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Henry Winkler: Hollywood’s leading mensch

Henry Winkler: Hollywood's leading mensch

Henry Winkler can be within the Valley this month because the featured speaker for the Jewish Federation of Larger Phoenix’s MEGA 2019 occasion. Although he doesn’t have a favourite spot within the Valley, he says, “I like that once I come there, I’m all the time handled with monumental heat.”

It’s not arduous to deal with Henry with monumental heat. If you converse to him or watch interviews with him on tv, his gratitude and humility about his success are evident. You by no means hear something destructive about him, which for somebody who has been in present enterprise so long as he has, proves that he’s genuinely a pleasant man – an actual mensch.

Henry expresses the significance of talking at occasions like MEGA. “I share not solely my Jewishness, however I share my wrestle with dyslexia. What I’ve discovered, once I converse far and wide, individuals come as much as me they usually go, ‘Oh my God, I feel I’m you … how did you perceive me so properly … I feel I didn’t catch that in my very own baby. So it appears to resonate, and so long as it resonates, I’m going to journey.”



Henry as a younger boy.

Henry all the time struggled in class, he would discover that he wasn’t maintaining with the opposite youngsters academically, however he suffered in silence. “I used to be within the backside three% academically within the nation,” he remembers.

However a tremendous revelation occurred when Henry’s stepson, Jed Weitzman was recognized with dyslexia within the third grade. Henry was 31 on the time, and all the things they have been saying about Jed rang true about himself.

“The very first thing is you get very indignant since you assume, ‘Oh my gosh, all of that yelling, all of that grounding, was for naught,’ ” says Henry. His mother and father all the time thought he was lazy and wasn’t making use of himself and would punish him for poor grades.

He realized the issue was in the best way his mind was wired and that it was additionally one thing he had inherited, however he’s unsure from whom. “I by no means noticed traces of it in my mother and father as a result of they might spell; my father spoke 11 languages – it simply appeared all the things was straightforward for them –­ it simply wasn’t straightforward for me,” he says. “(I assumed) you gave it to me, and now you’re yelling at me.”

Henry additionally got here to the belief that maybe he was profitable in his profession as a result of the wrestle truly made him stronger, that he needed to battle via it and determine it out.

He additionally had a 180-degree shift in his personal parenting, as he realized that he too had accused his youngsters of being lazy when it got here to making use of themselves at college. Henry has two organic youngsters together with his spouse, Stacey. His daughter, Zoe, is a instructor, and son Max is a director. Each have dyslexia.



Henry was experiencing a lull in his appearing profession in 2003, when his then supervisor, Alan Berger, instructed that he write a youngsters’s e-book. Henry replied, “I’m silly. I can’t write a e-book. I don’t know tips on how to write a ebook.” Alan informed him to not fear, that he was going to introduce him to Lin Oliver, who “knew the whole lot about youngsters’s literature.”

That was the start of the collaboration between Lin and Henry that has produced 28 chapter books for younger readers. The primary collection adopted the “on a regular basis adventures of a vibrant boy with studying challenges” named Hank Zipzer. Type of seems like somebody acquainted, huh?

After 16 books within the “Hank Zipzer” collection, Lin and Henry wrote 12 books underneath the “Right here’s Hank” title, a prequel that includes the identical character in second grade.

The title character isn’t the one factor particular about these books. The writer, Penguin Random Home, used a font designed by a Dutch father who has a dyslexic son and can also be dyslexic himself. “It makes studying a lot simpler,” says Henry. “The font actually helps you whenever you simply can’t determine it out – it’s superb. We have been very pleased with that.”

Since January, Henry has been on a e-book tour selling what would be the final e-book within the collection, “Everyone Is Anyone.” When requested why that is the final “Right here’s Hank,” Henry replies, “The writer stated, ‘Hey, how about we name it quits,’ I assumed that was an indication.”

Followers of Henry Winkler, the writer, needn’t worry. He has begun work on a brand new collection of three books revolving across the theme, “don’t decide a e-book by its cowl.” Just like the Hank books, this collection might be geared for youngsters ages eight to 11.

Followers of Hank can even watch the British present, “Hank Zipzer” on Common Youngsters. Henry explains why Britain picked up the present. “I couldn’t promote it in America for tv as a result of he has an issue, and everyone knows that youngsters like aspirational – they don’t like youngsters with issues. However 1 out of 5 has an issue.”

