‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Told Incredible Story of Dreaming About First Emmy Win

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

True story. Happy Days star Henry Winkler used to dream of the evening when he’d give his first Emmy speech.

Fonzie might be too cool to ever admit such a fact. But Winkler wasn’t. The dream happened when Winkler was young and long before he started his amazing career. It was years before his Fonzie performance on Happy Days made him a pop-culture phenomenon. Winkler described the dream to Vulture back in 2018.

“When I was dreaming about being an actor — of course you’re sitting in your apartment in New York City,” Winkler said. “It’s Sunday night. You’re watching the Emmy Awards, or the Golden Globe Awards, or the Oscars. And you’re dreaming about being an actor. And you think, “Will I ever be called?” Of course, you’re holding a hairbrush, or a bunch of pencils held together by a rubber band, and you’re giving a speech in your mirror, when you’re not pretending you’re Paul Anka mouthing the words to “Diana.” Then all of a sudden, you’re in the mix. You’re there, and you can’t believe it.”

Henry Winkler Finally Won Emmy, But Not for Happy Days

Coincidentally, when Winkler gave this interview to Vulture, he was days away from earning his first-ever Emmy. But the Emmy had nothing to do with Happy Days. Rather, he earned it for playing acting coach Gene Cousineau on HBO’s Barry.

And this is a true story, too. When Winkler won his first-ever Emmy, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He’s a well-liked, well-respected guy in Hollywood. Plus, Winkler gave the speech he prepared four decades before, just in case he won for being on Happy Days.

Other best supporting actor nominees were Louie Anderson (Baskets), Alec Baldwin (Saturday Night Live), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Keenan Thompson (SNL) for the award.

“I only have 37 seconds,” Winkler said in his acceptance speech. “I wrote this 43 years ago. Can I just say (agent) Skip Brittenham said to me a long time ago, ‘If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you,’ and tonight I got to clear the table.”

Winkler continued “If you get a chance to work with (Barry co-creators) Bill Hader or Alec Berg, run don’t walk. Thank you for producing us, for creating us, for directing us and for Bill for acting with us, and for all of our wonderful writers.”

And then he kept it authentic. Four decades ago, he wrote in his speech to tell his children to go to bed. Winkler said in his Emmy win: “Kids, kids! Jed, Zoe and Max, you can go to bed now. Daddy won!”

Winkler’s kids are all adults. Maybe they’ll be dreaming about future speeches, too, just like their dad.