When it comes to TV actors and actresses, there are certain stars who stand out from the crowd, leaving their legacy on the small screen and making roles their own. Scott Baio is one of those kinds of actors, best-known to actors as Chachi from Happy Days.
Baio reprised the role of Chachi in the Happy Days spin-off series, Joanie Loves Chachi, in the early 80s. He also made his mark in shows like Diagnosis: Murder and Charles in Charge. This is the full story of his life so far, both on-screen and behind-the-scenes.
Born in Brooklyn
Scott Vincent James Baio was born in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn in New York City. He was the son of Rose and Mario Baio, who were both Italian immigrants to the United States. Rose was a homemaker, while Mario had multiple jobs and eventually became Scott’s manager later in life.
By all accounts, young Scott had a relatively normal childhood. He grew up in New York, being exposed to the lights and sounds of the big city from an early age, and he attended Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge.
Acting Ran in the Family
Perhaps Scott Baio was always destined to become an actor because the acting was a big part of his family. When Scott was still just a young boy, his cousins, Joey and Jimmy Baio were attending auditions to appear in TV ads and shows.
Joey and Jimmy were successful. They broke into the acting world and began appearing in commercials and sitcoms on TV. This inspired Scott’s mom and dad, Rose and Mario, to consider sending Scott to a few auditions, too.
Scott Was a Bit of a Bully
Rose and Mario were actually quite desperate to find something for Scott to do with his free time because he was becoming quite an unruly and badly behaved boy as he got older. In fact, he was developing a reputation as a bit of a bully in the local neighborhood.
He clearly had a lot of pent-up energy that wasn’t being used in the right ways. Feeling more and more concerned about their son’s well-being, Mario and Rose decided that acting could be a good way for him to channel all that energy into something creative.
It Didn’t Take Long for Scott to Get His First Roles
Scott was still just a boy when his parents sent him off to his first auditions, but it didn’t take too long at all for him to have success. He appeared on TV in commercials quite quickly, and soon after that, even bigger and better offers started to roll in.
Agents and producers had heard about Scott’s good looks and natural acting abilities and wanted to give the young star some opportunities to show what he could do. He started to get plenty of offers for both movies and TV shows.
His Big Break Came in 1976
Scott gradually built up his acting credentials and resume, landing several roles in commercials before accepting his biggest job yet: the title role in the 1976 gangster comedy musical movie Bugsy Malone. This role really allowed young Scott to show off his skills.
Bugsy Malone was quite a unique film in that it featured an ensemble cast of only child actors who were playing mature, adult roles. The likes of John Cassisi and Jodie Foster performed alongside Baio, and there was a lot of competition for the lead role.
2,000 Young Actors Wanted the Role
Reports state that around 2,000 young actors wanted to try out for the part of Bugsy Malone, so there was a ton of competition for the part. Scott managed to beat every single one of them, claiming the role and making it his own.
The film was a critical success, with a lot of positive acclaim for the cast, the screenplay and direction by Alan Parker, and the musical numbers. It was nominated for an Oscar and several Golden Globes, including the prestigious Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy) prize.
A Dramatic Audition
So, how did Scott Baio get the role of Bugsy Malone ahead of so many other young actors? Well, it all came down to a very dramatic, emotional audition, in which Baio actually slammed down the script and stormed out of the room!
In later interviews, Baio explained what happened. He said that he was already sick of acting by the age of 16 and wanted to spend more time playing with his friends. So, when it came to the audition, he “didn’t even want to be there.” He said he “sort of read the script, threw it at him and walked out the door. That was it: I’d gotten the part before I got home.”
Catapulted into the Spotlight
Bugsy Malone was not the most successful movie of 1976, but it was well-received critically, and young Scott Baio had caught the attention of some very important people in the world of show business. So, only a year later, he was cast in a key role.
Baio was cast in the part of Chachi Arcola, one of the main cast members in one of the most successful shows of the 70s and 80s: Happy Days. Many more roles would follow in Scott’s career, but the character of Chachi would forever be remembered as his most iconic role.
All About Chachi
Chachi Arcola first appeared in season 5 of Happy Days in 1977. He was the young cousin of the show’s most popular character, Fonzie, and he had a close bond with Fonzie and a romantic interest in the character of Joanie Cunningham, played by Erin Moran.
