Henry Winkler is speaking out on the death of his longtime friend and mentor, Garry Marshall. Winkler, who played the iconic character Fonzie on Marshall’s long-running hit sitcom Happy Days, took to Twitter to pay tribute to the legendary creator/producer behind Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and The Odd Couple. Marshall died Tuesday at age 81.
In his post, Henry Winkler thanked the late Happy Days creator for giving him his professional life. Henry also described the late movie and TV director as “larger than life.”
Henry Winkler was not the only Happy Days alum to pay their respects on Twitter. Movie producer Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham on the ABC comedy, described Garry as “a world class boss and mentor.”
“He leaves a huge void for all who were lucky to be in his orbit,” Howard wrote.
Scott Baio, who played Chachi Arcola, the cousin of Henry Winkler’s character, on both Happy Days and the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi, described Marshall as “a second father” to him.
“He discovered me and gave me a wonderful life,” Baio wrote. “The entertainment industry has lost a comedic genius and good man.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Henry Winkler’s co-stars Anson Williams (Potsie) and Don Most (Ralph Malph) also issued statements on the death of the legendary TV creator.
“Garry Marshall gave me the opportunity of many lifetimes and, more importantly, genuine love and friendship; a love that transcended far beyond show business. Garry’s selfless nurturing of talent will be passed on to future generations along with all that he has created,” Williams said. “Garry, you are forever with us and I love you.”
Don Most described his late boss as “a uniquely creative force.”
“It was a great pleasure and treat to see him work, and work with him. And on top of this, he was a warm and generous man, who always fostered a feeling of family with our cast. We lost a giant today,” Most said.
Henry Winkler shot to fame in the early 1970s after Marshall cast him as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in Happy Days. Winkler told The Guardian that Marshall worked his magic to help the Fonz become a TV icon.
“The network, ABC, thought I’d be associated with crime if I wore a leather jacket,” Winkler told The Guardian. “At first, they had me put on a flimsy-collared golf jacket. It was unbelievably hard to be cool in puce. Garry Marshall, the show’s creator, struck a deal with ABC letting me wear leather. The first one I had got stolen from the costume department, so they made me five more and kept them in a vault.”
Henry also described the Happy Days cast as a “family” created by the legendary sitcom creator, and he said the cast and crew had a strong bond both on and off camera.
“The family Garry created made 255 episodes,” Winkler said. “We even had our own baseball team: we’d play against other shows, other networks. But the most important thing, besides lunch, was making a funny show from beginning to end,” Henry said.
As for one of Henry Winkler’s most famous scenes—when Fonzie jumped over a shark while on his motorcycle—his late boss once joked about the “jump the shark” catchphrase that is still used today to describe the point time when a TV show goes downhill.
“We figured, well, Fonzie’s gotta jump over something. What do we got?” Marshall once told The Guardian. “We can’t have him jump over cars, so … how about a shark? Sharks were big then! It was after Jaws, c’mon! And that phrase really took on a life of its own; it gets used in a political context, about ideas and products, and in every field, it’s applicable – all from Fonzie! I mean, it was not our best episode, I’ll be honest, but still. We jumped the shark – leave him alone!”
In addition to Henry Winkler and the Happy Days cast, other television stars paid tribute to the late Hollywood icon, including Who’s the Boss star Tony Danza and Full House star John Stamos.
Take a look at the video below to see Marshall talking about how he hired Henry Winkler.
[Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for TV Land]