindy Williams appeared, then launched their own successful spin-off Laverne & Shirley. Robin Williams got his big break on the show, appearing as alien Mork from the planet Ork, and then got his own series, Mork & Mindy. Both Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks appeared on the show before they were married, and others like Ed Begley Jr., Crispin Glover, Amy Irving, Cheryl Ladd, and Kathy Hilton (Paris’ mother) all popped up in small roles.
But the show’s cast, which changed somewhat over the years, kept the happy days flowing for eleven seasons. Let’s catch up with them and find out Where Are They Now: The Cast of Happy Days.
Noriyuki “Pat” Morita – Matsuo “Arnold” Takahashi
When the Happy Days gang needed a place to hang out, they’d head over to Arnold’s Drive-In for burgers, shakes, and good tunes on the jukebox. While Arnold mostly stood on the side to deliver wisecracks and talk about how he never cleaned the bathrooms, he did have an episode to shine, in which he got married and had Potsie sing at his wedding.
While Arnold was just a recurring guest, Pat Morita had been performing as a stand-up for years and appeared in quite a few movies, making his debut in 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie starring Julie Andrews. His most famous role, coming after Happy Days, was Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, which scored him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He went on to star in two sequels, and to provide a live-action intro and a voice for his animated character on the TV series, which lasted only one season.
Morita died at age 73 in 2005, but will be remembered for all the different roles he played, always standing out, whether it was a handful of M*A*S*H episodes, a voice as the Emperor in Mulan, or guest appearances on The Hughleys. He worked so steadily that there were still over a dozen movies and TV shows with him that came out after his death, including an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants that was dedicated to his memory.
Gavan O’Herlihy – Chuck Cunningham
What? You don’t remember Chuck Cunningham? Neither did the rest of his family, apparently. Chuck appeared in 11 episodes of Happy Days over the first two seasons, mostly played by Gavan O’Herlihy, and sometimes played by Randolph Roberts. He was never part of a major storyline, was mostly off playing basketball, and one day disappeared forever and never, ever spoken of again, like the Brady Bunch’s dog Tiger or Donna’s sister on That ’70s Show.
O’Herlihy, however, did not disappear—unlike Roberts, who traded in acting for teaching. O’Herlihy continued to guest star on hit TV series including The Six Million Dollar Man, Police Woman, Rich Man Poor Man, and The Bionic Woman, making him a staple of ’70s TV. In the ’80s, he had some fame as sadistic killer Dan Suggs in the hugely successful miniseries Lonesome Dove, and his pal (and Happy Days little brother) Ron Howard didn’t forget him either, casting him as Airk Thaughbaer in the movie Willow. He played an RCMP officer in the original Twin Peaks, appeared in the very first episode of Star Trek: Voyager as a Kaizon Maje, and played Sheriff Vaines in the British horror adventure movie The Descent: Part 2.
Suzi Quatro – Leather Tuscadero
Glam rocker Suzi Quatro was selling more records abroad than she was at home, but once she started appearing on Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero (sister of Pinky), she had her first American hit, and became an inspiration to other female rockers, including Joan Jett. But she was already a star, even appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone, which is what got her the audition for the show.
While Quatro was recording albums for real, her Happy Days alter ego, Leather, was performing with her group Leather Tuscadero and the Suedes. Quatro hadn’t done any acting before, and gratefully took advice from Ron Howard and Henry Winkler, who were already pros.
She did a little acting after that, but then went back to music. In 2007, she published her autobiography, in which she told tales of throwing Iggy Pop off the stage because he was drunk, and turning down the opportunity to become one of Elvis Presley’s romances. These days, she lives in England with her family, and still performs, having sold over 50 million albums in the course of her career. She also has a famous niece: Sherilyn Fenn, of Twin Peaks fame, although the two are not close.
Roz Kelly – Pinky Tuscadero
We’re pretty sure that Roz Kelly is the only Happy Days guest star who has also appeared on Judge Judy.
