‘Happy Days’ Star Al Molinaro Passes On
Al Molinaro, famous for playing Al Delvecchio on Happy Days from 1974 to 1984 and the short-lived 1983 spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, has passed away in a Wisconsin hospital. Mr. Molinaro was 96 at the time of his passing.
Happy Days‘ Big Al Never Really Retired From Show Business
Big Al’s son, Micheal Molinaro, confirmed to TMZ that Al passed away from complications caused by severe gall stones. The Happy Days actor had elected not to have surgery on the stones, citing his age as the reason for declining the operation.
In addition to Micheal, Al Molinaro is survived by his wife, Betty. Prior to his hospitalization, Mr. Molinaro had been living in Glendale, California, where the former Happy Days and Odd Couple actor was working on a book of autobiographical short stories. Al had given up acting in television, movies, and theater, though he still participated in commercials.
“I love that town; I love it,” Happy Days‘ Al Molinaro once said of his Kenosha, Wisconsin, hometown. “If it wasn’t that I left it for show business, I’d still be there today.”
Al Molinaro was very proud of his family, as well as his hometown, which could certainly be felt in his interviews and public comments. While Molinaro was proud of his Italian immigrant parents, he felt a bigger calling and moved to Los Angeles, California, in the 1950s to pursue his dream of acting.
Al Molinaro Creates Iconic Characters On Two Long-Running Television Series
Mr. Molinaro once said that success in Hollywood depended mostly on being in the right place at the right time, that hitting it big mostly depended on sheer luck. If this is true, luck was smiling down on Al Molinaro on more than one occasion.
“I spent twenty years here before I got anything going, and from that I got lucky,” Mr. Molinaro said at one time. “It takes a lot of luck in show business too. You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.”
While Al had guest starred on a number of television shows, since his move to California, it was really his appearance as Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple in 1970 that really set Molinaro’s career ablaze.
Al’s role as Murray in The Odd Couple added a unique form of comic relief to scenes in which the tension grew too great for the sitcom, bringing as much attention to Molinaro as it did to his character. Eventually, Al’s Odd Couple role would pave the way to a much more popular and more iconic role.
The Hollywood Reporter reports Mr. Molinaro joined Happy Days for its second season in 1974 as the chef at Al’s Diner, positioning the character of Al Delvecchio to take over the fictional Happy Days diner, when Pat Morita left Happy Days to star in his own series. Together with his Happy Days co-star, Anson Williams, Molinaro opened up a chain of diners across the mid-western United States, called Al’s Place.
Molinaro stayed with Happy Days throughout its 11 season run, making Al Delvecchio as much a staple of the series as Fonzie (Henry Winkler), and made his Happy Days character a warm, compassionate character that became a member of families throughout the country.
Although officially uncredited, Al exhibited his singing talent in a number of Happy Days episodes as well.
Molinaro reprised his role two additional times. First, Al appeared on the short-lived Happy Days spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, which ran from 1983 through 1984. Much later, Al Delvecchio was again brought back to life in a Wheezer music video.
Al Molinaro also guest starred as Joe Alberghetti in The Family Man, which ran from 1990 to 1991.
[Featured image courtesy of ABC/Happy Days]