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Henry Winkler is coming to Clearwater to tell tales of his happy days

He has anecdotes and lessons from his four decades in Hollywood.
Henry Winkler will be at Clearwater's Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theater on April 2 sharing anecdotes and lessons from his four-decade career.
Henry Winkler will be at Clearwater's Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theater on April 2 sharing anecdotes and lessons from his four-decade career. [ PICASA | Ruth Eckerd Hall ]
Published Mar. 30

We first got to know and love Henry Winkler, now 76, when he played the super-cool Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on Happy Days, one of the biggest hits in television history. After it left the air in 1984, its breakout star found himself typecast.

He then spent the next four decades redefining himself as a producer, director, author and award-winning character actor on just about every platform offered in entertainment, including TikTok.

He is responsible for bringing MacGyver to television and the expression “jump the shark,” which he literally did on Happy Days. Though the phrase is now meant to indicate when a show is on its downside creatively, he points out that his show remained No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for four years after that fateful episode.

Winkler will be at Clearwater’s Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre on Saturday, offering anecdotes and lessons he’s learned from his storied career, and also taking questions from the audience. He learned late in life that he has dyslexia, and he used that reading disorder as the basis for a long string of children’s books.

Emmy winners Bill Hader, left, and Henry Winkler will return to play Barry and Gene on HBO's "Barry" on April 24.
Emmy winners Bill Hader, left, and Henry Winkler will return to play Barry and Gene on HBO's "Barry" on April 24. [ ISABELLA VOSMIKOVA | HBO ]

We talked to the beloved actor, who is enjoying some of his best years professionally, with an Emmy-winning turn on the hit HBO show Barry, a slew of children’s books on the shelves and a part in one of the strongest ensemble casts of 2021 in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch.

Where are you calling from?

My office in L.A. I’m looking out at my backyard. I have a Fauci pillow called “Fauch on the couch.” He has been in every Zoom that I have done. On the other side are my children’s books. There are 37.

What is your talk at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater going to be like?

I have a PowerPoint, which has some photos that are informative, and hopefully some are funny. And I will be joined on stage with an old friend, Jimmy Ritz, who I met when he was a budding writer on Happy Days. I have a lot of different stories to tell.

The one my speech is based on is that I was told I would never achieve. I was told I was lazy and stupid. And here I am tonight talking to you.

You spent a lot of time in the Tampa Bay area directing Cop and a Half with Burt Reynolds in 1992.

I had a great time in Tampa. I still have a belt given to me by the St. Pete police force. It is leather and tooled and has a beautiful belt buckle with the insignia of the St. Pete police force.

Happy Days was my favorite show as a kid, but my 12-year-old self did not like the image of girls jumping to his side when Fonzie snapped his fingers. Do you look back on old shows and movies and think they would have to be written differently today?

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I understand. My joke advice to people is do not snap your fingers because women will break them.

Happy Days is how you became a household name, but it is also why you didn’t get work as an actor for almost a decade afterward. What advice can you give from that experience?

You must look at the situation, accept the reality and reinvent yourself. That’s how we got MacGyver.

As the son of Jews who fled the Nazis, do current events in Ukraine with millions fleeing their homes resonate with you?

How can it not resonate with anybody? All of these people a minute ago were buying juice at the market and planning Saturday night dinner with their friends. And now they are leaving the country they love and for no reason at all. ... What is amazing is you think to yourself, history repeats itself. We haven’t learned one damn thing. The hate that goes on in a country that is free. We should just coexist.

What’s your advice for people in their 60s and 70s who want to remain active?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m extraordinarily lucky that I remain active in my dream job. However, there are so many ways to give back. Go into classrooms. Be tutors. Teachers are overwhelmed by the number of students. Volunteer. The warmth and wisdom is not lost on a child.

There’s a great expression when you want something done: Give it to a busy person. Do I negotiate with my knees when trying to get out of bed? Can I do the limbo anymore? No. I dance from the waist up now.

If you go

Henry Winkler: The actor will spend an evening telling anecdotes and lessons from his four-decade career.

Where: Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater, at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: $39-$150 at rutheckerdhall.com.

The term "jump the shark" came from this 1977 episode of Happy Days when Fonzie (Henry Winkler) accepted a challenge to jump over a shark tank while water skiing.
The term "jump the shark" came from this 1977 episode of Happy Days when Fonzie (Henry Winkler) accepted a challenge to jump over a shark tank while water skiing. [ ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES | ABC ]
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