The Day I Met The Fonz

We love the Fonz (perhaps more than Happy Days). We love Henry Winkler. And some of us have even met him...

Happy Days is brought to you this week by the letter aaaaaaaaaaaa

When I was a kid I enjoyed the re-runs of Happy Days. I remember proudly wearing a very dodgy leather jacket (a cast off from my cousin) as I thought it looked like Fonzie’s. It didn’t, and I looked more like a reject Flump (look them up on Youtube if you don’t know what I mean) but ‘Hey’, it was the 80s after all!

Years later, I met Henry Winkler AKA Fonzie while he was preparing for his stint in Peter Pan as Captain Hook. I’m still not entirely sure what magic he worked on me but pretty much straight after meeting him I was on the phone to the theatre in Milton Keynes to book my pantomime tickets! The Panto was great fun, the only problem being that the audience wanted Captain Hook to win rather than poor old Peter Pan.

As soon as I met him I got a welcoming smile and a handshake and he called me a fox! What a great way for me to start an interview! I asked the question that I think most people reading this would want to know. How is Arrested Development the movie progressing? He said that Ron Howard is onboard, as is the rest of the cast so it’s a case of wait and see if they can get the project up and running.

I was also fascinated to hear that Henry Winkler had recently adopted his Fonz persona again and, along with Ron Howard, did a pro-Obama information film to give their support to him in the election.

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He has a very strong belief in the power of people to change things for the better and his foundation works to help improve the lives of children. He believes that each person/child brings something unique to the world and it’s up to you to find out what that spark is. I appreciate it sounds corny now, but trust me, it doesn’t when Henry Winkler says it.

Perhaps he feels so strongly about this because of the difficulty he had as a child growing up and not being diagnosed as dyslexic until he was an adult. School and college were difficult, he was called lazy and stupid and told he was not living up to his potential. He became an expert in hiding his difficulty in reading. His parents assumed he would work in the family lumber business even though he wanted to be an actor from age 7.

He also talked about his books, which were written for children, about a boy called Hank Zipzer. The artwork never shows the boy’s face, so the children reading it can identify with the character better and use their imagination to decide what he looks like.

When I asked him which he preferred: acting, directing, writing, producing, he said that he enjoyed each in different ways. He likened being a writer to creating the play area in a sandpit, the producer and director ensure the sandpit play area works properly, that it’s fun and safe and as an actor you get to play in the sandpit. He also said that, of all the professional work he’d done, he was most proud of his books.

He talked about his work with Adam Sandler and Ron Howard and that he regarded them both as geniuses as well as friends; he felt fortunate to be included in their projects. He was not supposed to have even had a credit in Wes Craven’s Scream and he was meant to be a cameo. The audience weren’t supposed to know he was in it till they saw him. However, after a successful test screening when the audience cheered when they saw Henry, the promoters suddenly had a change of heart and got him to help promote the film in the USA.

He enjoys doing Panto and is back after a previously successful year. He said that Panto was a uniquely British thing and he really enjoyed the fact that people of all ages come and it is quite possible to see a grandmother, a mother and a child all enjoying the same show on different levels. He said he really liked the audience interaction, which is something that sets Panto apart from other forms of theatre.

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I had to ask the difficult question – do you get sick of people seeing you as the Fonz and do you feel you’ve been typecast because of it? Henry, as usual, had an upbeat answer which was, “No, because if I hadn’t been the Fonz then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do everything else in my life. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, what the foundation has achieved, I’m proud of the children who’ve read their first book and so happy when it’s one of mine; I’m proud of my family and I’m proud of my children.”

At the end of the interview Henry Winkler thanked me and asked me for a hug. Can you believe I got a hug from the Fonz! Happy Days indeed!