Last year marked 17 years since beloved television star John Ritter died after collapsing on the set of his hit show 8 Simple Rules. It was a shocking ending to an illustrious and lifelong career for one of Hollywood’s favorite comedic actors. Henry Winkler, who was his close friend, recently said the pain of Ritter’s death still lingers.
Henry Winkler and Ritter had both been on iconic television shows in the 1960s and 1970s. Winkler starred as “The Fonz” on Happy Days and Ritter was on Three’s Company. They’d been friends and colleagues for decades when Ritter died.
Winkler had actually been preparing for a guest-starring role on Ritter’s show 8 Simple Rules when he collapsed. Paramedics rushed Ritter to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He had a tear in his aorta, a rare medical condition, and died after undergoing surgery, his obituary said. John Ritter was 54 years old.
Winkler has discussed their friendship several times in the press. They met at an ABC anniversary event and immediately got along. Winkler said he was wowed by Ritter’s quick wit and sense of humor.
“I miss John Ritter every day,” he said in 2006. “John Ritter could tell the same joke every single day, could repeat himself every day. It was as funny as the first time you ever heard it.”
Winkler Spoke with John Ritter Shortly Before his Death
Henry Winkler and John Ritter had a long working relationship also. They’d were starring in a play and Winkler was going to guest star on Ritter’s television show when Ritter died. They’d spoken just before his death about their work together.
“I was on his show,” Winkler said. “(He and I) were talking. We were sharing a moment about the play [The Dinner Party] we had just done with Neil Simon. He said, ‘I’m sweating, I’m gonna get some water.’ I said, ‘I’m gonna memorize my lines so I don’t stink up the room.’”
That was the last time they saw each other. Winkler said he got a call later that day that Ritter died shortly after their conversation.