'Happy Days' films reunion special on Pep's baseball field

Audrey Reed & Karin Sabin

A&E Editor & Staff Writer

fonz with cheerleadersBen Young/Photo editor
"The Fonz" with Pepperdine cheerleaders.

The theme song lyrics “Saturday, what a day, grooving’ all week with you” came true for Pepperdine when the cast and crew of “Happy Days” reunited at the Eddy D. Field Baseball Field Sat., Sept. 11, for the filming of “Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion Special.”
Besides filming the reunion special, the cast and crew divided into two teams, Arnold’s Diner and Cunningham Hardware, and played softball from 1 to 4 p.m.

Excitement buzzed as cast members caught up with each other, exchanging warm hugs and kisses on the cheek. Among the cast members present were Henry Winkler (Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli), Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), and Gary Marshall, the director of the series. Marshall’s sister, actress Penny Marshall, was also in attendnce.

Winkler thought of the idea to bring the cast and crew together for television special.

“[Winkler] was the instigator,” Howard said.  “He had been wanting to do a reunion for years. And this was a time when I think he could get everybody together. It was an easy yes for me. It’s fun to be out here, with or without cameras.”

Winkler said the sitcom “Happy Days” lived up to its name for the actors. His favorite part of being on “Happy Days” was “the day we started until the day we ended. I loved my job. I loved the people.”
Pepperdine students attended the taping in hopes of seeing a few of the actors up close.

“My friends and I yelled ‘Fonz!’ and he came over to the dugout and introduced himself,” said senior Greg Mead, who said he enjoys watching re-runs of the show. “It was so cool. ‘Happy Days’ was the hippest thing to come around, back in the old days.”

The Pepperdine cheerleaders also participated in the day’s events.
“I’m excited to be here with my new 2004-2005 team,” senior cheer captain Amanda Norris said. “We’ve never cheered for a baseball team before.”

The cheerleaders had special practices to learn cheers for the game, including the Fonzie Dance, which was part of the original series.
“Happy Days” debuted on television in 1974 and aired for almost 11 years. It was set in Milwaukee, Wis. in the 1950s and told the story of the Cunningham family. Mr. Cunningham father ran a hardware store and son Richie Cunningham became friends with tough guy Arthur Fonzarelli, whose distinct personality and catch phrases added to the success of the show.

One of these trademarks is Fonzarelli’s leather jacket, which he wore almost constantly for the duration of “Happy Days.” The jacket is now in the Smithsonian along with a Fonz lunchbox.

Winkler coined terms on the show such as, “Sit on it” and “Ayyyyi!,” which were incorporated into the softball game by fans waving colorful posters with these slogans on them, as well as “I Love Fonzie” and “Grand Slam Cunningham.”

The cast and crew decided to play softball as part of the reunion show because it was an activity they took part in while the show was taping.

“This softball team is what held the show together for 11 years. We played in all the major ballparks in the country,” said Marion Ross.
When not taping, the cast traveled throughout the United States and abroad playing softball.

“Softball has always been the culture of Happy Days,” he said. “Gary Marshall always made us play together, because he figured that would be a great way for the family to stay together.

“We played for the troops in Germany, we played for the troops in Okinawa. Some of the best trips of my life I’ve ever been on, I think, have been with the ‘Happy Days’ softball team.”

To start off the game, everyone rose to sing the national anthem and observed a moment of silence for the events that took place three years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

The announcer then asked, “Now would everyone please rise for our anthem?”  and the “Happy Days” theme song was performed live by players on the team.

The players ran onto the field between rows of Pepperdine cheerleaders to their positions.

Ron Howard played on the Cunningham team as the left fielder, and Penny Marshall played first base. Winkler was the Arnold’s Diner team’s pitcher. The first inning kicked off with “The Fonz” up to bat.
“I love you, Henry!” screamed audience members as Winkler slid into home plate, scoring the first run. The game ended with a close score of 5 to 4, in favor of Arnold’s Diner.

Pepperdine, which has seen already one television filming this year with Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101,” was chosen as the location because of its scenic beauty.

“It was between the [Malibu] Bluffs and here,” said Mike Hofferth of Chole Productions, a 2000 Pepperdine advertising alum. “There was no contest.”

Winkler had never visited Pepperdine before Saturday, but has always admired the front lawn when driving by campus.

 “I am so happy that we chose this place to do our special,” Winkler said “I don’t think that there’s a better place in L.A. This is just gorgeous.”

Winkler, whose career has extended beyond the Fonz personae, has produced “Hollywood Squares” and has continued acting on programs such as “Arrested Development” and movies such as “Little Nicky” and “The Waterboy,” both staring Adam Sandler.

“[Sandler] is a good friend of mine, and I deeply admire him,” Winkler said. “For as crazy as his characters are, the real Adam is thoughtful, is focused, is funny, and I think brilliant. I think that he truly deserves the mantle of genius. I love him, I really do.”

Winkler is not the only member of the cast who has continued working in the entertainment industry. Howard won an Oscar for directing “A Beautiful Mind” in 2003.

Sophomore Clint Loveless attended the games in hopes of seeing celebrities and was especially excited about seeing Howard.

“He’s in the film business, so it’s exciting for me when famous people like him come to Pepperdine,” Loveless said.

Howard gave advice for college students at Pepperdine trying to break into showbusiness or any demanding career.

“It’s about discovering your passion and following it,” he said. “But it’s also about learning how to, expeditiously, with quality, handle and cope with situations that aren’t so pleasant or inspiring. I think that’s the balance.

”Though “Happy Days” still airs in reruns, the original episodes came at a time when television was different, Winkler said.

 “When we were on TV, there were only three networks,” he said. “Fifty percent of every set in America was tuned in Tuesday night at 8 o’clock for Happy Days. That doesn’t happen anymore. People tuned in because they felt safe. They thought, if I knew ‘The Fonz,’ he would take care of me.”

The “Happy Days” taping was not only an event for people in Southern California, but for fans all over the world. Giuseppe Ganelli, the Happy Days International Fan Club founder, came from Milan to attend as the representative from Italy. Ganelli’s fan club publishes a magazine every four months that includes updates about the cast and crew.

“I came to the reunion because it is a historical day for meeting the cast members,” Ganelli said. “It’s amazing, incredible. I never thought it could happen to me one day. I met some of the cast before, but not all together in one place."

Brenda Durnan from Delaware also came to California for the taping.

“I remember ‘Happy Days’ from day one, back when I was 11 years old.”  Duran said.

“Happy Days,” though a sitcom based on American life, had a broad fan base in many countries.

 “[During the show] I got mail from 126 countries, I got gifts from 126 countries,” Winkler said. “I still get fan mail from all over the world. I do not take it lightly that people like what I do with my life. I am very flattered and very grateful.”

Winkler earned his undergraduate degree at Emerson College in Boston and earned a doctorate in theater at Yale University. Recently, Winkler wrote a series of children’s books called “Hank Zipzer, the World’s Greatest Underachiever.”

Winkler’s advised college students to set goals in their in order to achieve success. 

“If you will it, it is not a dream,” he said. “That is a thought that I believe is a true rule of the cosmos. If you keep your eye on the prize and you work toward it, you can actually have what you dream about.”