Happy Days recreated the moment Joan Jett decided to become a rockstar
The Runaways rocker was 15 when Suzi Quatro — better known to Fonzie fans as Leather Tuscadero — blew her mind.
In 1977 on Happy Days, Arnold's got "all shook up" when rocker Suzi Quatro appeared as Leather Tuscadero to perform Elvis songs for a crowd of dancing teens. It was a moment that proved to a large TV audience that Suzi Q was undeniably the queen of rock & roll.
For Joan Jett, who was 19 when this episode aired and a member of the pioneering rock band the Runaways, watching this two-part Happy Days episode, "Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur," must've been like a flashback, to when she was just a teen (well, a younger teen) bopping to the latest hits herself.
The same year the episode aired, Jett told The Los Angeles Times that growing up, before she ever picked up a guitar, she used to dress up like Suzi Quatro.
Just look at any photo of Joan Jett, and you'll see Jett never really dropped the Quatro look. Suzi's style clearly helped Jett form her "Bad Reputation."
Suzi's influence on the Runaways goes further than just looks, of course. It's also evidenced in the songs, as noted by every review forever linking the two seminal female rock acts. No doubt what critics were hearing in a Runaways hit like "Cherry Bomb" (well, it was No. 1 in Japan) was Jett's pure fandom for Suzi's Sixties sound.
"I was 15 the first time I saw her, and it completely blew my mind," Jett told the Times in 1978.
And she noted that: "Suzi, of course, got it all from Elvis."
That's what makes the Happy Days episode so perfect for Suzi Quatro fans in the audience like Jett. Seeing Suzi clad in leather singing classic Elvis songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" must've felt right as rain.
Jett said watching Suzi Quatro perform when she was 15 was the moment that she knew she wanted to join a band like the Runaways.
"Suzi Quatro was the first girl to get up there and do it," Jett said. "She's the one who made think, wow, if she can do it, so can I."
In the episode, Joanie Cunningham is essentially Joan Jett (they even pretty much have the same name!). After seeing Leather Tuscadero rock, she decides she must runaway (get it?) to join Leather & The Suedes. It makes you wonder how many girls watching Leather Tuscadero rock Arnold's diner were inspired to find their inner rockers, too.
In 1978, the L.A. Times described Quatro as "a cranked up, leather-clad rocker in the Presley tradition" who "exuded a hard-edged cool that had previously been off-limits for women."
Jett said she hoped that the Runaways could help make "being cool" even more accessible, so all the Joanie Cunninghams of the world could be viewed as hip and cool as all the Fonzies.
"I think Suzi Quatro and the Runaways both have made it a little easier for other women rockers," Jett said. "Not much, but hopefully we've helped."