When our producers wanted to invite TV legend Henry Winkler to the show, Oprah gave the idea two big thumbs up—and even had Al's Diner rebuilt on set!
A TV icon was born when Happy Days premiered in 1974—the jukebox-thumping, motorcycle-riding Arthur " Fonzie" Fonzarelli. By 1976, the show had 22 million viewers and was number one in the ratings. But becoming "the king of cool" wasn't an easy road for Henry. Born to immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, Henry says he struggled in school but eventually graduated from the Yale School of Drama. He got his acting career started in commercials—even sharing one with future Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman. Soon, Henry started landing guest roles in shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. After Happy Days ended, Henry continued playing The Fonz in guest appearances on the show's spin-off, Laverne & Shirley.
Since Happy Days ended, Henry has produced, directed and starred in many box office hits. He's also added the role of children's author to his list of accomplishments.
Audiences of all ages still recognize The Fonz's telltale "aayyy," and millions have seen Fonzie's jacket at the Smithsonian. Still, Henry says he doesn't feel like a television icon. "I don't think of myself in those terms," Henry says. "I am a husband to Stacey. I have three children."
Whether he was bringing another chickadee to her knees or jumping the shark, Henry says playing Fonzie brought out a different side of himself. "The Fonz was everybody I wasn't. He was everybody I wanted to be," Henry says. "He really liked his friends and he took care of his friends. Part of what I based him on was loyalty."