Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Bronze Fonz

Back in the early 2000s, cable channel TV Land was seeding the nation with bronze statues of characters from the golden age of US television comedy -- Ralph Kramden, Sheriff Taylor and Opie, Mary Richards, Bob Hartley, et al. -- but has since dropped that particular marketing campaign. A statue of Arthur Fonzarelli was nearly orphaned when TV Land changed its mind about bronzes, but local boosters (especially VISIT Milwaukee, the local C&VB) took up the cause and raised enough dough to install the statue on the Milwaukee Riverwalk about two years ago.

I couldn't visit the riverwalk without seeing the Bronze Fonz.

It's the creation of sculptor Gerald Sawyer, but I didn't see any plaque saying so, or even explaining who this curious fellow with two upturned thumbs might be, though at the base there was a list of donors. Sure, most of the people now strolling by the statue know who Fonzie is, but that collective memory will vanish. Maybe the thing will be long gone by then anyway, relegated to a warehouse by the Milwaukee Historical Society, or even melted down to make ordnance for a war with Canada. But if it does stay by the riverfront across the decades, the people who see it will probably think of it as just another piece of public art.

That's because there's more art on the Milwaukee Riverwalk, such as this.

By John Ready, it's one of the few pieces I've ever seen that makes use of bowling balls. A bowling ball salad, you might call it.

Also using the sphere motif is this, which I think looks like something under an electron microscope.

I'd cite the name of the artist, but I've misplaced the Milwaukee Riverwalk art guide pamphlet that I picked up. Which, curiously, doesn't mention the Bronze Fonz. Maybe the publisher of the pamphlet took umbrage at Fonzie's turquoise pants, which didn't look very cool, but maybe the artist was trying for blue jeans.

I didn't tell my family we were going to see a statue of an old TV character. I wanted to see how they'd react, since I was pretty sure none of them knew him (and boy, did they miss out). Their reaction was almost no reaction: there's another sculpture. They didn't even ask why his thumbs were up. Sic transit gloria Fonzie.

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