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 honoured 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, Henry began producing many television shows, while at the same time appearing in films such as The Waterboy and Scream. In 2003, 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 awarded an 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 and two dogs.