From books to TV, life com­ing full cir­cle for the Fonz

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Green Sheet - Brooke Lef­ferts

NEW YORK — Things are com­ing full cir­cle for Henry Winkler in many ways.

The ac­tor, best known for play­ing “The Fonz” on the 1970s hit sit­com “Happy Days,” is also a pro­lific au­thor of chil­dren’s books and re­cently paid a visit to pro­mote his lat­est book at his old el­e­men­tary school in New York City.

“I thought this was amaz­ing. The way the world comes to­gether,” he said.

His lat­est book is the 29th in a series, called “Here’s Hank: Ev­ery­body Is Some­body,” about a kid named Hank who goes to Pub­lic School 87 in New York City, the same school the au­thor at­tended.

It’s based on Winkler’s ex­pe­ri­ences as a child who strug­gles to read and keep up at school.

Winkler never dreamed he’d be an au­thor. He had trou­ble read­ing as a child and aca­demics were dif­fi­cult for him. It wasn’t un­til he was an adult and his step­son was di­ag­nosed with dys­lexia that his own chal­lenges had a name.

In an ef­fort to help chil­dren like him, he got to­gether with com­edy writer Lin Oliver and wrote the first book in their best-sell­ing series.

The mes­sage of the books is that no mat­ter how hard school is, it has noth­ing to do with in­tel­li­gence. It struck a nerve with both kids and par­ents.

“Even at 73, I can tap into the pain of the 8-, 9-, 10-year-old in me that never achieved. I was told that I would never achieve. I failed at ev­ery­thing ex­cept for go­ing home. I was re­ally good when the bell rung,” Winkler said.

The books are de­signed with easy-to-read font and sim­ple sto­ries. Winkler says they’ve been a “break­through” for some kids.

“What a com­pli­ment. We’ve met kids who said, ‘How did you know me so well?’ Or they would nudge their par­ent to go, ‘This is me. This is the way I feel,’ so par­ents learn about their child and that child didn’t feel alone,” he said.

Af­ter nearly 50 years in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness, Winkler is hav­ing a mo­ment. In ad­di­tion to the book series, he just fin­ished work on sea­son two of the quirky HBO com­edy, “Barry,” for which he just won his first Emmy.

“It was re­ally ter­rific. Peo­ple say that they have their Emmy as a doorstop or in the bath­room. Mine is on the din­ing room ta­ble. You can’t miss it. You know what? I’m hav­ing a chain made right as we speak so I can wear it as a neck­lace,” he said with a laugh.

In an­other full-cir­cle mo­ment, he re­cently wrapped a scene in “Barry” and re­al­ized he was on Stage 19 at the Paramount lot.

“That is the very sound stage where for nine years we shot ‘Happy Days,’ ” said Winkler, whose like­ness as the Fonz on Mil­wau­kee’s River­Walk is one of the city’s most pop­u­lar photo-op stops.

Winkler re­cently fin­ished shoot­ing in France on a new Wes An­der­son film star­ring Ti­mothée Cha­la­met.

In yet an­other re­mark­able turn of events, when he met Cha­la­met, the young ac­tor told him that not only did he also go to P.S. 87 but he once heard Winkler read a “Hank” book in that same school li­brary when he was 8.

“You know my mantra for the long­est time has al­ways been, ‘If you will it, it is not a dream,’ ” Winkler said, “and lit­er­ally a few years ago I changed my mantra to ‘I will try’ be­cause if you don’t, you don’t know what won­der­ful­ness is in­side you, what you can ac­tu­ally do.”

GETTY IM­AGES

Ac­tor Henry Winkler is also a pro­lific au­thor of chil­dren’s books. His lat­est book is the 29th in a series, called “Here’s Hank: Ev­ery­body Is Some­body,” about a kid named Hank who goes to pub­lic school in New York.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.