My wife Maggie and I had the great pleasure of meeting Henry Winkler Saturday night at a Salvation Army Gala fundraiser. Winkler is known to most as The Fonz, aka Arthur Fonzerelli, a character he made famous on the 70’s sitcom “Happy Days.” Fonzy was the coolest guy on the planet and what we learned Saturday night, Henry Winkler really is cool.
Winkler spoke for about 40 minutes and went through his life story, his childhood, how he got into acting, to becoming an author of children’s books later in life. Winkler’s message was one of positivity and hope. I know, most speakers preach a similar message, but the difference Saturday night, Winkler showed us all he means it. In fact it has earned him the title, “the nicest guy in Hollywood.” Winkler addressed a question from the crowd Saturday night regarding a passage in a book written by Ron Howard, the guy who played Richie Cunningham in Happy Days alongside Winkler. Howard says “Fonzie” was so popular, the executive at ABC wanted to change the name of the show to “Fonzie’s Happy Days” Winkler wanted no part of it despite the fact it would have elevated his stardom to new heights.
Winkler greeted a VIP crowd before the dinner and spoke to all of us like we had been friends for years. After the dinner, he greeted the rest of the 250 people on hand and treated them just the same. It was one of the most enjoyable rubber chicken Galas I have ever been a part of, which by the way was actually a great prime rib dinner.
Winkler is still going strong at age 76, his energy was amazing and he is entering his third season of a popular show on HBO called “Barry.” We left the dinner Saturday entertained, but more importantly uplifted. We also left knowing that Henry Winkler is much more than “The Fonz,” Henry Winkler is a legend in his business and an inspiration to all.
– Joe Reinagel