Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about a town in Serbia that was hoping to get some good luck by erecting a statue of Rocky Balboa. The original Rocky Balboa statue now resides at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the same steps that Rocky ran up in the first Rocky movie. At first the museum said no go to keeping the statue. It was not considered art by the museum’s standards. The statue was sent on over to the sports arena until the museum changed its mind a few years ago and took it back.
There is a similar situation in Milwaukee where statues pop art has created a difference of opinion and a pop culture icon will permanently represent the city. A group has raised enough funds through “Bronze the Fonz” for a bronze statue of Fonzie from the TV show Happy Days. Happy Days was set in Milwaukee so these folks want to do something to honor the notoriety. Fonzie was picked to be the Happy Days icon since the Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli was an integral part of what made the show stand out.
There are some folks in Milwaukee that are not pleased that a fake person is being memorialized in bronze. Henry Winkler, the actor who played Fonzie of course is real and pleased with the efforts. As a matter of fact, I saw him in West Hollywood at the West Hollywood Book Fair I attended last September. He walked right by me on his way to his guest speaker session. Those that are complaining consider that a bronze rendition of Fonzie is a far cry from highbrow art.
My thinking is that popular culture is a part of art. Andy Warhol, for example. became famous for this concept. If the Fonz in bronze makes the group of people who raised the $85,000 in order to get the statue made are happy, and it provides some cultural interest in Milwaukee’s city scene for everyone else, why not? According to the AP article by Carrie Antlfinger, Fonzie has company as TV character people statues go. There’s a bronze version of Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis for example and Bob Hartley (Newhart) in Chicago.