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Henry "The Fonz" Winkler article on

Thu Oct 25, 2012 4:50 am ... ients.html

Henry Winkler's Many New Roles

'The Fonz' fills us in on his volunteer work for stroke victims, plus his new movie, play and book

by: Elizabeth Agnvall | from: AARP | October 15, 2012

Henry Winkler, the man who shot to fame in the 1970s as the star of the TV series Happy Days, has been enjoying especially happy times lately.

Henry Winkler, best known for his TV role as "The Fonz," is an advocate for stroke patients. — Melissa Golden

His acting career, put on hold for several years while he produced and directed shows, has recently blossomed again: He plays the music teacher in the new Kevin James movie Here Comes the Boom (opening Oct. 12), a quirky father in USA Network's Royal Pains and a bumbling attorney in the Netflix show Arrested Development. He's also just published his 23rd novel for children and on Nov. 14 he opens on Broadway in a new comedy called The Performers.

While Winkler was becoming a household name as "The Fonz" on Happy Days, he watched his mother suffer a debilitating stroke. We caught up with the energetic 67-year-old on a recent visit to Washington, D.C., where he was advocating for stroke patients.

Q. Your own mother had a stroke and you were a caregiver for her?

A. I was a caregiver when I could. I was in Hollywood, and my mom lived in New York. My sister was there, so I was a co-caregiver, and then we had someone eventually live in because it became really difficult.

Q. The coordinating-care-at-a-distance caregiver is very difficult.

A. The most difficult part is giving support from a distance. I would fly into New York and spend time with her, and I watched the will to live drip out of her.

Q. I understand she was afflicted with upper limb spasticity — which some people call a stroke arm.

A. Yes, that's exactly right. Usually, the patient has come home; they're no longer under the doctor's care. The therapy is winding down. And all of a sudden, they are taken over by their muscles. And it is uncomfortable. It is more than that — it is painful. Sometimes the fingernails grow into the palm, because they cannot open their hands. They cannot wash their hands. And then there is the psychological component. The person just feels out of whack with the rest of society. People look at them strangely.

Q. Are there treatments?

A. I am the spokesperson for the last three years for the Open Arms Campaign,, and there is a new tool in the doctor's toolbox, which is this therapeutic use of Botox. [The Food and Drug Administration approved Botox for use with upper limb spasticity in 2010.] I have traveled across the country merely to give people information that [this treatment] exists. A lot of times the meetings that I have at hospitals with the stroke doctors and the patients turn out to be revival meetings, because the patient wants to say how their life has changed. It is so inspiring and touching.

Q. How long does it take for patients to see results?

A. It is pretty quick. They start to see it as soon as the first treatment. They need the injections every four to five weeks.

Q. You're an avid fly fisherman. You have to have open arms and lots of dexterity when you're on the river.

A. It is completely Zen. You cannot fly fish and just reel the fish in. You have to be completely in tune with what is feeding on the river. You have to be in tune with the rate of the water. You have to be in tune with the fish once the fish is on the line. I always say that it's like a washing machine for the brain. You are drained of anything that worries you while you are on, in or near the river.

Q. Was your mother ever able to go fly fishing?

A. No, my mother played canasta. She never picked up a rod in her life, but she was mean with a deck. Whoa! She had her friends. They had lunch first. Of course, that all went away when she had her stroke, which was very sad.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about what else you're working on?

A. We just shot a two-hour Royal Pains movie coming in January. I just shot my work on Arrested Development coming next spring on Netflix. Children's Hospital, which is the absurdist comedy on the cartoon network at 12 at night on Thursdays, just won an Emmy for best short-form [live-action]. Then, of course, we have our newest novel for children, Ghost Buddy, Mind if I Read Your Mind. We've written now 23 novels for children. This one is based on that the very person that you might be making fun of might be the very person that can help you. I have a new movie coming out with Kevin James and Salma Hayek called Here Comes the Boom, which is a family movie. You take your 9-year-old and grandma. And everybody will cheer.

Q. How was working with Salma Hayek on Here Comes the Boom?

A. She is game for anything. She is articulate. She is so smart. This little girl is powerful, I mean in the true sense of the word. Funny, and a great mom. Her daughter came to visit, all the time.

