Back in April or May, I ordered an autographed copy of Henry Winkler’s autobiography, Being Henry. Normally I wouldn’t do such a thing, but the opportunity to have his autograph on a book he had written about himself was too good to pass up. It arrived last week, and I immediately started reading it.
Like many people in my age range, the television show, Happy Days, has a special place in my heart. I have mentioned it here in the blog before, and I even wrote a few thousand words of fan fiction about someone slipping the Fonz some LSD. At this moment, I am afraid to go back and read it.
Anyway, Fonz was always someone who was bigger than life and just a fantastic TV character. Winkler absolutely ruled it, too. He created “the Fonz” and with that creation, Winkler gave a long life to what is an iconic show. No offense, either, to the rest of the wonderful cast. I am still in love with almost all of them and can’t resist watching the show when I see an episode on TV.
It wasn’t just the Fonz, though, that made me a fan of Henry Winkler. There were two other performances that really cemented him for me as one of my all-time favorite actors. The first was a TV movie he did called An American Christmas Carol. Winkler played a version of Scrooge named “Benedict Slade.” It came out in 1979 when I was ten years old and in fifth grade.
It was so cool to see a different version of Winkler. I had watched Heroes, of course, too, which came out a few years earlier, but I was too young to really understand it. I don’t remember much of it, to be honest, but after reading the book, I will revisit. An American Christmas Carol quickly became my favorite holiday film, and I would look for it every year during the holidays.
The other film is Night Shift. I don’t know how many times I have watched that movie. I laugh every time. It’s not just Winkler, obviously. Michael Keaton is electric in the film, too, but I love that Winkler is not “The Fonz” here. He’s so great as “Chuck Lumley,” the world’s most reluctant pimp/morgue attendant. Fucking brilliant work, I tell you, and a hell of a movie. Even Shelley Long is pretty darn good in it and I’m not a huge fan of her movie work.
It was always good to see Henry Winkler pop up in things. His role in Scream was a nice surprise and made a movie I was enjoying even more memorable. I am happy, after reading the book, to know he was doing a lot of production work when he was not in front of the camera, too.
Obviously, Barry was outstanding. If you haven’t watched the excellent HBO series with the fucking genius, Bill Hader, then you have missed out. Winkler is sublime as the asshole acting coach, “Gene Cousineau.” There is a lot of great stuff about Barry in Being Henry.
The book moved me to tears on several occasions. Winkler does a great job of just laying it out there. I empathized with him on several occasions and his discourse on dyslexia really opened my “teacher” eyes a lot. I am inspired to learn a lot more about the condition so I can better serve my students who have it.
I have one student this year who, after reading this book, I will work with quite differently. I don’t believe he has been diagnosed, but from Winkler’s description of how dyslexia impacted his life, I am fairly certain that my young student has it, too. Thank you for that, Henry.
So now I have his autograph. I still hope to meet him someday. I think it would be awesome. Years ago while I was working for Televerde, I was sitting in my cubicle one day and I noticed that he posted on Twitter that he was stuck with a long layover at Sky Harbor. I immediately responded that I was close by and happy to take him out to lunch.
He responded pretty quickly and thanked me in his kind and amazing way for a lovely offer, but he was reluctant to leave the airport. Either way, I have kind of talked to him. Should have taken a screenshot.
Read the book, people. It’s a good one.
See you tomorrow.
Stole this pic, but it's a good one.