iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Pat Gallagher

GET UPDATES FROM Pat Gallagher
 

Henry Winkler -- Yes, He Would Do a 60-Year-Old Fonzie on a 'Happy Days' Reunion

Posted: 12/12/2012 7:17 am

Henry Winkler has been busy. The actor who made his name as Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli on the decade-long sitcom "Happy Days" just ended a run on Broadway; appears in the movie "Here Comes the Boom" with Kevin James; stars in a two-hour "Royal Pains" holiday special on the USA Network on Dec. 16; and appears in season five of "Children's Hospital" beginning in June. He's also writing a new series of books "Ghost Buddy" -- geared to children from ages 7 to 11; his 17 "Hank Zipser" books (co-authored with Lin Oliver) have been on the New York Times Best Seller List. The seasoned actor sat down with The Huffington Post to talk about the recent closing of his Broadway show, the trials of former co-star Erin Moran and what he thinks about a "Happy Days" reunion special.

At one time your twitter profile read: "Actor, director, producer and author. AND I'm in the bottom 3% academically in America." Is that true or was that just a joke?

No, that's the absolute truth.

You had four years of college and graduated from the Yale School of Drama. How did you get through college being academically challenged and dyslexic?

Well, the two words that I live by are tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to go. Because if you have a dream, if you know that you are supposed to -- or can -- accomplish something, there is more than one route to get there. And it's your tenacity that's going to help you find the proper avenue.

You have such an optimistic attitude. Where does that come from?

I've had it all my life because I am split down the middle. I worry myself into oblivion but I never allow myself to stay down for long.

What does Henry Winkler have to worry about? I would think, not much.

You know, what is interesting is, who you are is formed early and then you spend a lifetime trying to shed yourself of all of that cement that's holding you in place.

How do you go about doing that?

So, the tenacity, you find how to get over or through or under the obstacle, and gratitude doesn't allow you to be angry during that journey. And that journey repeats itself over and over again.

Speaking of journeys, let's talk about your Broadway play, "The Performers." It closed after 23 previews and seven performances. You got some good word-of-mouth reviews for your acting, so what happened?

It is one of the great abysses that we fell in. It was a perfect storm. I don't know whether it was underfunded, whether it was the publicist got sick for two weeks and he was in another state ... I don't know whether [Hurricane] Sandy had something to do with it because we were sailing along with great word of mouth. And, then, the people who go to Broadways plays, were now devastated in Jersey, in Connecticut, in Long Island, Staten island, Brooklyn, lower Manhattan.

When they told you they were closing the play, how did you handle that and who broke the news to you?

We had an opening night party and I wrote an email with a sense of humor to the producer. I said, "Thank you so much for the wonderful party. Are we still open?" And the response I got was: "I'm rushing into a meeting to talk about that very subject. You'll be the first to know." I said to myself, "That. Does. Not. Sound. Good." And I have to tell you, that I was working with five other experts on that stage. We were a really wonderful, powerful ensemble. People laughed from the moment the lights went on, when they saw Cheyenne Jackson 83 percent naked to the lights going off and they cheered. It was amazing and shocking, and none of us have actually completely finished mourning the loss.

How did it feel playing a porn star?

You know, that's the great thing. It was based in the porn star world but the human beings on that stage were everybody.

Was Henry Winkler ever 83 percent naked in the play?

No, I was covered pretty much 94.6 percent.

Was that on purpose?

For me, that was a very comfortable way to be. You were able to see my bling, but that was pretty much it.

You said you wouldn't unpack your clothes until the reviews came in. Did you really not unpack your clothes?

(Pause) I did. The last performance, we had a drink in the bar right next door to the theater. We hugged goodbye. I went home and packed two boxes. But when I think that it was so sad, and, oh I wish we were still there -- we were having so much fun -- on the other hand, what we suffered was nothing compared to the people who are still devastated with their homes burned, blown, fallen to the very foundation.

I saw you in a TV interview recently. You said when you went out to Hollywood, you had enough money to stay there for a month and you got the part on "Happy Days" within a week. How did that happen?

