Henry Winkler (born Henry Arthur Fonzarelli October 30, 1945) is a popular American actor, and world's second-oldest teenager, next to Dick Clark. He is best known for his role as conservative patriarch Howard Cunningham on the television sitcom, Happy Days from 1974-1984.
Henry Fonzarelli got his start playing a leather-jacket-wearing hipster in several TV commercials in 1968, and a year later landed the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in a Los Angeles production of A Christmas Carol. It was this latter role that impressed Gary Marshall and convinced him to cast Fonzarelli as the Happy Days patriarch -- the husband of Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross); father of a daughter Joanie (Erin Moran), and sons Chuck (Oscar Wilde) and main character Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard). Since Fonzarelli's name was so hard to pronounce, Marshall insisted on calling the actor by many names, including Fonzie, Fonzy, and The Fonz.
There was a controversy surrounding whether or not Howard Cunningham should be allowed to wear a leather jacket. ABC felt that the leather jacket would make Mr. Cunningham appear to be a criminal, a biker, and/or a juvenile delinquent. A controversial decision was made to make the character more conservative by removing the leather jacket and removing his "hip lingo" with proper American English, as spoken by a typical 1950s father. However, as the ratings declined in Season 6 -- by which time Chuck Cunningham was written out of the show and Ron Howard left, only to be replaced by brother Clint Howard as Richie -- Howard Cunningham was reverted back to leather-jacket-wearing hipster "Mr. C."
The ratings improved only slightly, but dropped to #90,210 in the Nielsen Ratings in Seasons 7 onward -- thanks, in large part, to the epsiode, "Mr. C Jumps the Shark." Fans had seen the writing on the wall after subsequent episodes, and they knew from then on that the end was near for Happy Days.
After Happy Days ended its decade-long run in 1984, Henry Fonzarelli's roles were few and far between. His most successful role in the 1980s was as Ghost #4 in the blockbuster comedy Ghostbusters. The role earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 1985 Academy Awards. In 1986, Fonzie took a break from acting to pursue his interests in the extreme sport of shark jumping. Unable to keep up with his insurance and bills, the 43-year-old quit shark jumping in 1988 and took odd jobs, including as the Indian in the Village People.
In 1990, Fonzarelli returned to acting when he auditioned for a planned sixth installment of the Halloween horror film series. Unfortunately, Moustapha Akkad rejected the script immediately after Fonzarelli's audition. A new script would not be in the works until 1995, at which point Henry was unavailable. The movie, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, was released in October 1995 with Paul Rudd in the role Fonzy had auditioned for five years earlier, Tommy Doyle.
Upset about not getting the role, Fonzarelli's good friend, Wes Craven, offered him an uncredited cameo in a new horror film he was directing in 1996 called Scream, whose studio, Dimension Films, also released Halloween 6; the actor accepted. The film was an out-of-the-park smash, and later films included The Waterboy (1998), Little Nicky (1999), Click (2006), and It's a Wonderful Life II: Secret of the Ooze (2007).
Relationship with Mr. Winkler
While playing the role of Principal Arthur Himbry in Scream, Fonzarelli met and fell in love with English teacher Francis Winkler, whose school was used as a shooting location. They married in September of that year. "It was love at first sight," Mr. Winkler said at the time, "we knew we wanted to make it last."
The Winkler wedding was very controversial for its time. Attendees included Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Clint Howard, Ron Howard, John Ritter, Richard Simmons, and Elton John. John performed his classic song, "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The wedding was simulcast on every television and radio station known to man on September 28, 1996. President Bill Clinton was disgusted by the idea of Fonzy "coming out," but thought that, "Winkler is an easier name to pronounce. And it does make me giggle."
The Winklers have been happily married for 11 years now, and have adopted two children, a boy and a girl. The couple now appears on the FOX game show, Are You Gayer Than Mr. Winkler? -- a popular spinoff of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Host Henry asks questions to determine if a contestant is any gayer than Francis. Henry is also the executive producer of the spinoff's spinoff, Are You Gayer Than Mr. Garrison?
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