Most of Chachi’s stories on the show were focused on his relationship with Joanie and the brotherly bond he shared with Fonzie. The character was also known for his musical abilities and his close connections with his mother and his stepdad, Al.
Baio Made the Character Bigger Than Intended
Originally, the character of Chachi was only expected to appear in a few episodes of Happy Days and then simply fade out of the show, like many other minor characters. However, when the producers saw how popular Chachi was, they decided to change their minds.
Scott Baio’s good looks and magnetic performance helped the character become hugely popular. In fact, Baio was getting up to 5,000 pieces of fan mail every week, and at that point, the writing team realized they had to make Chachi an even bigger part of the show.
A Trademark Look
Many fans of Happy Days agree that Scott Baio’s good looks and fun sense of style really helped to make the character of Chachi very popular. He famously wore tight blue jeans and stood out from the crowd with his wind-swept hair.
Baio’s authentic Brooklyn accent also gave the character a certain kind of charm that many fans of the show fell for. Chachi’s look became an iconic and memorable part of the overall Happy Days aesthetic. It was no surprise, therefore, that Chachi became one of the best-loved characters in the show.
Baio Was Worried About Chachi’s Musical Side
Happy Days fans will remember that Chachi was a talented musician. In fact, a big part of his storyline was that he and Joanie were both aspiring musicians, hoping to start their own band, make their own music, and become famous through their singing and songwriting abilities.
However, Baio himself was originally against the idea, as he didn’t think he could sing. He later changed his mind when he realized that the character of Chachi would be even more popular as a wannabe pop star, making him even more beloved by fans of the show.
More Roles Start to Arrive
Scott was appearing in episode after episode of Happy Days in the role of Chachi, but that didn’t stop him from accepting plenty of other roles on the side and building up his career with appearances in other movies and TV shows.
On the small screen, he appeared in an episode of The Love Boat in 1977 and an episode of The Runways, and one episode of Fantasy Island. He also had a main cast role in the sitcom, Who’s Watching the Kids? Appearing in 11 episodes. In movies, he appeared in Skatetown, USA, and Foxes.
Showing Off His Range
In 1980, Scott Baio appeared in the made-for-TV movie, The Boy Who Drank Too Much. He played the role of Buff Saunders, a popular teen who is secretly an alcoholic. The film was based on a Shep Greene novel.
It was well-received by critics and audiences, and it gave Scott a chance to show off some more of his range and versatility as an actor. It proved that he was capable of more serious and dramatic roles and more lighthearted comedy characters like Chachi.
Taking on More Diverse Roles
Also, in 1980, Scott starred in the lead role of an ABC Afterschool Special, entitled “Stoned.” ABC Afterschool Special was an anthology series that aired on ABC from the 70s through to the 90s and delved into all kinds of mature topics, such as substance abuse and teen pregnancy.
The show won many Daytime Emmy Awards, and Scott’s episode was all about a popular high schooler who experiments with marijuana and falls in with a bad crowd, taking a range of other drugs like cocaine and LSD. The idea behind it was to educate teens about the risks of drugs.
Other Interesting Roles Added to His Resume
During the early 80s, Scott Baio also appeared in various other interesting roles that helped him expand and grow as an actor and gave him more experience to help with his future career after Happy Days.
He appeared in 1980 episodes of Goodtime Girls and Here’s Boomer, for example. He also appeared in a TV movie called Senior Trip, in which he played an ambitious teen struggling with hemophilia. In the meantime, he was still starring in Happy Days and gaining a lot of recognition for his work on the small screen.
Awards and Nominations Roll In
Many fans adored Scott for his sex appeal and charm, but he was also recognized for his acting abilities, and it didn’t take long for the young man to start earning his first awards and nominations. He got one Emmy Award nomination for Stoned, the Afterschool Special, for example.
He also won a pair of Young Artist Awards, one for Best Young Actor in a Television Special for Stoned, and another – the Best Young Comedian in TV or Motion Pictures – for his work on Happy Days. He received other awards and nominations later in his career, but the early 80s were his most successful period.
A Spin-Off Was Launched
The character of Chachi had become so popular on Happy Days that the producers felt like a spin-off was needed. So, a show called “Joanie Loves Chachi” was planned out and prepared for air. As the name implied, the show focused on the relationship of Joanie and Chachi after they moved to Chicago.
