With his slicked-back hair, blue jeans and black leather jacket, Henry Winkler was the epitome of cool, and became known around the world for his portrayal of “The Fonz” on the hit American sitcom Happy Days.
Born in New York City, Henry is the son of Ilse and Harry Winkler who emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939 before the beginning of the Second World War. He made his acting debut as Billy Budd in the eighth grade at the McBurney School for Boys in New York City. During his high school and college years, he studied in Lausanne, Switzerland and worked in a lumber mill in a small German town.
Henry struggled with academics throughout his childhood, dealing with what would today be identified as dyslexia. So, whilst millions of teenage Happy Days fans watched in envy as he sat astride his gleaming Harley-Davidson and, with just one wink, had girls flocking around him, the reality was completely different. Henry couldn't actually ride the bike because his co-ordination was so poor — one symptom of dyslexia — a condition that crippled him since childhood and remained undiagnosed until he was 35. Instead, the Harley was mounted on a piece of wood on wheels and pulled along for action scenes.
Graduating from College and later receiving a Masters from Yale's School of Drama, Henry Winkler's acting career began with appearing in over thirty TV commercials. Then, in 1974, Henry Winkler landed the role which would change his career path and go on to make him a global household TV star — that of Arthur ‘Fonzie' Fonzarelli on ABC's “Happy Days” — as he became the worldwide epitome of cool.
He won two consecutive Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Comedy Series (1976 and 1977), and three Emmy nominations in the same category. He was honored with a “star” on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the leather jacket the character wore has hung in The Smithsonian since 1980. “Fonzie's” lunch box was recently added to the exhibit.
In the 1980's, he began producing many television shows, while at the same time appearing in films such as “The Waterboy” and “Scream”. In 2003, Henry Winkler and his writing partner, Lin Oliver became best-selling authors with their children's book series, “Hank Zipzer – The World's Greatest Underachiever”. The series is loosely based on Henry's childhood, growing up with dyslexia. In 2011 he published a collection of anecdotes and heartfelt observations “I Never Met an Idiot on The River”. The book is a collection of the lessons and photos Henry Winkler gathered while fly fishing in Montana.
In 2012, Henry Winkler was appointed as a honorary OBE by HM The Queen for his services to children with special education needs and work on dyslexia in the UK. Henry was honoured in July 2010 by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers for his work with the British government on the “My Way!” Campaign – an educational initiative focused on raising awareness for children with learning challenges throughout the United Kingdom.
He travels from Los Angeles where he lives with his wife Stacey and two dogs. They have three children and two grandchildren.
Henry Winkler has been labelled the nicest man in Hollywood, and for good reason. He is unfailingly polite, accommodating and seemingly devoid of any showbiz airs and graces.
A world-renowned actor, producer and award-winning author who encourages individuals to achieve their full potential in life, Henry is a charismatic and highly engaging speaker with an exceptional story to tell. From a lifetime in Hollywood, his captivating and inspiring speeches include hilarious anecdotes and real-life stories of his career-highs, to the daily struggles of coping with an undiagnosed severe learning disability.
Hear first-hand how Henry Winkler transformed his own personal dysfunction and unhappy experiences with dyslexia into stories of resilience and hope. The one clear message that stems from all of Henry Winkler’s talks is that every single person in the room has greatness inside them and, more importantly, that everyone is capable of achieving their dreams no matter what difficulties they face.
As a sufferer of dyslexia from early childhood, it wasn’t till he was 31 that Henry was formally diagnosed and had spent most of his life being told by his parents that he was lazy, so naturally Henry began to assume he was actually lazy. He was called stupid and told that he was not living up to his potential. And all the time inside he was thinking, “I don’t think I’m stupid. I don’t want to be stupid. I’m trying as hard as I can. I really am”. He was grounded throughout most of his high school years.
Henry Winkler is an ambassador for education charity Achievement for All, which helps in reading, writing and maths among the country’s most disadvantaged children. He also tours the UK annually with his “My Way!” campaign — in collaboration with children’s newspaper First News — to raise awareness of children who find learning difficult, helping them to get the understanding and support of the adults and other children around them.
Dyslexia is a neurological problem that manifests itself primarily as a difficulty with written language. Sufferers may also have time management, clumsiness and co-ordination problems. Experts believe the condition, which is thought to affect ten percent of the population, according to the British Dyslexia Association, results from differences in how the brain processes language. It is not an 'intellectual' disability and has been diagnosed in people of all levels of intelligence. Albert Einstein was believed to be a sufferer and could not read until the age of nine; other famous people from Sir Richard Branson to Eddie Izzard and Apple founder the late Steve Jobs have all been diagnosed dyslexics.
Tags for Henry Winkler OBE