I can do anything. The best is yet to come out of this body. I’m a raw, primitive type, but fortunately I’m talented as hell, humble, modest and I work hard. I also look pretty good when I get cleaned up. I don’t want to overstate my case, but I was born to do the part. It was like being picked for Gone with the Wind in the ’70s.
Her stream of starletdom may say more about the ’70s than about Roz Kelly. The self-styled Vivien Leigh of her generation is not playing Scarlett O’Hara opposite Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler but, alas, Pinky Tuscadero against Henry Winkler’s Arthur Fonzarelli. The Fonz of ABC’s Happy Days has found love in the form of a heavy-footed demolition-derby driver. But the “Romance of the Century,” as ABC billed it, will flame out after two weeks—until the ratings are in. The network, which thinks Roz could be the start of something big, will in the meantime strut her stuff in the seasonal premiere of TV’s fast-rising violence series Star-sky & Hutch, and on three variety shows—Cos, The Captain & Tennille and Donny & Marie.
Kelly, 29 at a minimum, created Pinky from her bumptious personality and a pair of “rubber boobs.” Raised in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, Roz recalls “singing and dancing my way through a rotten childhood.” At 10, “my father took a powder.” By her own account, she has “a list of restaurant and coffee shop credits as long as that of my unreleased movies.” Yet there were portents even then. She and Winkler first co-starred in bits in a little-noticed film, Richard. Roz confesses that other movies she made “probably show in those places where you drop a quarter in the slot.” In one soft-core porno film, The Female Response, she played Gilda the Dental Technician. (“I was the comedy relief,” she explains. “I never drop my drawers.”) As Barbra Streisand’s roommate in The Owl and the Pussycat, she found, “After a sniff at the big time, that’s when the heartbreaks set in. I kept hearing this voice saying, ‘Go West, Rosalind!’ ”
Once in L.A., Roz starred again at a coffee shop, but one strategically close to CBS’s Television City. There she buttonholed a customer she figured must be a director; it turned out he was an agent who steered her to her first TV jobs and then to the Happy Days audition. She appeared at her final reading dressed in a T-shirt and socks plastered with dollar signs. “I was twitching nervously, trying to look cool, and I could see the other girl was suffering too, so I went over and said, ‘How’s your cardiac arrest, honey?’ ” Roz won, but it took hours to notify her—she was on the unemployment line at the time.
Her reunion on the Happy Days set with Yale Drama School-educated Winkler was not ecstatic. “I grew up on welfare, so I don’t relate to rich kids,” confides Roz. As for guys in general, Roz tends to get engaged a lot and admits, “I’m terribly insecure in my relations with my fellas.” Happily, now, just in case her future is as hot as ABC figures, her favorite fella works for the IRS.