The show attempted to blend elements of both the musical and comedy genres, focusing on Joanie and Chachi trying to form their own successful rock band. ABC’s network hoped that the show would be a big success, but it didn’t quite go to plan.
Starting off Strong
Joanie Loves Chachi had a strong cast. Baio and Erin Moran naturally reprised their roles of Chachi and Joanie. At the same time, the cast also included the likes of Al Molinaro as Chachi’s step-father, Ellen Travolta as Chachi’s mom, and Art Metrano as Chachi’s uncle.
The show’s concept also appeared to be appealing to fans, and the show started off strong. It got high ratings for the early episodes, but this may have been due to the fact that there wasn’t much competition in the timeslot and the show aired right after Happy Days, letting fans roll from one show into the other.
The Ratings Got a Lot Worse
Unfortunately for Scott and the rest of the Joanie Loves Chachi team, the show’s success didn’t last long. It was switched over to a Thursday night slot for its second season, competing with one of the most popular shows of the 80s: The A-Team. This move proved to be a catastrophic decision for the show, and ratings plummeted.
So, by the end of the year, ABC removed the show from its schedule and announced its cancellation. Only 17 episodes were aired in the end across the two seasons, and the characters were written back into the main cast of Happy Days after that.
Scott Regretted His Decision
Joanie Loves Chachi started off as a promising idea but was later ranked one of TV’s biggest blunders. When asked about it, Scott Baio revealed that he regretted the decision to be a part of the project, revealing a few behind-the-scenes problems.
He said that the Happy Days writers were in charge of the first four episodes, but new writers came in after that and weren’t as good. He also stated, “some of the people on the show had chemical issues, and that was a problem.” He concluded by saying, “In retrospect, if given a choice again, I would not have done that show.”
A Very Busy Schedule
Still, even though Joanie Loves Chachi had not turned out to be a smashing success, Scott was not deterred. He worked in many different roles and on many different projects, with a very busy schedule in the early 80s that gave him a lot of exposure.
In 1982, for example, while working on the spin-off, he also appeared in the 1982 movie, Zapped!, a teen sex comedy about a student with psychic powers and recording his debut album with RCA.
His Next Big Role
In 1984, Happy Days ended, airing its 255th and final episode. It was one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, and Scott had played a part in that, but all good things must come to an end, and it was now time for the cast to move on to other projects and ideas.
And it didn’t take long for Scott to get a new big TV role. He was cast as the lead in Charles in Charge, a CBS sitcom that started airing in October of 1984 and would continue to run for a total of five seasons and 126 episodes.
The Show Struggled at First
Like Joanie Loves Chachi, Charles in Charge had a good premise and a solid cast but struggled to bring in big numbers in its early stages. It joined CBS’s Wednesday night line-up, going against some big shows like ABC’s The Fall Guy and NBC’s Highway to Heaven. It didn’t perform too well, but the whole season of 22 episodes was allowed to air.
Then, in February of 1985, Charles in Charge was put on hiatus. The show’s future was uncertain, and things weren’t looking good when Charles in Charge was dropped from CBS’ Wednesday night lineup, replaced by Double Dare.
Changes to the Show Helped it Survive
It seemed that Charles in Charge might not make it beyond its first season for a little while. However, the network felt that the show had promise, so they decided to make some changes and relaunch it in syndication.
The new show only kept Scott Baio and Willie Aames from the first season cast, dropping all the other main cast members and bringing in the likes of James T. Callahan and Nicole Eggert to replace them. This made a big difference, and the new show enjoyed much more success than the original.
More Comedy Success and Directing Debut
Charles in Charge ended up running all the way through to 1990, turning into another success story on Scott’s resume and even giving him a chance to try out his directing skills. He directed 36 episodes of the show and even wrote one of them, too.
Around the same time, he also appeared in many other sitcoms. He appeared as Scott Gold in three episodes of Out of This World and directed 11 episodes of that show in total, while also guest-starring in the likes of My Two Dads and Full House. He also had a main role in Baby Talk as James, appearing in 23 episodes.
Moving Away from Comedy
After Baby Talk, Scott decided that the time was right to try something different. He was maturing as an actor and as a man, and he wanted to test out his skills in something outside of the usual comedy bubble that he’d spent most of his career in up to that point.
