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Henry Winkler is still Fonzie-cool after all these years.



Henry Winkler
JCC Forum
Oates Theatre at Collegiate School
Saturday, May 1
8:30 p.m.

On "Nick at Nite" he still lives above the Cunningham's garage. But in real life, Henry Winkler transcends this pleasantville and his Fonzie persona without need of studio props. There's no motorcycle, no leather jacket and no magic jukebox touch. But his happy days as father of three, producer, director and actor are still very much in the making.

Whether he's producing his new Disney series "So Weird" or playing the coach in Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy," Winkler will always be cool to nostalgic "Happy Days" fans.

The Fonz needn't worry about losing his touch. Nor Winkler his audience.

Though Winkler is best known for his role as Arthur Fonzarelli on the hugely popular "Happy Days" series from 1974 to 1984, Winkler's contributions to the entertainment industry extend far beyond those of a pop culture icon. Winkler, an avid theater-goer, received his B.A. from Emerson and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale School of Drama.

In his post "Happy Days" years, Winkler combines his love of theater with his commitment to quality family programming. The result: projects like "Who Are the DeBolts and Where Did They Get 19 Kids?," which earned him the Humanitas Award, and his current series on Showtime, "Dead Man's Gun," nominated for three Golden Globes. "My goal is to infuse and maintain a level of integrity in every project I undertake; to be true to myself and the things I believe in," Winkler says.

Amid his busy career, Winkler spoke to Style Weekly from his office in Los Angeles. Winkler, whose parents escaped Nazi Germany, will visit Richmond May 1 as a guest speaker for the Jewish Community Center Forum. When asked about his topic for the Saturday night forum, Winkler muses: "If you will it, it can come true." His message: "It's about more than being at the right place at the right time. If you believe in something, you have a personal responsibility to develop it."

Style: I have to ask, do you keep in touch with Ron Howard? I know you have worked on several projects together including "Night Shift." Are there any projects in the future?

Winkler: Yes, we keep in touch. I had dinner with him last Thursday. But when we get together we don't talk about work.

Style: Do you watch TV today for leisure?

Winkler: I don't have as much time as I used to. I used to love watching TV. Now though, I like to watch "The Practice," "Law and Order," CNN. I love the Discovery Channel, and "Friends." I don't get to watch much else.

Style: Do you have a favorite episode of Happy Days?

Winkler: No, every one that we did was like a small play, and some were funnier than others and some were sillier than others, but I loved the entire experience. We started Monday morning at 9 a.m., read through the script, we rehearsed. We rehearsed Tuesday and Wednesday. The producers came in on Wednesday, they gave notes. On Thursday there could be a whole new script. We showed the show to the cameras and they started making their shots up. On Friday afternoon we came in at about noon, we rehearsed and we shot the show in front of a live audience Friday night at 7 o'clock, and could finish sometimes up until 1 o'clock in the morning.

Style: Who is your favorite playwright? And do you have a favorite play?

Winkler: Well, because he's a friend of mine, I'll have to say Neil Simon. And no, I love going to the theater, I do. I just go as much as I can.

Style: With movies being made based on TV shows like "The Brady Bunch" and "The Mod Squad," has there ever been talk of a "Happy Days" movie, and if so would you be part of it?

Winkler: No, and you know I wouldn't know until it came, but certainly, I probably would not be able to play the same

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