Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC
One of our very first TV crushes was Happy Days’ the Fonz. How could a girl not fall for a motorcycle-riding cute guy with a heart of gold in a leather jacket and tight jeans? Who wouldn’t swoon when he thumped the jukebox prompting the lights to dim and Blueberry Hill to pour out over the speakers at Arnold’s Drive-In?
Arthur Fonzarelli had a tough shell with a marshmallow interior and we ate him up. As we got older we had heard that Henry Winkler was all softy, through and through. The nicest guy in the business. We wondered if that were true and hoped to one day find out for ourselves.
So, when we recently got invited to a press event with the actor turned children’s book author, how could we turn that down? As we watched the first episode of his new reality show Better Late Than Never, we fell for the Fonz all over again. He was funny, charming, kind and deeply interested in everyone he encountered.
During the panel he recalled his favorite moment traveling through Asia filming Better Late Than Never, “This 15,000‑pound elephant looked me in the eye, and I looked the elephant in the eye and I started crying. You felt the dearness. And I have a picture on my phone, in my house, everywhere. You see the elephant leaning into me when I'm standing next to him like he was a puppy… It came out of him like a river, this emotion.” How could we not love this man?
After the screening, as we left our seats, Henry Winkler was walking right past us. Our knees buckled a little bit under our imaginary poodle skirts. We stopped him and thanked him for entertaining us all these years. He shook our hands and then held them as we talked briefly about the new show and how much he has meant to us all these years. Everything we had heard about Henry Winkler was true. He was genuine and truly caring. He even plugged a show called Catastrophe on Amazon — someone else’s show — during his own press event. And did we mention… he was holding our hands the whole time?! The hand that thumped the jukebox oh so many years ago. We could hear the strains of Blueberry Hill playing in our minds.
The press event continued over lunch and Henry Winkler went from one table to the next chatting with everyone there. When he got to our table, we asked him about the photo with the elephant and he pulled out his phone and began showing us pictures from his trip. As he walked away, he turned back to us and asked, “Are you best friends?” We replied, “Sisters.” He grinned, that sheepish Fonzie grin and said “Awww.” We think we melted his marshmallow heart a little bit. He surely melted ours.