The present ran for 3 years. . A associated film made referred to as “Hank Zipzer’s Christmas Disaster” gained the Worldwide Emmy Youngsters Award within the class for TV film/mini-series. in April 2018.

Requested what he hopes  youngsters take away from the Hank books, Henry is passionate in his reply. “Regardless of how troublesome it’s so that you can study as a person, it has nothing to do with how sensible you’re. That’s the fact.”



Henry says he needed to be an actor since he was sufficiently old to cause.

He graduated from Yale College’s Drama Faculty with a grasp’s diploma in 1970 and began working as an actor. His first jobs have been in commercials, as extras in films and repertory theater.

Then in 1974, a brand new present referred to as “Joyful Days” invited viewers into the idyllic residence of the Cunninghams and launched Arthur Fonzarelli, “Fonzie” or “The Fonz” to America.

Earlier than Henry was forged in that position, “Joyful Days” creator Garry Marshall had a totally totally different picture of Fonzie. “A taller character, an Italian, harder character – and a brief Jew walked in,” jokes Henry. “I simply thought to myself – I’m taller and Italian.”

It apparently labored, as a result of Henry made that position his personal. Together with his signature thumbs-up and “Ayyy!” he loved 10 years on the collection. Fonzie additionally made appearances on the “Glad Days” spin-off exhibits, “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” and “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

Is Henry nonetheless acknowledged because the Fonz?  “Every single day, 100 occasions a day, in each nation,” he says. “And I contemplate it to be a big praise.”

Earlier than you possibly can even get the query out if he was typecast after enjoying the Fonz for therefore lengthy, he replies, “Sure I used to be – however I simply labored by means of it. I turned a producer, one thing I didn’t even assume I might do or needed to do. After which it seems I’ve produced, end-to-end, 23 years of on-the-air collection.”

Henry gained his first Primetime Emmy Award for “Barry.”

He has labored as government producer on many tv exhibits together with “So Bizarre” on the Disney Channel, “Hollywood Squares,” “Sightings,” “Lifeless Man’s Gun,” “Mr. Sunshine” and “MacGyver.”

He’s additionally an government producer on the brand new “MacGyver,” which options Lucas Until because the younger 20-something Angus “Mac” MacGyver. The unique collection ran from 1985 to 1992 and starred Richard Dean Anderson because the title character. Lucas was simply 2 years previous when the unique present completed.

Henry says it was “unbelievable” to see the present’s resurgence and it has been persistently main the scores in its Friday night time time slot on CBS.

Filming additionally simply wrapped final December on the second season of “Barry,” which is scheduled for launch this spring on HBO. “Barry” is a darkish comedy that follows a hitman from the Midwest to Los Angeles the place he follows his “mark” into an appearing class and decides that he needs to turn into an actor.

Henry performs appearing instructor Gene Cousineau, who’s eccentric, fastidious and worshipped by the scholars in his class. “The problem is to take this actually huge, sort of arch(etype) character and maintain him actual.”

When requested if Henry attracts on a specific individual’s idiosyncrasies for Gene’s character, he replies, “He’s based mostly on each appearing instructor that I’ve had or that I’ve heard about.”

On Sept. 17, 2018, Henry took house his first Primetime Emmy Award for Excellent Supporting Actor in a Comedy. “I’ve been nominated many occasions and stayed in that chair many occasions. This time I received to face up, and that was implausible,” says Henry.

Requested the place the Emmy statue resides, he replies, “On the eating room desk! If you stroll into my home, you see it. Whenever you ship a package deal, you see it. I’m putting in a highlight for it, and making a sequence in order that I can put on it as a necklace.”



Henry’s mom, Ilse Anna Maria (Hadra) and father, Harry Irving Winkler, emigrated from Berlin to New York in 1939. His father was capable of safe a piece visa for six weeks. Harry was within the lumber enterprise and imported and exported wooden. On the time they left Germany, Harry knew they might not be returning, however he didn’t share his ideas together with his spouse.

Henry’s Uncle Helmut had deliberate to go away together with his brother. As an alternative, he determined to attend an additional day for a dinner jacket that was being completed on the tailors. That night time the Nazis got here and took him. He was ultimately despatched to Auschwitz, the place he died in 1942.

