MILWAUKEE – Aaaaaaay! The Fonz will be returning to Milwaukee later this year -- permanently, and in bronze.
A statue of Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, the leather-jacketed biker from "Happy Days," will be erected in the city where the TV sitcom was set, now that local groups have raised the $85,000 needed to do it, civic leaders said Friday.
Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie during the show's run from 1974 to 1984, called the "Bronze the Fonz" project "a phenomenal compliment."
"It's not often you have a dream when you're 7 lying in your bed, you get to live your dream out and then someone is going to erect a life-size statue of your creation," he told The Associated Press earlier this week.
Winkler was in Milwaukee on Friday morning when organizers officially announced the money had been raised. Plans call for dedicating the statue around Labor Day. It will likely be downtown along the Milwaukee River.
Two booster groups, VISIT Milwaukee and Spirit Milwaukee, spearheaded the fundraising. Among the donors was cable network TV Land, which has sponsored similar statues such as ones of Bob Newhart in Chicago and Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.
Other supporters included a bakery in Jefferson that sold thumbs-up cookies and a fan who established a "Bronze the Fonz" group on the social networking site Facebook.
Some serious art lovers were less enthusiastic. Mike Brenner, founder of the Hotcakes Gallery, called the statue a "publicity stunt" that perpetuated lowbrow stereotypes about Wisconsin.
"Can we just try to move forward, a little bit?" he said.
In an e-mail, Dave Fantle, spokesman for VISIT Milwaukee, said he's spoken with Brenner and another disenchanted gallery owner and hopes everyone can "live harmoniously with the Fonz."
"We can either run and hide from our traditions -- beer, brat, fish fries, custard, `Happy Days,' et cetera -- or realize that they all embody good times and we should celebrate this."