Yesterday, news broke that Donald Trump had hand-selected Scott Baio to speak at the Republican Nation Convention. The news spread like wildfire across the Facebook streams belonging to the generation that knows who Scott Baio is. But what about the rest of us. Must our streams run dry?
I say no. We are a scrappy generation, one that takes the crappy inheritance of previous generations and turns it into a semi-literary post-punk commentary on the indignity of life. When life gives us Baio, we make Baiowolf.
All of which is to say, this is all you need to know about Scott Baio.
Who is Scott Baio?
Scott Baio is an actor best known for the role of Chachi on the late 1970s to early 1980s television program Happy Days and its spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.
I wasn’t alive when Happy Days aired, but I watched reruns on Nick at Nite and I don’t remember this character.
The writers didn’t add Chachi as a recurring character until the fifth season, after many of the show's best episodes had already aired. Though Happy Days spanned through an exhausting 11 seasons, there’s an argument that it first began to stumble around the fifth, which added new characters and zany storylines to maintain public interest.
For example, the Fonz was a beloved and iconic Happy Days character that spawned lots of merchandising opportunities. So the writers gave him a cousin: Chachi.
When did the Fonz jump a shark on waterskis?
That was the fifth season, the same season Chachi appeared.
On one hand, the fifth season was the show’s second-most viewed season. On the other hand, the show fell from the third-most popular program on television to the 18th during Baio’s tenure.
Was Happy Days Baio’s big break?
Surprisingly, no. Before his work in TV, Baio appeared opposite Jodie Foster in the British film Bugsy Malone, a musical about gangsters that exclusively starred child actors.
It was the '70s. I don’t get it either. Here’s a trailer:
When was peak Baio?
Some Baio fans might point the anodyne sitcom Charles in Charge as a peak Baio, but my best guess is 1982 — 34 years ago.
In '82, Baio was coming off his first Emmy nomination for an after-school special about drug use. He premiered both of Joannie Loves Chachi’s two seasons, released an album, performed a Broadway adaptation for an HBO special, and starred in Zapped.
What is Zapped?
Wikipedia’s plot synopsis is perfect and concise, so I’ll let it carry the load:
Barney Springboro (Scott Baio) is a high school science nerd at Emerson High in Los Angeles who obtains telekinetic powers after a lab accident. Along with his best friend Peyton Nichols (Willie Aames), a wealthy playboy with a dirty mind, Barney uses his new powers to take revenge upon bullies, cheat at baseball, and strip girls, particularly the beautiful but snobby Jane Mitchell (Heather Thomas). Barney comes to realize that the best girl for him is actually Bernadette (Felice Schachter), the school's nerdy feminist class president who also becomes privy to his secret powers. After typical hi-jinks, the film's climax is set at the school's senior prom which Barney uses his powers to disrobe several people when he loses his self control, a parody climax of Stephen King's Carrie. After he gets hit on the head with a fire hose, he wakes up later and discovers that he no longer has his powers, to the dismay and relief of both Peyton and Bernadette. However, in the final scene it is revealed that this is a lie as Barney escorts Bernadette from the building and uses his powers to levitate himself and her away.
You’re telling me Baio’s big comedy was about a teenager who uses telekinesis to molest high school girls?
Correct. Here’s the poster:
De-clothing women can’t be the entirety of the movie, right?
Look, I wanted to include some GIFs from Zapped, but I only found two that were safe for work. Here’s Baio making a bully punch himself:
You said you found two GIFs. What’s the other one?
And this guy is speaking at the Republican Nation Convention?
And people care?
Baio did appear as Bob Loblaw in Arrested Development, so it’s not like he’s totally void of cultural cache. And he’s always been politically active. He campaigned for Ronald Reagan and attended his funeral. He also endorsed Mitt Romney.
That just sounds like an average Republican who votes based on his reasoned and personal beliefs. Why would he speak for Trump?
In a Fox Business interview last month, Baio had this to say about President Obama:
Very reluctant? He’s absolutely reluctant. I can’t tell, Lester, if he’s dumb, he’s a Muslim or he’s a Muslim sympathizer and I don’t think he’s dumb…
This guy in Orlando called up and said he was with ISIS, praising Allahu Akbar. What is that? And the president says,"Well, the Christians have done this." When? When did Christians go out yelling, "Jesus Christ" and start killing people? When does that happen? Are we at war with a whole religion? No. But we’re at war with a faction of that religion that wants to decapitate us and kill us."
Ah ha. Well, anything else I should know before I cry into a pillow?
Zapped was remade as a 2013 Disney Channel Original Movie. The comedy gender-swapped the lead role, and instead of telekinesis the protagonist used a magical smartphone app that controls boys.