Henry’s first go to to Berlin was documented throughout an episode of the present “Higher Late Than By no means.” Through the present’s two-year run, Henry traveled the globe with William Shatner, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw and “sidekick” Jeff Dye experiencing totally different cultures and checking gadgets off of their bucket lists.

The Stolpersteine that bears Henry’s uncle’s identify.

Whereas in Berlin he was capable of see the memorial plaque that bears his uncle’s identify (referred to as a Stolpersteine or “stumbling stone”) positioned within the pavement in Nikolsburger Platz Park.

These small copper plaques, created by the German artist Gunter Demnig, are used to commemorate the people’ final place of residence or work earlier than they fell sufferer to the Nazis.

“I used to be not ready for the extraordinary emotion that got here,” admits Henry. “It was fairly intense once I seemed down, and I noticed the plaque with my uncle’s identify – who I by no means met – on it. That emotion that’s on the display was very true in the intervening time.”

Helmut was not the one relative to die within the Holocaust –  the Winklers misplaced virtually all their kinfolk. “Each relative I had principally have been fake,” says Henry. “That they had come over additionally, and the German-Jewish group turned my aunts and uncles.”

Henry says that his mother and father “talked concerning the journey, about how fantastic life was till it wasn’t. How everybody thrived, how they have been Germans first and couldn’t consider what occurred.”

In these first years in New York, the Winklers and different households based a congregation, although it didn’t have a constructing for a few years. They might lease out area in halls to carry providers. Then they constructed a constructing on 66th Road between Broadway and Central Park.

“I simply drove by it final week, as a result of we have been in New York on a guide tour, and the constructing is not there,” says Henry. The identify of the synagogue was Congregation Habonim – “the builders.”

Henry now observes sure holidays and is “observant with delight.” Final yr he invited “Fauda” creator and star, Lior Raz to interrupt the quick on Yom Kippur. “He got here together with his household, and I used to be late, and he was dismayed that they made me work on Yom Kippur.”

He additionally admits to typically engaged on Shabbat, particularly when making a tv collection.

His arduous work schedule through the years hasn’t appeared to have an effect on his marriage. Final yr, he and Stacey celebrated their 40th anniversary. They married on the peak of his fame throughout “Comfortable Days” – and he says an important factor for him in these early years was to guard the youngsters.

“At the moment, the paparazzi had some respect, they usually actually listened,” says Henry. “I stated, ‘Please, I’ll stand right here, and also you shoot me, however don’t shoot the youngsters.’ ” That’s why his youngsters have been not often seen within the press.

He talks with satisfaction about all his youngsters, however he ponders the truth that he has solely labored together with his son Max, the director, on scholar movies. “He has by no means employed me professionally, and I’m considering of getting a chat with him once we cling up,” says Henry.

Henry and Stacey on
their wedding ceremony day, Might 5, 1978.

This summer time he’s taking a break from his busy schedule to go fly fishing with Stacey. He enjoys the tranquility his favourite interest brings. “You can’t do something however consider what you’re doing in the intervening time,” says Henry. “It calms you proper down.”

He jokes that he and Stacey should take separate boats. “Sadly, I need to fish in her water. If I see one thing that appears fishy, I can’t comply with the (fly fishing) rule of that’s ‘her’ water.”

The Winklers additionally take pleasure in going to the theater collectively. Henry says he want to do extra stay theater – profitable a Tony Award is on his bucket record. “I adore it a lot,” he says. “I don’t have a dream position; I’ll put out within the universe to win a Tony.”

When requested if he put the considered profitable an Emmy out into the universe, he says, “I feel I simply put out within the universe it might be enjoyable to win.”

The universe have to be listening to Henry proper now, and after having the respect of chatting with him on the telephone, and feeling his sincerity, humbleness and constructive power coming by means of, I can perceive why.


Jewish Federation of Higher Phoenix MEGA 2019

That includes Emmy-award profitable actor Henry Winkler, remarks by Roman Polonsky from The Jewish Company for Israel, and musical alternatives from Jewish Broadway and movie carried out with the “Violins of Hope.”

When: Thursday, March 7

The place: Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas, 6333 N. Scottsdale Street, Scottsdale

Info: Go to or contact [email protected]



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