‘Happy Days’: Potsie Actor Anson Williams Reconciled with Father After Childhood Struggles

by Halle Ames
(Photo Credit: Gabe Ginsberg/ Getty Images)

Actor Anson Williams, who plays Potsie on Happy Days, once opened up about his childhood struggles with his father. 

Anson Williams was born in Los Angeles on September 25, 1949, to a Jewish family. His father’s name was Haskell Heimlich. Growing up, Williams had big dreams of becoming a singer and actor. 

Throughout the 1970s, Anson Williams starred in minor roles while also playing shows in local clubs and bars. It wasn’t until 1974 that Williams got his big break as the role of Potsie Weber on the hit series Happy Days

As many parents know, you make sacrifices on your children’s behalf in the hopes that having them follow their dreams will lead to happiness and success. And while most parents stand in the background as your cheerleader, this, unfortunately, wasn’t the case for Anson Williams.  

Anson Williams Relationship With His Father

In a 2014 interview with Hollywood Chicago, the news source asked him about his strained relationship with his father, Haskell Heimlich, he references in his book. It appears that Heimlich resented his son for the dreams he had to give up. However, Williams noted that the two reconciled their struggles, saying he doesn’t blame his father. 

“We did make up years later, and we did bond,” reveals Anson Williams. “When I was younger, he had issues with his own upbringing and had lingering effects from his service in World War II. He spent his 21st birthday in a trench getting shot at – the man saw hell. His transition into the real-life after the army was really difficult for him, and I came along when he was in his mid-twenties. I don’t blame him for being frustrated. It came out of his own desperate needs.”

Furthermore, this isn’t the first time the strained relationship has been brought up. In a 2014 article by OnMilwaukee, Anson Williams opens up on his “broken” childhood, revealing his father’s constant disappointment.

“Every day of my life, my dad said something like, “If it weren’t for you, I’d have my art gallery, and I wouldn’t have to feed your stupid face.” My dad made sure his failure was my failure, and I didn’t let him down: I was irresponsible, insecure, klutzy. I was shocked after my first day of work when Willie said I did a good job and that he liked me.”

Father Figure

Fortunately, Anson Williams did find an unlikely father figure in his life that supported him. He came in the form of a friend and boss named Willie Turner. 

“Willie was an African American man in his 50s. He was an alcoholic, illiterate janitor. When I was 15, I was an unfocused, unconfident kid. I knew everything I did wrong and nothing I did right. I was broken. My family did not have any money, and when I started to want things, I got a job as an assistant janitor at a Leonard’s Department Store in Burbank, Calif. Willie was my boss. If he hadn’t helped me, I would not be here talking to you today.”

Anson Williams continued, explaining how Willie Turner changed his life by constantly encouraging him to strive to be better.

“He said things to me like, ‘You special, boy. You’re gonna do something great in life.’ He told me, ‘You don’t look at the mountain. You climb the mountain.’ This changed my life. He gave me so many life lessons, and they were amazingly important and timely for me. I never forgot them or him.”

Williams went on to try and be a better father than what he had growing up. He married twice, first with Lorrie Mahaffey in 1978 until 1986 and then Jackie Gerken. Last year the 71-year-old actor filed for divorce, however.

Anson Williams and Gerken have five children together.