Q. You've reinvented yourself as an actor. Do you have some advice for people over 50 who want to reinvent themselves?

A. It is so easy to second-guess yourself. It is so easy to say: "Well, they don't want me. Well, it's too late in the game." The actual fact is that might be true, but it is not true everywhere. You are mercury and you make yourself small enough to fit in that opening when it presents itself. If that were not true, I would not be sitting here now. I was told I would never achieve. [Winkler has dyslexia, and his series of children's books — cowritten with Lin Oliver — features a dyslexic hero, Hank Zipper.]

You don't know what greatness you have inside you until you get off the mat and try, which is the theme of my life, the theme of the books we write and the theme of the movie we just did.

Q. At AARP we talk about the health benefits of long, happy relationships — marriage is a health benefit, especially for men. You've been happily married for 34 years. Can you tell us your secret?

A. I think the center of a relationship is not the heart, it's not the head. It is the ear. It doesn't matter how you mean it. It matters how it lands. Listening is a lost art and listening is the beginning and the end of a relationship. And good abs and a nice tush is not bad. [Laughing] Nah. I have abs, but you need an X-ray to find them. They're way deep down, but they're there.

Re: Henry "The Fonz" Winkler article on

Thu Oct 25, 2012 9:58 pm

Thanks for that. Henry is a really nice guy. I have a lot of respect for him and what he stands for.

Re: Henry "The Fonz" Winkler article on

Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:08 pm

Here's 1 from the 11/4 NY Newsday: ... -1.4173328

Henry Winkler bares all about 'Performers'

Published: October 31, 2012 12:26 PM
By JOSEPH V. AMODIO. Special to Newsday

The Fonz was known for his leather jacket, but these days Henry Winkler dons a different kind of costume, in a different kind of comedy.

There's nothing cool about the tacky white suit he wears as Chuck Wood, a past-his-prime porn star trying to seduce a wholesome teacher (Alicia Silverstone) and pitted against the uber-fit "Mandrew" (played by the abs-tastic Cheyenne Jackson) at a porn industry awards ceremony, in "The Performers," a new, outrageously lewd comedy at the Longacre Theatre, which opens Nov. 14.

Winkler, whose 40-year career spans film (most recently "Here Comes the Boom") and TV ("Royal Pains"), is best known as beloved greaser Arthur Fonzarelli, who doled out advice and punch lines to Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) on the '70s sitcom "Happy Days." Unless you're a teen or college type, and know him from the Emmy-winning short-format series "Children's Hospital" on the Adult Swim network. Or between the age of 7 and 12, in which case you know him as the author of 23 children's novels (with collaborator Lin Oliver), including the "Hank Zipzer" and "Ghost Buddy" series, which deal with dyslexia and bullying (issues Winkler knows about from experience).

A recipient of an Order of the British Empire (OBE), he lives with his wife and two dogs in Los Angeles, and recently spoke with Newsday.

So . . . should I be calling you SIR Henry?

Well, you don't have to call me "Sir," but you cannot look me in the eye.

Got it. The language in "The Performers" is pretty, um . . . colorful. Are you worried what your fans might think?

That's a good question. My wife asked me that. But I've never made a choice based on my fans. If I do that, I'll cut my imagination in half. Being as dyslexic as I am, I'm completely visceral and instinctual, and every decision I've made has always been based on my stomach. It's worked out pretty well so far.

What have you learned about the porn industry?

There's so much out there about porn, and people bring that with them into the theater. What's interesting is that we're all the same. It doesn't matter if you're an investment banker, a registered nurse . . . or a porn star. The language may be less colorful, but the emotion is the same.

The bodies are a little different, too.

There are easily 15 to 17 human beings lying in a corner somewhere because they never got a body -- Cheyenne got it all. [He laughs.] And inside that body is a thoughtful . . . emotional . . . talented man. You know . . . I . . . I have the same body -- I really do. You just need an X-ray to find it.

So, how did you get this citation from the queen?

For five years I've toured schools in the U.K., telling children, "Yes, I'm an actor, a husband, a father. I'm a director, a producer and have written these books . . . yet I'm in the bottom 3 percent academically in America." That perks them up.

How does your dyslexia manifest itself?

