So, it was four in the morning and I found myself deeply engrossed in an episode of Happy Days. I don't recall what was happening, exactly. Some poorly dressed goons were after Ritchie and it looked like the wholesome lad was about to get his ass kicked. And then, in a dramatic turn of events involving the gum snapping thugs the regulars at Arnolds, Fonzie stepped in to save the day in some fashion that had nothing to do with fighting skills or finesse. It involved some cheesy lines and then Fonzie was combing his hair.
It was then, staring numbly at the screen as the studio audience launched into applause, that the ugly truth presented itself. When you get right down to it, Fonzie wasn't cool.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's sacrilege to say such a thing and I should be banished to the land of Laverne & Shirley. But come on, people. Try to think back. Fonzie was the guy who wore that leather coat at the beach and that's not to mention the socks. Fonzie was the guy who tried real hard to talk with those tough, Italian inflections but sounded more like he was suffering a mental disturbance. Fonzie spent his entire day playing with a jukebox or hanging out on Mrs. C's couch. Fonzie carried a comb in his back pocket and said: "ayyyyyyy" when he got his hair parted just right.
These days, people who do these things are not feared and lionized. Especially in the men's room. Somehow, Fonzie became the epitomal face of cool and we've all just accepted it. All these years we've accepted it and it's just plain wrong.
As usual, it falls to me to right this decades old error.
So, I got around to pondering who the real cool guys are, from the real world or the world of make believe. And when I get around to pondering, I basically just hound everyone I see until I get an answer. The answers were predictable but not quite right:
James Dean? Sure the girls loved him and he died young, which is kind of cool for a Hollywood icon. But he always played spleeny teenagers and he couldn't drive a cool car.
Elvis Presley? Big argument to be made there. But with all his stardom, with all his great music and that really bitching sneer, Elvis died on the toilet. The rules of coolness forbid that specifically.
Clint Eastwood blew it by doing "Bridges of Madison County." Marlon Brandon blew it in various ways. Modern sports stars are disqualified because they have overblown salaries and no sense of loyalty. I was ruled out early on.
So after subjecting the quandary to scientific experimentation and rigid tests, I came up with an unassailable conclusion: The paragon of cool is Stephen King. Hands down. He's the rock 'n roll star of the literary world. He's absolutely dominated his field for three decades. He is adored by men and women, young and old.
Normally smug publishers and hotshot movie producers fawn over him. "Yes sir, Mr. King. Whatever you'd like, Mr. King." He jams with a band just for kicks, as if terrorizing the world isn't enough. Best of all, King plays God and gets paid hugely for it. He creates worlds populated by characters who have no choice but to do his bidding. Cool characters, sad characters. Elegant convicts and clowns that swallow children whole. King wiped out 99 percent of the world's population and sprung vampires on Maine. Kinda makes Fonzie's trick with the jukebox kinda weenie, doesn't it?
You may argue all you want and suggest your own champions of cool. But I expect you to adjust your posters and lunch boxes accordingly. Out with Fonzie, in with King.