Kelly had a short run on Happy Days as Fonzie’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, Pinky Tuscadero, a demolotion derby driver who was popular with the show’s fans but not particularly with its close-knit cast. Although the Fonzie-Pinky romance was a big hit, the two didn’t get along well off screen. Kelly told People Magazine in 1976 that she “… grew up on welfare, so I don’t relate to rich kids,” which was, no doubt, an attitude Winkler didn’t appreciate.
Things haven’t gone well for her since. After a burst of appearances on some of the biggest TV hits of the 1970s, like Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch, and The Dukes of Hazzard, her career floundered; her last TV appearance was on Trapper John, M.D. in 1983. Since then, she’s been arrested several times under some rather bizarre circumstances. Once was for firing a 12-gauge shotgun into her neighbor’s window because the car alarm was going off. Two years later, she was arrested again for hitting a man with her cane. She has spent some time in jail, but is out now, and hopefully staying away from people who irritate her.
Linda Purl – Ashley Pfister (And Gloria)
Not all Happy Days fans remember this, but in the last two seasons of the show, Fonzie finally got himself a serious girlfriend, played by Linda Purl. Audiences may have recognized Purl, since she’d played Richie’s girlfriend Gloria for several episodes in season two, but now she was Fonzie’s girlfriend Ashley, who came along with her six year-old daughter (played by Poltergeist’s Heather O’Rourke).
The show ended two seasons later. After that, she played Matlock’s daughter, and has been acting ever since. She’s been on Hawaii Five-O, played Elizabeth Gaines on Homeland, Barbara Pelt on True Blood, and Barbara Fortnum on Reckless. Most memorably to fans of The Office, she was Pam Beesly’s mother, who hooked up with Michael Scott (Steve Carell) the night of Pam’s wedding and then continued to date him, to Pam’s mortification. They eventually broke up, when Michael found out how old she was… on her birthday.
Purl is also a singer, and performs in plays and cabaret shows across the country.
Ted McGinley – Roger Phillips
When Ted McGinley was hired to play Roger Phillips, a nephew of the Cunninghams who took a job at Jefferson High, he had literally no acting experience. He’d worked as a model, and when a casting agent spotted his picture in GQ, she brought him in for a meeting, and a few months later, he had the part. He stayed on for the rest of the show’s run.
McGinley now has a history of joining shows late in their run, and then staying for a few more years until they’re canceled. In fact, there used to be a website that covered all of the moments when shows “jumped the shark,” referring to McGinley as “the patron saint of shark-jumping,” citing numerous shows that added him to the cast right before a decline in quality and ratings, and then an eventual cancellation. McGinley, however, suggests that the opposite is true: he gave them a few extra years of life.
He still turns up on TV regularly, as a guest star on shows like Castle, Dancing with the Stars, and the TV movie The Bridge, and he voices Denny Clay on Transformers: Robots in Disguise.
Al Molinaro – “Big Al” Delvecchio
At the end of Happy Days’ third season, Arnold and his wife left, and the lovable Al Delvecchio took over the drive-in. He brought a catch-phrase with him: “Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah,” which he used once again in a cameo in Weezer’s video for “Buddy Holly”, which mixed archival footage from the show in with new material of the band. Near the end of the show’s run, Al married Chachi’s mother, Louisa.
Molinaro’s partnership with Garry Marshall started when he played Murray the cop on The Odd Couple TV series. A year after that show wrapped, he moved over to Happy Days, and stayed with the show until 1982, when he moved to its spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi.
While he didn’t do much beyond smallish guest roles after that, he opened a chain of diners with Anson Williams called Big Al’s, which lasted for a few years before the company went defunct. He stayed on TV by doing commercials, but he’d already made enough money in real estate before becoming an actor that he didn’t have to take any parts he wasn’t comfortable with. He even turned down roles in some of Garry Marshall’s movies because he wouldn’t be in a movie that had four-letter words in it.
Molinaro died last year of complications from an infected gall bladder. He was 96.
Scott Baio – Chachi Arcola
Scott Baio arrived during season 5, as Chachi Arcola, Fonzie’s cousin, and quickly became a star. Baio had started his career at age 16, starring in the feature film Bugsy Malone with Jodie Foster, but Happy Days turned him into a teen idol. Already a showbiz veteran, he made sure to keep his career firing on all cylinders. Even when they gave him a spin-off with co-star Erin Moran (Joanie Loves Chachi), he kept up a frantic pacee, co-starring with Willie Aames in Zapped! at the same time.