So, he tried out for the mystery medical crime drama, Diagnosis: Murder, landing the role of Doctor Jack Stewart and appearing alongside Dick Van Dyke. He appeared in 41 episodes of the show and was a popular member of the cast.
Career Decline in the Late 90s
Dr. Jack Stewart was Scott Baio’s last major TV role. After that, he had a few guest roles in shows like Can’t Hurry Love, The Nanny, Veronica’s Closet, and Touched by an Angel. He also appeared in some TV movies and other films, like Very Mean Men, A Wedding for Bella, and Italian Ties.
Scott did make a comeback in 2012 when he appeared as David Hobbs in the Nick at Nite comedy, See Dad Run. He appeared in 55 episodes of the show through to 2015 and also served as executive producer. However, he hasn’t been able to recapture the glory of his earlier years, which may be connected to various issues in his personal life.
A Troubled and Turbulent Life Behind the Scenes
On the fact of things, Scott Baio always seemed like the man who could do no wrong. In the 80s, he was a teen heartthrob and sex symbol, beloved by fans all over the globe and enjoying a hugely successful TV career.
However, there was a lot going on behind the scenes that viewers weren’t always aware of. Scott had various issues with relationships, has been accused of sexual assault by a former co-star, has attracted a lot of negative publicity for his outspoken political statements, and has suffered personal tragedy in his family.
A Well-Known Womanizer
During his Happy Days heyday, Scott was regarded as one of the sexiest men on TV and had legions of adoring female fans around the country. So, it came as no surprise when he started to date a lot of well-known beautiful young women in the show-biz world.
The first of his many famous girlfriends was none other than Brooke Shields. Shields was a former child model who later found fame as an actress in films like Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon. She and Scott dated as teens in the 70s, with Scott later referring to the two of them as “puppies” at the time.
On-Screen and Off-Screen Lovers
After Brooke Shields, Scott Baio started dating Erin Moran, his Happy Days co-star. This was one of the most exciting celebrity relationships at the time, as Erin played Joanie, Scott’s on-screen love interest in Happy Days, and the spin-off mentioned above, Joanie Loves Chachi.
Fans loved the idea of Chachi and Joanie being romantically involved behind the scenes and on the small screen. However, the relationship between the pair didn’t last too long before both of them moved on to other things.
Many More Ladies Followed
In the years after that, Scott dated many more young women. Heather Locklear was one of his most famous partners. He even called her “the first girl I was ever in love with” and expressed regret that their relationship didn’t work out, saying, “She is the greatest chick in the world, and I just ruined it.”
Other high-profile relationships involved 80s TV icon Melissa Gilbert, Desperate Housewives cast member Nicolette Sheridan, and Scott’s Charles in Charge co-star Nicole Eggert. The relationship with Eggert was notable due to the fact that the pair had 11 years of age difference, and Eggert later accused Baio of molesting her.
Assault Allegations Against Scott
On Charles in Charge, Baio played a character who acted as a nanny for a family with three children. Nicole Eggert played Jamie, the oldest of the three kids. She later went on to act in other TV shows and movies, including Baywatch.
In the years during the show’s production and afterward, there were many rumors about the relationship that Baio and Eggert had, and Eggert herself eventually stated in interviews from 2013 onwards that Baio had molested her. Scott has repeatedly refuted these allegations.
Revealing the Details
For a long time, Eggert only made brief mentions about what had happened between her and Scott, but in 2018, she posted a series of tweets, which were later deleted, that revealed more details of what had happened.
She claimed that she was a “molested child” and had been abused by Baio multiple times when she was 14, 15, 16, and 17, leading up to an incident when she and Scott had sexual intercourse while she was still a minor.
Another Charles in Charge Actor Backed Up Eggert
Nicole Eggert wasn’t the only cast member of Charles in Charge to make these kinds of claims against Baio. Alexander Polinsky, who also played one of the young children on the sitcom, also came out and said that Baio had verbally and physically abused him on the set.
Like Eggert, Polinsky also posted a set of tweets that were deleted, including one that said, “I want to speak with him about the abuse I suffered and witnessed on the set of Charles in Charge. Physical, mental, verbal & sexual abuse.”
