Henry Winkler Reflects On His Iconic Career: Hollywood Nice Guy Denies Getting Actress Fired From ‘Happy Days’

ABC Television Network/Public DomainWikimedia Commons

Henry Winkler has long been known as one of Hollywood’s nice guys. The actor, who shot to fame in the 1970s when he starred as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the ABC sitcom, Happy Days, has enjoyed a long and successful career. Winkler has won two Golden Globe Awards and two Emmy Awards and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Winkler’s Fonzie leather jacket hangs in the Smithsonian, where he has been known to visit it.

In the late 1970s, Henry Winkler’s Fonzie face graced lunchboxes, posters, T-shirts, paperbacks, and more. Forty years later, Henry travels the world with fellow legends William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, and George Foreman for the NBC reality show Better Late than Never, where he routinely poses with fans and signs autographs.

In an interview posted by Nola.com, Winkler revealed that his fans are what keep him going in the entertainment business. At Comic-Con and other fan meet and greets, Henry says he doesn’t sit behind a table but is instead out front with his fans.

“I do not sit behind the table, so that I can look people right in the eye and be right there with them when they’re telling me whatever their memory is,” Winkler said. “And it is like a gift.”

Winkler also revealed that there is nothing about his career that he would change.

“I wouldn’t change one hair on the head of my lovely career,” Winkler said, according to Nola.com.

“I must say, I’ve lived my dream. When I was lying in my bed in New York City on the West Side, dreaming, yearning to be an actor, where I couldn’t even breathe — and now, look, I get to do this. I am just blessed.”

Henry Winkler of Happy Days
Featured image credit: AP Images

Henry Winkler revealed he has no plans to ever retire from acting, saying he intends to act until he’s “put into the ground in a box.”

“I figure there is plenty of time to rest in the future,” Winkler said. “I’m not stopping. I’m having too good a time.”

With the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment allegations currently rampant in Hollywood, Henry Winkler has managed to keep his good guy image intact. The only blip, if you can call it one, is recent allegations that Winkler cost actress Rhonda Shear her sitcom career.

The actress and former Playboy model called Winkler out in her memoir, Up All Night: From Hollywood Bombshell to Lingerie Mogul, Life Lessons from an Accidental Feminist. In her book, Shear writes about her first major audition, for Happy Days, in 1979. Shear’s big TV break was to play Fonzie’s girlfriend, but she claims a snafu with Winkler over her decision to book a fried chicken commercial at the same time cost her the job.

Shear claims she was already booked for the role as Fonzie’s girlfriend when she got approval from the Happy Days casting director and producers to miss the show’s Thursday dress rehearsal so she could film the chicken commercial. But Shear failed to get series star Henry Winkler’s permission.

“I’m 24 years old and I’m trying to make a living,” Rhonda explained.

“You get a commercial and you get paid as long as it runs. I got the blessing from everybody to go off and do it. Except from Henry.”

Shear went on to reveal that when she showed up to the Happy Days set the following day, her name was no longer on the dressing room door, but someone else’s was.

“I was walking around and everyone was kind of avoiding me,” Shear wrote. “And finally, someone said, ‘Well, when you weren’t here for dress rehearsal, Henry flipped out and he took the girl that was standing in for you, made her a Screen Actors Guild member immediately and hired her.'”

The actress alleges that she then tried to talk to Winkler in his dressing room, where she claims he gave her a “major lecture” and told her if she was a serious actress she would never have taken a commercial. Shear claims Winkler dismissed the permission she got from the Happy Days producers, reportedly telling her “Well, you didn’t get it from me.'”

Actress Rhonda Shear
Featured image credit: Lee RothAP Images

While she says she wasn’t blacklisted, Shear claims the incident ruined her relationship with legendary sitcom creator Garry Marshall and any chances of a Hollywood sitcom career.

Henry Winkler staunchly denies that he had Rhonda Shear fired, writing in an email to Fox News:

“I really don’t remember the incident that happened almost 40 years ago, but if Ms. Shear was given permission to miss a dress rehearsal by the executive producers and Jerry Paris, the director, it was not my place nor did I have the ability to contradict them. I probably did tell her she should have not booked a commercial during the same week as the show, which had only four half-days of rehearsal before we shot in front of a live audience, but that is as far as it went. At no time did I ever have the authority to hire or fire anybody when I was on Happy Days. It would never occur to me to ask that any actor be fired.”

While Shear went on to host USA Network’s B-movie show, Up All Night, and found success as a lingerie entrepreneur, Henry Winkler has done it all. He started out with small guest roles in early 1970s shows like Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart Show before landing the long-running role as Fonzie on Happy Days. He has done voice work, voicing everything from his iconic character on the animated Mork and Mindy/ Laverne and Shirley/Fonz Hour in the early 1980s to Norville the bird on the Clifford’s Puppy Days cartoon series.

Winkler has played doctors, professors, and he even played a Scrooge-like character in the TV movie, An American Christmas Carol, and in more recent years he had a recurring role on Arrested Development and has authored the critically acclaimed Hank Zipzer children’s book series, which follows the adventures of a dyslexic boy. Winkler is currently filming the HBO drama Barry, with no plans of slowing down at age 72.

You can see Henry Winkler during his Happy Days heyday below.