He teamed up with Aames again for Charles In Charge, a show originally written for Michael J. Fox, did 41 episodes of Diagnosis: Murder with Dick Van Dyke, and guest starred on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, My Two Dads, Full House, and dozens more. He’s had two of his own reality shows (one amusingly titled Scott Baio Is 45… and Single), and reunited with some of his Happy Days co-stars for five episodes of Arrested Development. He also starred in and executive produced the series See Dad Run, which was shot on the old Happy Days lot, and he worked out of Garry Marshall’s old office.
Randomly, he turned down the role of Maverick in the movie Top Gun, which went to Tom Cruise. Oops.
When he’s not acting, he’s busy giving his opinions on politics. A staunch conservative, he supported Mitt Romney in 2012 and then spoke for Donald Trump at this year’s Republican National Convention, following Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson.
Tom Bosley – Howard “Mr. C” Cunningham
Tom Bosley played Howard “Mr. C” Cunningham, the stalwart patriarch of the Cunningham clan. He stayed with the show for all eleven seasons, even after his TV children had flown the coop. The rest of the cast really did view him as a father figure, with Erin Moran calling him a mentor, and Anson Williams enlisting his help to negotiate his very first mortgage.
Once the show was done, he was still ubiquitous on TV sets across America, starring in a series of Glad Bag commercials for over a decade. He got his own show, Father Dowling Mysteries, that ran in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and had a recurring role on Angela Lansbury’s Murder, She Wrote. He was also always up for any and all of the Happy Days reunions and events, often taking the opportunity to give Ron Howard a good-natured hard time for not casting him in any of his movies.
Bosley died in 2010, at 83, of cancer.
Erin Moran – Joanie Cunningham
Erin Moran appeared in her first feature film when she was only eight years old; it was How Sweet It Is!, and starred Debbie Reynolds. At age 14, she was cast as Richie’s bratty kid sister Joanie on Happy Days, affectionately nicknamed “Shortcake” by Fonzie. Over the course of the show she went from being a peppy Junior Chipmunk to an adolescent with a brief crush on Potsie, then to a young woman who became the unwanted recipient of Chachi’s affections. Eventually, he won her over, and the couple was spun off into its own show, Joanie Loves Chachi. When the spin-off flopped, they both came back to Happy Days, and got married in the final episode.
Moran hasn’t done so well in recent years. She made a few TV appearances on reality shows, like Baio’s Scott Baio Is 45 … And Single, and Celebrity Fit Club, but then disappeared. Rumors that she would appear on Arrested Development with former co-stars Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, and Scott Baio never came true, despite Winkler’s efforts to help her out by casting her. At last report, she’d been evicted from her trailer park home, is broke, and is working on a memoir.
Don Most – Ralph Malph
Don (then Donny) Most originally auditioned for the part of Potsie, and Garry Marshall liked him so much that he created an entirely new character for him: Richie’s pal Ralph Malph, who loved practical jokes. Most stayed with the show until Ron Howard left, when both of their characters left Milwaukee to join the army. He reunited with Howard and Henry Winkler for the cartoon The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang in 1980.
Most continued acting, with small roles on CHiPs, Baywatch, The Love Boat, Diagnosis: Murder (co-starring Scott Baio), and a memorable two-part episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Workforce.” He became well known to a new generation of TV viewers in 2011 when he appeared on Glee several times as “ginger supremacist” Rusty Pillsbury.
These days, he still acts and does voice work on cartoons, and often tours with his cabaret show, where he sings the big band hits he grew up listening to. He does some directing as well.
Anson Williams – Warren “Potsie” Weber
Anson Williams has come a long way from his days as the not-quite-brilliant Potsie Weber, once called “Dren” by Joanie, because she had a (brief) crush on him and it was the backwards spelling of “nerd.” She fell under his spell when he sang to her, and in fact, Williams’ singing was so useful to the show that when they couldn’t afford to clear real hits from the 1950s for the jukebox at Arnold’s, they had Williams re-record them and used that.
