Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler lives by two words: tenacity and gratitude
Henry Winkler may have hung up Fonzie’s leather jacket over 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. The 66-year-old actor has regularly acted, directed and co-authored 17 children books about a boy named Hank Zipzer who suffers from dyslexia, as Winkler does.
And today his schedule is as crammed as ever. There’s his role on ‘Children’s Hospital,’ the first live action series on Cartoon Network, a recurring part in ‘Royal Pains,’ a recently released book about his love of fly-fishing, and what he’s most proud of, a new children’s book series called ‘Ghost Buddy.’
FOX411: You’ve got a new book out.
Henry Winkler: ‘Ghost Buddy,’ and I would unabashedly like people to buy it. This is a brand new series. It’s about a 12-year-old boy named Billy Broccoli who moves into a brand new house with a blended family and on the first night realizes that there is a 14-year-old ghost who’s been dead for 99 years living in his closet.
FOX411: Billy gets bullied at school. Were you bullied?
Winkler: When I was younger and in the bottom 3 percent academically, and I went to a private school with a blue blazer, grey slacks and a tie. I was bullied because I couldn’t keep up. I understand what that is and I understand that you cannot allow yourself to be defined by bullies.
What happens when you are bullied it affects your self image, it affects exactly every action you take and you’re constantly chasing who you think you should be friends with as opposed to the confidence that some kids just have who don’t have to work so hard.
FOX411: Isn’t it ironic that you grew up playing Fonzie the most confident character ever?
Winkler: What was great is I was playing my alter ego, everybody I wanted to be and didn’t manage until a few years ago to align up to become.
The other night I was watching the star of ‘The Artist’ Jean Dujardin on Jay Leno and he said he watched The Fonz and he was his inspiration. It was so cool I didn’t know what to do. I thought to myself how am I going to let him know that my heart soared when I watched his film and I thought on Monday I can call an agent. Over the weekend I got a call from his agency who said, ‘He needs to have dinner with you to thank you for being his friend growing up.’ Isn’t that amazing? So yesterday I went to where he was shooting a ‘Funny or Die’ video and we hugged and we talked about things and he’s going to come over for dinner.
Winkler: Oh my God! It’s so amazing! Really the circle was completed out of the cosmos so quickly my head spun.
FOX411: After a few years Fonzie almost had magical powers. Did you ever think this is a little ridiculous?
Winkler: No. We went, the four boys, myself, Ron (Howard) Anson (Williams) and Don (Most) to Dallas and we made a personal appearance at a department store and 25,000 people came to say hello, and Anson said, ‘Wow do we deserve this?’ and I said, ‘That’s not even the question. They came here, you just say thank you because all I know is they thought it was worth their time to come and say hi and I appreciate it that.’ And I’ve appreciated that ever since I graduated from drama school. I live by two words. One is tenacity and the other is gratitude. Tenacity gets you to your dreams and the gratitude doesn’t allow you to be angry on the journey.
FOX411: You were THE guy in the 70’s.
Winkler: People are unbelievable to me to this day.
FOX411: Because everyone grew up with you! Everyone worships you!
Winkler: Well I don’t know about worship, but they sure are lovely.