Yes, I was very lucky. I went to audition and all the stars ... as the stars did not align for "The Performers" on Broadway, the stars did align for me getting one of the great parts of all time.

Would you do a "Happy Days" reunion if executive producer Garry Marshall called you?

Yes, if Garry called I would. We produced a reunion show where we had everybody back -- including the two Chucks, the two young men who played [Richie's] brother who went upstairs and never came down again. It was the third highest rated special of the year [in 2005].

But wasn't that 2005 30th Anniversary Reunion Special just flashbacks from the original "Happy Days" shows? You guys didn't act your parts again?

Oh, no, no we didn't act our parts again.

You have Marion Ross, Anson Williams, Don Most, Ron Howard, yourself, Scott Baio, Erin Moran available. How great would that be to bring everyone back. Could there be a 60-year-old Fonzie do you think?

You know, the 60-year-old Fonzie right now would probably be the owner of several Mr. Goodwrench [auto repair type] franchises.

Erin Moran ... it breaks my heart to see what is going on in her life right now. What are your thoughts on Erin's problems?

Very, very sad. My thoughts are that she has a twinkle in her soul. She is a delightful person and needs to really take responsibility for herself before she can come out of the darkness. ...

I read that you were trying to get her an acting part. Is that true?

That is not true. I don't know where that came from. No one ever talked to me about that. That was a completely fabricated story. I saw her at book signings across the country, but that was about a year and a half, two years ago.

How was she then?

She traveled with her husband. She was delightful. She was energetic.

I know that if she called you, you would show her some love, right?

Show her some love ... but it's a hard thing to help someone who doesn't think they need to be helped.

What's your dream acting job going forward? What part would you like to play and what actors would you kill to work with.

OK, here it is, the truth?

Yep.

My dream part would be the part that comes next. Truly. I love my job, and if I had the opportunity, I would love to act with Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence.

There you go, you're such a happy guy. What makes you a happy guy?

When I woke up this morning, I came down and fed my dogs. I then heard the door open to the kitchen, and my 11-month-old grandson came in. When I was in New York, my three-year-old granddaughter would come to visit us at the hotel room. And I cannot imagine, except for fly fishing for trout, anything that could make you happier.

You and your wife have been married 34 years. Your secret to a happy marriage is...

Listening. The ear is the center of the relationship.

Would you ever do a reality show about your life with your wife?

No, I wouldn't ... although, I have learned never to say never. There may be a time when I have to pay the mortgage. I'm a very practical man.

Loading Slideshow...
  • World Premiere of "Here Comes The Boom"

    Henry Winkler World Premiere of "Here Comes The Boom" AMC Lincoln Square Theater New York City, October 2012.

  • Happy Days

    "Happy Days" ran from 1974 to 1984 on ABC. From left to right: Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard); Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler); Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams); Ralph Malph (Donny Most).

  • Happy Days Fonzie and Mrs. C (1977)

    Mrs. Cunningham turns to Fonzie (Henry Winkler), whose apartment is above the Cunningham's garage, for a sympathetic ear.

  • Richie and Fonzie Happy Days

    Richie (Ron Howard) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) in the Cunningham kitchen from the television program Happy Days.

  • Henry Winkler in London

    Henry Winkler reads his book "Hank Zipzer The World's Greatest Underachiever" to children at St. Matthews Primary School in London with Education Secretary Ed Balls.

  • Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Cheyenne Jackson talk Porn and The Performers on Broadway

    Cheyenne Jackson, Alicia Silverstone, Henry Winkler and the cast of theBroadway comedy, The Performers, speak frankly about their show. It closed after 23 previews and seven performances.

  • Henry Winkler on "The Craig Ferguson Show"

  • Happy Days 30th Reunion - 2005

    Clips from the classic series which aired on ABC from January 1974 - July 1984. This special produced by Winkler/Levitt for ABC Television, February 2005.

  • Mork Meets The Fonz

    Mork Meets The Fonz

  • Fonzie Jumps the Shark 1977

 

Follow Pat Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@pat_gallagher

FOLLOW FIFTY