Since Happy Days, Williams has mostly focused on directing, with multiple episodes to his credit of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Star Trek: Voyager, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Melrose Place, and Secret Life of the American Teenager. He’s a successful businessman, too; despite his now-defunct chain of diners with Al Molinaro, he co-owns several companies, including one that specializes in non-medical solutions to debilitating conditions.
In 2014, he released a memoir, Singing to a Bulldog: From Happy Days to Hollywood Director, and the Unlikely Mentor Who Got Me There, and the following year, co-wrote The Perfect Portion Cookbook, which offers up recipes for comfort foods in 100-calorie portions.
Marion Ross – Marion “Mrs. C” Cunningham
Marion Ross, now a permanent part of the iconic television landscape, didn’t get her first big acting break until she was 46. Her career was kick started by Happy Days, where she played Marion Cunningham, known by the Fonz as Mrs. C. She and Henry Winkler are still close, all these years later.
Ross enjoyed her time on the show so much that she calls her home in the San Fernando Valey “Happy Days Farm,” and attributes much of the good feeling among the cast to the baseball games they used to to play regularly, against the casts of other shows.
She’s continued to play memorable matriarchs; she was a grandmother on That ’70s Show, and Gilmore Girls (where she played her own cousin after her character died), and voices Mr. Lopart’s mother on Handy Manny as well as SpongeBob Squarepants’ grandmother.
Turning 88 this October, Ross is still working regularly. In addition to frequent voice work, she occasionally turns up on promos on MeTV, sharing her memories of what it was like working with her Happy Days co-stars.
Ron Howard – Richie Cunningham
While Richie Cunningham was the cleanest-cut teenager in all of Milwaukee, Ron Howard was a part of the Hollywood scene since he started acting at age four. Most well-known as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Winthrop in the hit musical The Music Man, he played Richie for ten years before moving on to a staggeringly successful career as an A-list director, starting before he even left the show with Grand Theft Auto.
For 30 years, he has been the the co-chair of Imagine Entertainment, which has produced a string of huge TV hits (including Arrested Development, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, 24, and Empire), and movies, with The Dark Tower, Lowriders, and American Made all due out next year. Howard continues to direct as well. His movies over the years include Cocoon, Night Shift (which co-starred Henry Winkler), Splash, Willow, Backdraft, and A Beautiful Mind, for which he won directing and producing Oscars in 2002. Eight different actors and actresses have won Oscars in movies he directed. He’s set to direct a live-action version of Pinocchio, starring Robert Downey, Jr.
Most recently, he helmed a new documentary about The Beatles called The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. Available on Hulu, it’s also in theaters, and doing so well that many of them have extended its run.
Henry Winkler – Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli
Henry Winkler was taunted as a kid for his undiagnosed dyslexia, and told he would never amount to anything, and boy, did he prove everybody wrong. For one, he was smart enough to keep his Happy Days salary relatively modest in exchange for a percentage of the syndication profits, which made him a multi-millionaire. On top of that, the man has had a fantastic career as an actor, a cartoon voice, a director, a producer, and a childrens’ author, publishing over 20 books in his “Hank Zipzer” series about a fourth grader with dyslexia. He’s also a passionate fly fisherman (who’s published a book about it) and an accomplished photographer. In terms of other accomplishments, he is well known for being easy to get along with, kind, and fun to be around, which is a rarity in the entertainment industry.
It’s hard to believe that Monkee Micky Dolenz was almost hired to play The Fonz. Winker won the part because he was shorter, and wouldn’t tower so menacingly over Ron Howard.
Winkler has been on Parks and Recreation, Royal Pains, Arrested Development, and Children’s Hospital, and has done voice work on Bob’s Burgers, SpongeBob SquarePants, King of the Hill, and Robot Chicken. His new reality series, Better Late Than Never, co-stars William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, and George Foreman, as they travel around Asia together. NBC just renewed it for a second season, with the new travel destination yet to be announced.
To all the detractors of his youth, we say, “Sit on it!”