Baio Has Denied Everything
Baio has responded to the claims against him several times. In 2018, he started his own Facebook live stream in an attempt to debunk Eggert’s allegations and reveal his own side of the story, with support from his wife, Renee.
Baio presented his own assembled documents regarding the time of the alleged abuses. He argued that Eggert invented the claims against him to try and promote her own projects. He accused Polinsky and Eggert of “teaming up” to go after him. Both Baio and Eggert have continued to share their stories, with other cast members coming out in support of Eggert.
Other High-Profile Partners
Regardless of what happened with Nicole Eggert, Scott Baio has had several other relationships with actresses and stars. He dated Vacation star Beverly D’Angelo for a while and also spent several months going out with Liza Minnelli in the 90s.
Minnelli was 14 years older than Scott and allegedly wanted to start a family with him, but the relationship didn’t last that long. After her, Pamela Anderson was another of Scott’s most famous partners, along with Denis Richards, Lesley Ann Warren, and Erika Eleniak.
Finally Settling Down
For a long time, it seemed like Scott Baio would never simply settle down with one woman and get married. But things did eventually change when he was in his 40s. In 2007, he appeared in the reality show “Scott Baio Is 45…and Single”.
The show focused on Scott’s relationship history and saw him working with a life coach to figure things out and try to learn how to commit to a long-term relationship. During the show, he visited various exes, and at the end, he proposed to his girlfriend at the time, Renee, who he had met in the 90s at the Playboy Mansion.
A Father and a Stepfather
Upon marrying Renee, Scott became the stepfather to her daughter, Kalyn, who was born in 1989. The couple also welcomed their own baby girl, Baily, into the world in 2007, shortly before tying the knot. However, this pregnancy was tinged with tragedy.
Originally, Renee had been pregnant with twins but sadly lost one of the babies in the 11th week of her pregnancy. Bailey was also born five weeks premature and needed special care. She was also falsely diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder.
Starting an Association
Bailey’s unborn twin had died of a condition called glutaric acidemia type 1, or GA-1, and doctors thought that she had the same condition. This meant that she had to stay in the hospital for several months, and her parents were frightened for her future.
Fortunately, they later discovered that she had been falsely diagnosed, and she was perfectly healthy at the time of writing. In the meantime, her parents decided to start an association in her honor, called the Bailey Baio Angel Foundation, to support families who are dealing with similar conditions and disorders.
More Personal Tragedy Followed
Sadly, Scott’s family had to deal with more drama and tragedy in the years that followed. In 2015, his wife Renee was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Later on, she was diagnosed with a second brain tumor, and then, in 2017, she was diagnosed with cerebral microvascular disease.
Scott has shared updates on his wife’s health via social media, saying that she’d been through several tough times in her life and always bounced back. Scott continued to support his wife and asked for prayers and support from his fans and followers.
Baio has become more known for his political comments and controversial statements than his acting talents in recent years. He is a registered Republican with conservative views and campaigned for Ronald Reagan as a young man and Reagan’s funeral in 2004.
He also endorsed Donald Trump in 2016 and was outspoken in his criticism of Barack Obama, once saying that the former president was “either dumb, a Muslim, or a Muslim sympathizer, and I don’t think he’s dumb.” Some of his comments have attracted criticism, even leading to a physical feud with Nancy Mack, wife of Chad Smith, the Red-Hot Chili Peppers drummer.
Conspiracy Theory Views
Along with his far-right political comments and associations, Baio has also made headlines for comments regarding conspiracy theories. In 2017, he retweeted comments about the Sandy Hook school shooting, suggesting that the shooting was a hoax. Again, this led to a lot of criticism.
In response to the criticism, Scott has said, “I don’t give a **** if I ever work again. My country comes first. I guess I’m just an old, angry, successful white guy who stole everything he has from someone else.”
A Memorable Actor with a Troubled Personal Life
Scott has admitted that he came from dysfunctional family background and had a difficult childhood in many ways, which may have contributed to some of his personal views and acts later in life. This has led to him becoming quite a polarizing figure in modern times, but his acting legacy is still impressive.
Scott showed off his acting abilities and won legions of adoring fans worldwide through shows like Happy Days, Charles in Charge, and Diagnosis: Murder. He made several roles his own and contributed greatly to the success of many shows, and even though he doesn’t act much anymore, he can still be seen and remembered in reruns of those old classics.