Reading cold is very difficult for me. Spelling is out of the question. When I'd buy a piece of pizza and paid, I had no idea how much change to get. I had to just . . . pray everybody was honest. When I was growing up, people didn't know about . . . children who learned differently. When my stepson was in third grade, we had him tested, and everything they said about him was true about me. And so I was 31 when I found out that I . . . was not stupid.

How do you write with dyslexia?

I walk around Lin's office talking . . . Lin does the typing. Then, Lin has an idea, types, reads it back, and we argue over every word. In "Ghost Buddy," the ghost came out as Fonzie, and the boy, Billy Broccoli, came out as Richie. So it's this relationship between two unlikely people who would never be friends, yet who find they can literally help each other.

Ahhh. "Happy Days." Do you recall your audition?

I'd just arrived in California -- I only had enough money for a month. I auditioned at Paramount Studios, and every actor in the room was somebody I'd seen on TV. And me! I had six lines. I don't know where I got the nerve, but I threw the script in the air when I was done and sauntered out as the character . . . [Paramount] called a week and a half later and offered me the part.

Do you see much of Long Island while shooting "Royal Pains"?

Yes. Jones Beach, Oyster Bay, Lloyd Harbor. Those towns have great Main Streets. But my very first job was doing summer theater at the John Drew Theater in East Hampton. All the actors lived together in a house on Montauk Highway.

Good gig -- beach by day, acting by night.

I can't . . . even . . . tell you. Going to the beach by day . . . my social life was . . . a 10.

Re: Henry "The Fonz" Winkler article on

Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:55 pm

Another from the 11/11 NY Post: ... UzQkivmU8L

Star, studded

Fonzie’s playing a porn star? Correctamundo!
Last Updated: 6:53 AM, November 11, 2012
Posted: 10:34 PM, November 10, 2012

That fountain of hair is still there, though it’s gone from dark to silver, and the nose has gotten larger with time. But there’s no mistaking Henry Winkler, a.k.a. Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, a.k.a.The Fonz.

At least until he says his first line: “Whose a- -hole do I have to fist to get a drink around here?”

Clearly, “Happy Days” aren’t here again. Instead, we’re at “The Performers,” David West Read’s raunchy but shockingly sweet comedy about the adult-entertainment industry. Opening this week at Broadway’s Longacre Theater, it features Winkler as Chuck Wood, the hardest working guy — pun intended — in the business.

In ‘The Performers’, opening this week at the Longacre Theater, Winkler stars as an aging male porn star.

From the moment he takes the stage, the audience is rooting for him. Turns out, Chuck Wood’s biggest organ is his heart.

And that, Winkler says, is why he took the role.

“The [bawdy] language makes my own socks go up and down,” the 67-year-old says. “Eventually, though, you forget the language and care about the character.”

At the Regency Hotel the other day, the short (5-foot-6) native New Yorker kept pulling the cuffs of his blue cashmere sweater over his hands to warm them; living in California for the last 40 years may have thinned his blood.

Even after “Happy Days” ended — after a decade of shows that gave us The Fonz, Ron Howard’s Richie and the immortal phrase, “jumping the shark,” which involved Winkler and a pair of water skis — Winkler never stopped moving.

He produced, he directed, he shilled (for reverse mortgages — really, Henry?) and turned out a series of children’s books about his youthful alter ego: dyslexic Hank Zipzer, The World’s Greatest Underachiever. That last, coupled with talks he’s given to British schoolchildren, recently won him an honorary OBE.

So he’s no underachiever. He was even too busy to accept his OBE from Prince Charles! The only thing royal he had time for lately was TV’s “Royal Pains.” He was shooting a show in New York when someone invited him to a reading of “The Performers.” Winkler went, he read — and he laughed, even though the language made him blush.

Not that he’s a complete stranger to kinkiness. When asked about the weirdest place he’d ever had sex, Winkler recalls a high-brow night on the town: “It was the back seat of a BMW in the parking structure of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was satisfying and cultural at the same time.”

Winkler did violate one of his own longtime showbiz rules in taking the part. He didn’t consult his spouse.

“My wife said, ‘You did this without talking to me? You decided not only to move our life to New York but to do this and to say that?’

“I said, ‘Stacey, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m on this journey, and I have no control over this. I’m on the train, and I’m going!’ ”

Minutes later, Stacey Winkler, his impeccably groomed wife of 34 years, walks into the Regency dining room with their 3-year-old granddaughter.

