Public Sculpture Series Bronzes Notable TV Icons
While visiting various cities around the U.S., or soaking up the rays in Hawaii, you might find yourself staring into the blazing bronze eyes of a few famous television icons. Don't panic! You've just become audience to a public sculpture tribute honoring the classic television characters that have become celebrity icons.
Started by the TV Land cable channel, this project commissions sculptors around the country to create life-size bronze works of the small screen's finest characters in their depicted hometowns. This on-going program pays tribute to the shows, the characters and the places that they are forever connected with in the viewers' hearts and minds.
The network's first salute, a bronze statue of Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners , was unveiled in 2000 and now adorns the entrance to New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal. Other characters soon followed, including The Bob Newhart Show statue, which commemorates Newhart's role as Dr. Robert Hartley on the classic The Bob Newhart Show on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, Samantha from Bewitched , in Salem, Massachusetts, Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Elvis Presley, in Honolulu.
And now, one of the most beloved TV pop cultural icon of all times who's still recognized wherever he goes, is in the process of being bronzed for prosperity, with plans to debut at the end of this summer. Arthur Fonzarelli, more popularly known as "The Fonz" from Happy Days , and played by Henry Winkler from 1974 through 1984, is in the process of being cast. Who could ever forget that loveable, "thumbs-up" auto-mechanic guy, adorned in jeans and black leather jacket who lived on top of the garage at the Cunningham home? The Fonz, (aka, Fonzie) was a chick magnet who clicked his fingers and suddenly a posse of screaming girls appeared to follow him everywhere.
What does Henry Winkler, whose alter-ego The Fonz became the focus of Happy Days, actually think of the plans of seeing himself bronzed?
"I'm honored and unbelievably thrilled," says Winkler, who now pens a series of children's books called Hank Zipzer . "I had a dream when I was seven years old, and now there is going to be a statue that represents the whole show of Happy Days. It's a statue of The Fonz, but The Fonz would not have existed if not for the ensemble."
The bronze Fonz, according to David A. Fantle, APR, Vice President, Public Relations VISIT Milwaukee, celebrates a TV icon and will provide a fun, whimsical photo opportunity for visitors and locals in Milwaukee.
"The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and we're looking forward to dedicating the project with Henry and his Happy Days colleagues this summer," explains Fantle.
In fact, Fonzie fans throughout the world have a Web site that will guide them through all factors of the planned bronze Fonz statue and, in addition, Milwaukee-based Brew City Promotions has designed an official "Bronze the Fonz" t-shirt that's available on the site, as well as the Brew City retail store in the Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee.
The artist chosen to cast this particular statue is Gerald P. Sawyer, a sculptor/artist from Wisconsin who's been a bronze sculptor for more than forty years, and has designed, sculpted and installed several pieces in the Milwaukee area that includes the sculpture Rendezvous for the Milwaukee County Zoo and numerous sculptures of Frederick Miller for Miller Brewing Company. Other notable Sawyer projects include a life-size bronze Native-American in downtown Fort Atkinson on the Main Street bridge and, Fireflies, life-size bronzes of three local children releasing fireflies from a fishbowl. He has also created significant commission work for private collectors.
"I was chosen to sculpt the Fonz by several organizations, but mainly by Visit Milwaukee who, along with East Town Association and West Town Association, selected the artist from the state of Wisconsin to submit quotes and resumes," says Sawyer. "The bronze statue will be life-size. He'll stand with 'attitude' with both thumbs at attention. His pants will be denim blue with a brown navy pilot leather looking jacket and white t-shirt. His face and hands will retain its bronze color."
The bronze Fonz will actually weigh approximately 200 pounds. Materials for this project arrive from different suppliers.
"I actually met Henry Winkler a couple of months ago, and scared him by telling him that we were all going ice fishing as soon as I was finished taking pictures of his profile," quips Sawyer. "He informed me, with wide eyes, that that would be the last thing he would like to do! I told him that I was just joking with the joker."
