The name Henry Winkler is somehow best associated with the character of Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli from the hit series Happy Days. Fonzie quickly became the icon and the epitome of cool during the 1970’s.
Winkler was born on October 30, 1945, in New York City. Speaking of his career as an actor, and later producer, director and writer, Winkler said he always knew acting was his calling. “I knew that I wanted to act since I was old enough to reason,” he told NPR in 2019. “I never had a Plan B. I never deviated. I never thought that there was anything else that I could possibly do in this world except to try and be a working actor.”
His parents were unaware of his dyslexia and labeled him as “dumb,” even going as far as calling him a ‘Dummo Hund,’ or dumb dog.
Despite the condition, young Winkler attended university and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in 1967 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama in 1970.
After taking part in a short-lived Broadway production in 1972, Winkler turned to commercials and became a famous face. “I got great at getting commercials and I didn’t have to do another job to make ends meet. I made my living and I could do plays for free at the Manhattan Theatre Club at night.”
When he appeared on Happy Days, millions of fans fell for his charm and manly appearance, and his motorcycle and leather jacket became sort of trademarks of the series. Although the role marked his acting career, he admitted once that it took him around eight years to get a good acting role after Fonz.
He acknowledged dyslexia as a silent barrier that had impacted his life. He was only able to overcome auditions by memorizing scripts, and used humor to mask any inadequacies, claiming to provide the ‘essence of the character.’
After the series was over, the Prime Time Emmy Award winner switched focus from acting to producing and directing. His production company produced many shows, including MacGyver, So Weird, and Mr. Sunshine. He starred in the movies like Scream and The Waterboy and on shows such as The Practice and Arrested Development.
In 2018, Winkler took the role of the acting teacher Gene Cousineau in the comedy/drama series Barry where he plays alongside Bill Hader. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the shooting of the series has been delayed. “We were reading the scripts for Barry. On March 13, they said, ‘Go home and don’t come back,’” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Then we heard July, then we heard September, now January…Praying we go back to work in January. I’ve been sitting here waiting to be Gene Cousineau since December of 2018.”
Since the early 2000’s, Winkler published around 30 books.
“The first time I was asked to write the books I didn’t even entertain the idea. I said to Alan Berger [Winkler’s agent at CAA] who made the suggestion to me there’s no way I could never write a book,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2011.
Winkler and wife Stacey Furstman Weitzman have been married since 1978.
The couple first met when he entered a clothing shop where she worked looking for a coat. Stacey helped him choose and he returned a week later and asked her on a date that she almost declined.
Speaking of their first encounter, Winkler recalled, “She was wearing purple parachute pants, and she had red hair, and without her even saying a word, I thought, ‘Woah, beautiful woman standing in front of me’. I came back to the store the next week, and she was there. And within 10 minutes, I learned how strong she is.”
Soon after they started dating, Stacey and her then 4-year-old son moved in with Winkler and the couple was starting to learn how to handle Winkler’s growing popularity.
”People would rush up to Henry and literally walk over my feet. One time I said, ‘You’ve just completely ruined my stockings.’ And this woman said, ‘But I love Fonzie!’” Stacey once shared with People.
The two welcomed a daughter and a son together, Zoey and Max.
Max followed into his dad’s footsteps and is working in Hollywood as a writer, producer, and director on popular productions such as New Girl and Crazy Ex Girlfriend.
Stacey is a two time cancer survivor. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer during the ’90s, and then again in 2007 when she underwent double mastectomy and is cancer free ever since.
In support of his wife, Winkler has gotten involved in a number of organizations which help raise breast cancer awareness. Among the rest, he was a guest speaker at the 13th annual “In The Pink of Health” Luncheon, an event that is one of many run by the organization to raise money for breast cancer patients and their families.
What we love about Winkler is that he’s never afraid to express his love for his wife of many years publicly. When James Corden surprised them with a photo of their wedding day on his show, Winkler said Stacey has been as beautiful as the first day he laid eyes on her.
”It does take work. There are glitches in the road, and you get a little off kilter, but if you have the ability and the stick-to-itiveness based on love, then your friendship and your relationship only gets better,” Stacey once explained to People when speaking of the couple’s long lasting marriage.
Henry Winkler and his wife love being grandparents.
These two are a true inspiration.
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