The Fonzie Doll broke the mold, and barriers.
In the 1970s, you had a few types of toys …
Boys’ toys — trucks, army men, dirt.
Girls’ toys — dolls, kitchen sets, makeup & jewelry kits, sunshine.
Unisex toys — bikes, record players, View-Masters.
And you didn’t mix them. Even the unisex stuff was often color-coded — pink for girls, blue for boys.
Now, the girls in my circle could get away with playing with boys toys to a certain extent. You took all comers for pick-up ball games, for instance, and more than a few girls played with cars and trucks — on occasion — in the sandbox at recess.
But it was tougher for boys to cross over. You might get to be the husband or son in a game of “play house” and therefore “drink” from a plastic cup or raid the pretend fridge.
But dressing up Barbie or putting makeup on one of those hideous dissevered head things? Forget about it.
And the same went for dolls in general. If you were a boy, you just didn’t play with dolls.
And you sure as hell didn’t own them.
As always, though, there were exceptions …
G.I. Joe, for one. He was tough and muscular and had a beard for God’s sake. He was a freakin’ Marine.
Oh, and he wasn’t a doll.
He was an “Action Marine” or an “Adventure Team Commander.” And dads sort of grumbled about that, looked at the plastic men in their kids’ hands and — mostly — shrugged and went about their business.
But, you know, G.I. Joe was and is a doll.
I mean, Joe was basically Ken during a timeout with Barbie, after a few weeks roughing it in the wilderness to try and forget his squeeze.
But Ken was strictly forbidden, always.
There was a sort of middle ground, though.
Steve Austin — aka, the Six Million Dollar Man — was a pretty easy sell. Dads liked the show, by and large, and Steve was a mega alpha male. Check.
Evel Knievel was usually OK, too. He rode that windup motorcycle of his and did all sorts of funky stunts. Crazy stuff that your dad wanted to do but that he knew would kill him … if your mom didn’t first.
If you took Evel off the motorcycle and started role-playing with him … well, you might have run into some trouble. Raised eyebrows at the least. It wasn’t like Evel was going to kick some Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot ass, or anything.
So why did you have him off his bike?
Maybe … just maybe … it was so he could commiserate with the Fonz … the Fonzie doll, that is.
And if that was your game, then you were pushing the limits of the doll-action-figure boundaries.
Sure, Fonzie was super cool on Happy Days, and he was the guy all the boys wanted to be when you played Happy Days at recess. (And if you didn’t play Happy Days at recess … what the hell?)
You’d bump your fist against the jukebox (basketball goal, side of building, flunky’s head … whatever proxy you had handy), and all the girls would swoon.
You’d hop on you imaginary bike and zoom away from the crowd, Girl Friday straddling the hog behind you, arms wrapped around your waist.
It was grand.
But the Fonzie doll (by Mego) didn’t have any of that — no jukebox, no bike (usually) … no girls.
Just a plastic Henry Winkler with his tight jeans and T-shirt, his stick-it-to-the-man leather jacket. And dads weren’t naive enough to be blinded by the TV flash and ignore the actor’s own reality — Winkler is short, sort of nerdy looking, slightly whiny in certain roles.
Dads did not have their disbelief fully suspended, in other words.
So what were you supposed to do if you were a boy in the 1970s who wanted a Fonz doll but didn’t want your dad to turn it into a candle?
You either gave up on your dreams … or you got creative.
You made Fonz fight Evel Knievel.
Hell, you made Fonz fight G.I. Joe and the Robots and those Kung Fu guys that stood on stands like the Robots.
And if you were really thinking, and really convincing, you crossed Fonz over into the Barbie universe. Because, no matter how cool it was that Fonzie could do all the stuff Fonzie could do, his prime appeal was as a babe magnet.
Once you stepped into the Barbie world, I suspect, you could unlock the keys to toy bliss that few boys have ever known.
Few … but none?
Did any boy ever successfully use a Fonz doll to slide into Barbie-land?
None that I know of, but you gotta think that somewhere, some enterprising young lad gave it a good go.
(For more fun with old toys, check out our running list of posts about our favorite gnarly play things right here.)
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