Stacey, is that true?

She rolls her eyes. “Yes,” she says. “It’s the first time he didn’t give me the script to read!”

This isn’t Winkler’s first time on Broadway. Maybe you caught him a decade ago, in Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party,” or even “Forty-two Seconds from Broadway,” which ran, well, about 42 seconds on Broadway (one night).

He’s thrilled to be back on the boards, and waxes long and sweet about the cast and the entire creative team, most of them three decades younger than he is.

“I’ve never lived in a world without Henry Winkler,” says Evan Cabnet, the show’s 34-year-old director. He says his mom once bought him a Fonzie action figure: “Press him, and his thumb shoots out!”

Cheyenne Jackson, who plays Chuck’s rival — a hunky side of beef named Mandrew — says Winkler’s “like a father figure” to the rest of the cast.

Nevertheless, Jackson says, he finds himself playing mentor.

“He’ll ask me, ‘Cheyenne, what does that mean?’ ” Jackson says, declining specifics. “And I think, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with Henry Winkler!”

Re: Henry "The Fonz" Winkler article on

Sun Feb 23, 2014 6:15 pm

Here's another from the 2/23 NY Daily News: ... -1.1617440

How dyslexia made 'Happy Days' star Henry Winkler an author

Winkler, who gained fame as the Fonz on 'Happy Days,' has two new Hank Zipzer books for children


Sunday, February 23, 2014, 2:00 AM

Richard Harbus

Henry Winkler with his new Hank Zipzer books, which chronicle Hank's adventures in the second grade.

Plenty of celebrities write books, but Henry Winkler didn’t even read one until he was in his 30s.

The celebrated actor — best known as “Happy Days” greaser Arthur (Fonzie) Fonzarelli — struggles daily with dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until he was 31.

His struggle with the learning disability inspired Winkler, now 68, to write a series of children's books starring Hank Zipzer, a fictional boy who has problems with reading, math and an annoying little sister.

Art imitates Winkler’s life, which, like Hank’s, started out on the Upper West Side.

“[Hank] lives in my apartment building, on the fourth floor. He goes to PS 87, the school that I went to,” Winkler says over lunch at the swanky Regency Bar & Grill. “The deli that Hank’s mother owns on 71st and Broadway is the deli I grew up with.”

But that’s where the similarities stop. In “Bookmarks Are People Too” (Grosset & Dunlap) — the first in the “Here’s Hank” series, prequels to Winkler's previous Zipzer tales — Hank’s mother is “trying to bring luncheon meats into the 21st century” by introducing soylami and soyloney.

“That,” Winkler deadpans, “was for comedic effect.”

The second new book, “A Short Tale About a Long Dog,” chronicles Hank’s effort to improve his grades so he can get a pet dachshund — another fictive flourish.

The books do more than touch on the challenges of dyslexia.They feature a special font, with letters weighted at the bottom, to help keep dyslexics from flipping the words.

Winkler, of course, is not the first celebrity to think he could crank out kids’ books. But unlike volumes by Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson (“Budgie, the Little Helicopter”) and Glenn Beck (“The Christmas Sweater”), Winkler’s work is no joke. His works are also best sellers.

Winkler as the Fonz in "Happy Days"

Even so, the former Fonz wages a constant war against his condition, saying the one thing he would change in his life would be “the wiring in my brain” that sometimes causes him to drive 100 miles in the wrong direction because street signs turn illegible and programming the GPS becomes impossible.

His daily life is a struggle — but as he takes another bite of his spaghetti carbonara, Winkler pauses and rethinks his words.

“Actually, I wouldn’t change it," he says, "because I’ve had such a wonderful life with the wiring.”


Henry Winkler isn’t the first celebrity to turn personal dysfunction or other experiences into fodder for a book. Here are others:

Steve Martin, “Late for School” — excessive tardiness.

Weird Al Yankovic, “When I Grow Up” — choosing a career.

Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, “Dream Big, Little Pig!” — the bumpy road to fame.

Julie Andrews, “The Very Fairy Princess” series — a girl who thinks she’s royalty.

Bernadette Peters, “Broadway Barks” — pet adoption.

Jamie Lee Curtis, “Today I Feel Silly” — crankiness.

Glenn Beck, “The Christmas Sweater” — unrelenting sorrow.