‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Opens Up on Falling Off the ‘Mountaintop’ of Acting When Show Ended

by Michael Freeman

Back when Happy Days was in its prime, the world couldn’t get enough of Henry Winkler and the Fonz. However, after the show ended, Winkler reports he fell off the “mountaintop” of acting.

Jonathan Alter had a long, interesting talk with Henry Winkler for his Old Goats column about a plethora of topics. From Winkler’s mentality about life to things he’s learned through the years, nothing was off-limits. Naturally, Winkler’s tenure with Happy Days was mentioned.

Alter asked at one point if there was ever downtime between roles. Specifically, where Winkler wasn’t necessarily struggling but had trouble landing parts.

“When Happy Days finished, ABC said if I brought then a show I liked and it appealed to them, they would put it straight on to television,” Winkler began. “They gave me an office and an assistant. And the first show that I brought to ABC (with my partner at the time) was MacGyver.”

He continued, saying he actually had trouble landing parts as an actor for an 8-year timespan. “But as an actor I went from the mountaintop—55,000 letters a week— and slid right into the valley for the next eight, nine years. I started to produce because I couldn’t get hired as an actor from 1983 all the way to 1991.”

Winkler stating he began producing because he couldn’t get acting roles raises some interesting questions. If he had been more successful in that regard, could he have become even more famous and beloved than he is today?

Regardless, he seems happy with the way things turned out and that’s all that really matters.

Henry Winkler Says Fans Often Tell Him They Bought a Motorcycle Because of the Fonz

The Fonz served as an idol on Happy Days when it aired. The leather jacket, hair, and motorcycle were all iconic and it’s hard to imagine Henry Winkler’s character without them. In fact, the character was so influential Winkler once stated fans frequently tell him they bought a motorcycle purely because of him.

In the same interview, Alter mentioned his household rules for his children.

“No motorcycles,” turned out to be one of them. Winkler found this amusing and told him something his fans often say to him. “People literally tell me that they ride a motorcycle because the character inspired them, but I never rode a motorcycle in my life. I just acted like I knew what I was doing.”

Alter said he never would have guessed. He said the Fonz seemed like “somebody that you could never be.” Winkler responded he was correct and funnily, even Winkler couldn’t be him. In his own words, he was a nervous wreck around women. “No, he was somebody that I wanted to be. In high school, I would call a girl in the middle of August and I would wear an overcoat because I was so nervous I shook.”

Something tells me if Winkler actually smacked a jukebox he’d break it.