Stars of two of the most popular sitcoms of 1970s and early 1980s – “Happy Days” and “Three’s Company” – were friends.
Those stars were Henry Winker, who played Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on “Happy Days,” and John Ritter who played Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company.” According to an interview Winkler gave to CrazedFanBoy.com, their friendship started thanks to a special anniversary celebration.
That event was the 25th anniversary celebration of the ABC network, according to Winkler. As fortune would have it, the “Happy Days” actor and Ritter were seated right next to one another during the event. Having seen footage of Ritter’s work, Winkler took the opportunity to praise the up-and-coming star for his comedic efforts.
“We met at the 25th anniversary of the ABC network. There was a big party. John’s table was directly next to mine. Our chairs were back to back,” Winkler recalled. “I leaned over and whispered to him that I thought the promo for his new show “Three’s Company” was very funny and that his physical comedy in it was fantastic. That started a long and loving friendship.”
Interestingly, Winkler and Ritter shared something in common before they officially met during that anniversary celebration. Both actors appeared on the popular “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
According to IMDb.com, Winkler appeared on the 1973 episode titled “The Dinner Party.” In it, he played Steve Waldman. Ritter’s appearance on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” came in 1975. He appeared in the episode “Ted’s Wedding” as Reverend Chatfield.
Winkler played “The Fonz” on “Happy Days” from 1974 until 1984. Ritter was on “Three’s Company” from 1976 until 1984.
‘Happy Days’ Star Mourned John Ritter After Ritter’s Death in 2003
After John Ritter’s unexpected death in 2003, “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler was one of many people who paid tribute to the late comedic actor. In fact, Winkler wrote a special tribute to Ritter in a December 2003 article for Entertainment Weekly.
“I met John at ABC’s 25th anniversary party in 1978. When he walked into a room, his utter Johnness just filled it up, every corner, every crevice,” Winkler wrote. “It was a life force, a joy, an energy that made you think ‘My God, how does he maintain it?’ He was so gigantic, smart, and perceptive. And so funny. There was so much funny in him that it was almost like his body couldn’t contain it.”
Interestingly, Winkler’s friendship with Ritter allowed him to see a side of Ritter that the public did not. Ritter, Winkler wrote, was much more serious in private than his public persona would have allowed people to believe.
“He was always on a search, looking for an answer, not carefree like so many people think. His was not a soul that skipped through the world,” Winkler said. “He was duty-bound — a quality that made him an incredible dad and husband.”
John Ritter died on Sept. 11, 2003. He was 54 at the time of his death.