It did seem like a lot of fuss for a brown leather jacket.
Female screams, as in the early Beatles variety. A young lady who groaned "Oh, God" with 14-year-old passion. A 16-year-old who announced the event would inspire her for life. And kisses, showers of kisses. "Great lips," came one assessment.
But see, it was history.
"This is great, ya know," said Henry Winkler, The Fonz of ABC's "Happy Days" who became a museum donor yesterday. Looking like a cute young congressional aide in tweed and blow-dried hair, he presented his greasy Fonz jacket to the Smithsonian's History of Entertainment Collection.
"Seven years ago, I walked into a room and read a script that only had six lines," said Winkler, California-tanned and grinning, "and today, I'm here to present the jacket that has changed my life . . . here, along with the Wright Brothers' first plane, Dillinger's first gun, every baseball player's hat -- and now me. There's no way to be so overly sophisticated and so cool as to not be touched by this event."
The jacket, which is soft brown leather and but for a few make-up smears looks pretty ordinary, was deemed historical by Carl Scheele, the museum's curator of community life.
It is an item, he says, which "evokes the spirit of the 1950s and the rebelliousness of leather-jacketed young men of that era." This historical value was determined a few months ago when Paramount Studios made the jacket available for public consumption.
Where it will hang is not yet known, although everybody figures it'll be somewhere in the "Nation of Nations" exhibit that includes entertainment history. Maybe near two chairs belonging to Archie and Edith Bunker. Or by the McDonald's sign in Japanese. Perhaps in the vicinity of Irving Berlin's piano.
Whatever. Winkler loves the thought of it.
"I am so proud," he said. "So proud that I don't know what to do with myself."
As Roger Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology, put it: "The history of this country is everybody's history, not just fancy people's history. And The Fonz is part of America's history."
Formal remarks done with in the Museum of History and Technology's reception room, Fonz turned to the media hounds. Their numbers were impressive.
Suddenly, he found himself face-to-face with Julie Bruton, the 16-year-old co-host of Channel 4's "Stuff!" program for kids. She stuck a microphone in his face and asked him about his life.
"I love it," he said. "I love it. I love every second of it. I love talking to you. You're good at it. I know professionals who aren't nearly as young as you, and they don't have the flow."
The young interviewer, who has watched The Fonz she was 8, could hardly stand it.
"That's enough to keep me going for the rest of my life," she told him. Thereupon, he kissed her, leaving her ashen but glorified.
Meanwhile, you could hear screams in the distance. They came from outside the reception area where young girls had clustered like frenzied bees, grappling with cameras and self-control.
Then Winkler emerged. Shrieks. Moans. A few whimpers. But whoosh, he was gone, swept up in an elevator for a fifth-floor lunch with museum significants.
"Oh, God. I'd do anything to see him again," said Patty Novesl, a junior-high-school student from Essex, Md., who got up yesterday morning thinking she was just going on a normal English class field trip. But then, there was The Fonz. "Oh, God," she said again. And again.
And that was about it. Pretty soon, museum life returned to normal as people wandered around looking at quilts and spinning wheels and wooden spoons.
But whoops, there is one burning question left unanswered. That is: What will The Fonz, minus his brown leather, wear now?
"I thought I would go to lavender velour," he deadpanned. "It's not the fabric, but the soul that fills it."