Sawyer began the bronze project in stages, to ensure he captures the right attitude and likeness before moving forward.
"I have started to sculpt the head first to be sure it looks good before I start the rest of the body," he says. "The project will be complete by August, but the exact date has not been revealed yet. Henry will attend the dedication. He actually won't be part of the sculpting process, other than being the model."
TV Land partnered with StudioEis to cast Fonz and several other Landmark sculptures. This Brooklyn-based sculpture studio consists of sculptors, artists, designers, mold makers and visual story tellers, plus a plethora of artists, copper and bronze sculptors who are fiercely dedicated to their craft.
"Last summer we cast Elvis Presley in bronze," says Ivan Schwartz who, along with his brother, Elliot Schwartz, founded StudioEis. "It was the 30th anniversary of the Aloha concert which, prior to the invention of the 'web' and Internet as we know it today, was the largest audience ever of a live, satellite broadcast. We created the bronze Elvis that stands at the site of the 1973 concert. It took us approximately six to eight months to produce. We have a selection of many other projects that we've created, including 42 life-size bronze statues for the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, among others. We work with a foundry, Polich-Tallix, in New York."
Besides the King of Rock and Roll in Hawaii, StudioEis created Andy Griffith, Samantha on Bewitched, and Bob Newhart, everyone's favorite psychiatrist.
"Andy Griffith's statue is at Pullen Park, in Raleigh, North Carolina," explains Schwartz, noting the TV town was Mayberry. "When a prototype sculpture is created, we make the mold and can either destroy it or keep it because it might be valuable and someone might want to reproduce it. We reproduced the Andy Griffith statue twice for TV Land. We also did Samantha (played by Elizabeth Montgomery) from Bewitched. Her statue is now in Salem, Massachusetts. Bob Newhart, from The Bob Newhart Show, is seated in his psychiatrist chair in Chicago, Illinois."
The bronze statue of Samantha, who made her mark by twitching her nose to create magic, is casting its spell at the entrance to Lappin Park, on the corner of Essex and Washington Streets in the town of Salem, the actual home of the original 'witch' trials. The Bob Newhart Show statue sits at Gateway Park, at the entrance to the Navy Pier in Chicago. Fans are able to lie down on the bronze sofa and be "analyzed" by Bob!
The Ralph Kramden statue, located in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, at 8th Ave. and 41st St., in New York, was the first sculpture to be commissioned. For those who remember Jackie Gleason - who played, Ralph, the lovable bus driver, Raccoon Lodge Treasurer, and husband of Alice - visiting this spot will target many memories. TV Land commissioned Vermont Sculptor Robert DuGrenier to design and produce this six and a half foot bronze statue. DuGrenier asked Lawrence J. Nolan, Jr., another sculptor, to carve the clay marquette from which an enlargement was made to cast the bronze.
"The project was started in March and installed in July," explains sculptor Robert Dugrenier. "The sculpting took approximately three months. I coordinated the concept and look of the sculpture along with the production of the bronze and installation. Larry worked on the carving and refining of the look of the clay."
Mary Tyler Moore, located at Nicolette Mall and 7th Street in Minneapolis, MN, was sculpted by Gwendolyn Gillen, who, among her famous works, has also created a bronze-likeness of Baryshnikov as he appeared as Jason in Medea.
The creative team at StudioEis, have created several serious projects, including a forensic of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, enjoy working on projects for TV Land.
"To work in the world of popular culture is an enormous pleasure, and adds a certain lightness of being to our studio's workload," says Schwartz.
Also in this Issue:
- Public Sculpture Series Bronzes Notable TV Icons
- Yoshitomo Saito: The Bronze Weaver
- The Patriotic Roots of Valley Bronze of Oregon
- The Not-So-Lost Art of Lost Wax Casting
- Stellar Collection of Renaissance Sculpture Promised to National Gallery of Art by Robert H. Smith