“The Fonz” was honored by PPB at its celebrity luncheon on January 29. President Alan Perris presented the Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award to Henry Winkler after a program featuring several of Winkler’s friends and colleagues.
Born October 30, 1945 in New York City, Henry loved performing, and by the age of 14, he had decided to become an actor. Despite poor grades, his excellent audition won him acceptance into Yale University's Drama School. At Yale, Winkler devoted his time to performing, often rehearsing one play by day and performing in another by night. After graduation, he moved back to New York to make his mark on Broadway.
In 1973, Winkler moved to Los Angeles to take his shot at a career in television. Within two weeks he won a part as Valerie Harper's date on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and followed with a bigger role on The Bob Newhart Show. After a month in Los Angeles, Winkler was homesick for life in New York and decided to move back. Before packing his bags, he went on one last audition, for the role of a biker in producer Garry Marshall's new TV series, Happy Days. Marshall originally envisioned a big hunky Italian in the part, but after Winkler's audition, his exhausting search ended.
On January 15, 1974, Henry Winkler made his television debut as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on Happy Days. Despite few lines and a secondary place in the story line, Winkler began attracting attention. Before long, Winkler was receiving top billing alongside Ron Howard. His newfound fame was almost overwhelming as "Fonzie Fever" swept the nation.
Winkler's first major film role was also in 1974 in The Lord's of Flatbush in which he played a member of a Brooklyn gang.
After the cancellation of Happy Days, Winkler formed his own production company and went on to produce the successful television series Ryan's Four and MacGyver,. as well as directing the film Memories of Me (1988). Continuing his diverse acting career, he has performed in such films as the teen horror hit Scream (1996), The Waterboy (1998), starring Adam Sandler, the Emmy-winning television series The Practice and Arrested Development.
Off screen, Winkler is a devoted husband for over 30 years. He married wife Stacey Weitzman in 1978 and is a dedicated father to their two children as well as stepfather to Weitzman's son from a previous marriage. His dedication to children extends beyond his family; he served as the producer of All the Kids are Doing It and Strong Kids, Safe Kids and is an advocate for several groups that benefit underprivileged children. Additionally, he is involved with the Epilepsy Foundation, Toys for Tots, and other charitable organizations.
Pictured Below Seated, left to right: Carol Leifer, Honoree Henry The Fonz Winkler, Garry Marshall and Vin DiBona. Standing, left to right: Mark Feuerstein, PPB President Alan Perris and Jason Ehrlich. (Don Graham photo)