‘Happy Days’: A Young and Impatient Henry Winkler Got Taught an Important Lesson on Set

by Taylor Cunningham

Unlike most actors, Henry Winkler didn’t struggle to find stardom in Hollywood. After he graduated from Yale’s drama school, he had instant success as the Fonz on Happy Days. Because of that, Winkler didn’t start out as humble as he is these days. And in a recent interview, Winkler remembered the moment that he realized fame was getting to his head.

When Winkler was just starting out as the cool greaser Arthur Fonzarelli, a mall offered him a high-paying celebrity gig. And the night he was supposed to work, he was stuck on the set of Happy Days. The cast had wrapped up for the evening. But the guest actors and actresses were still going through their introductions. And Henry Winkler was getting annoyed.

And series creator Garry Marshall decided to teach the young star a little bit about respect. Marshall “had time for everyone,” and he wanted Winkler to act the same way.

“One night, I was rushing to make my first personal appearance—I was going to get $1,000 to show up in Little Rock, Arkansas and sign autographs at the mall,” he told Old Goats. “I went up to him during the Friday night filming with members of the guest cast [smaller roles] and I said, ‘Can we hurry it up because I have to fly.’ And he waited and then he put down the microphone, and he held me against the wall.”

Once Marshall had Winkler’s attention, he explained how things worked on Winkler’s set.

“He said, they [the guest cast] have every right to be introduced— just like you in the beginning. What he showed me was respect for the total of the ensemble behind and in front of the camera.”

‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Explains Why He Always Has Time to Meet Fans

Henry Winkler always has time for his adoring fans. He believes kindness goes a long way, and if people took the time to watch Happy Days, he can take the time to properly greet them. Furthermore, Winkler appreciates the people he meets. And he really enjoys their memories of his career in Hollywood.

“The warmth I receive when people come up and say I watched Happy Days with my grandmother, it was the time my family had together,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Or ohmigosh, ‘Scream’ or ‘The Waterboy’ [or] ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘Arrested Development’ ‘Better Late Than Never’ and now ‘Barry,’ I cannot tell you how it crosses all the lines.”

So when Henry Winkler does meet and greets, he makes the events more intimate.

“I come there, most people sit behind the table and there’s a table between them and the fan,” Winkler said. “I stand on the other side of the table and meet people. Because if an actor says give me a half-hour or an hour of your time every week for multiple years, and then they come and say ‘Hello’ and you don’t meet them halfway, I think that is bad behavior.”