By Nathan Wildes
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 02/13/2020 — At the famed Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, the Paley Center put on its first event of the 2020 calendar year by honoring one of the all-time greats. For nearly 50 years, Henry Winkler has been an icon of our industry. Landing the role of The Fonz in Happy Days, one of the most popular characters in television history in 1974 in his very first audition launched Winkler’s career in a way few could ever hope for. Yet it wasn’t until just two years ago that Henry Winkler won his first Primetime Emmy award (after 3 nominations back in the 70s) in 2018 for Best Supporting Actor as Gene Cousineau in the hit HBO show Barry. Henry Winkler’s charm, wit, and acting ability has stood the test of time. Plus, he is now part of the extraordinary cast that will be seen in Wes Anderson’s upcoming film The French Dispatch set to release this summer.
“I think that now, in my 70s, I’m becoming the actor now that I dreamt of being back then.” What Winkler is referring is the dream that all actors coming out of school (as he did from Yale Drama School in 1970) to play a countless variety of meaningful and challenging characters.
But Henry Winkler became The Fonz. The character that would set his life in motion for all-time also became the character that would turn producers away from him for so many roles. But the countless friends Winkler made along the way would let him pick up roles now and again that would keep him going throughout his illustrious career. But it was his career turn toward producing, and also writing children’s books that became his stable workflow throughout the years. Executive Producing both the classic and modern versions of Macgyver as well as selling over 5 million children’s books are just a few of the accomplishments in this man’s wide-ranging career path.
“I want to work until I can’t”, Winkler answered to a question posed by moderator George Pennacchio of ABC7 who you just anchored ABC’s red carpet coverage of the Academy Awards last Sunday. Equally happy to talk about his first jobs in Hollywood, to his upbringing from German-Jewish parents who escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, to friendships and mentorships he enjoyed all through the years, to modern opportunities he has had to work with the best and brightest, Pennacchio helped Winkler take us through his journey. Winkler spoke glowingly of remembering when the Paley Center first opened its doors over 40 years ago, and now here he is being honored himself at a place that celebrates the industry that he has devoted his life too.
Winkler also spent a great deal of time talking about his family. From his wife of 42 years, Stacey (Weitzman), to his 3 children who are all grown with their own careers, Winkler always valued being a good husband and father as much as being a successful actor. To that end, almost no one in Hollywood could ever claim to have had so stable a home life as Henry Winkler has enjoyed.
The effortless wit and charm of the man flowed through to the delight of us all as we in the audience were offered the chance to ask our own questions. The laughs, the charm and the wisdom never stopped coming. From talking about numerous shows and movies he has been a part of, expounding great wisdom about triumphing over his dyslexia, to offering advice to young actors of today to remember to be a child first. “I would tell them you have plenty of time. Because the pressure is…Earth shattering. You’re always…there’s an audition aaanndd you’re going to miss the game, aaannndd you’re going to miss your friends. I think that is unnatural. Fame is unnatural to the DNA of being alive.”
Last night was a time of remembrance for a career that is one of the most iconic and honorable in the history of television. But, here’s to hoping that Henry Winkler’s work in television, movies, children’s books, and charity work gets to continue on for many years yet to come.
About The Paley Center for Media
Drawing upon its curators, collection, and relationships with the media community, The Paley Center for Media examines the intersections between media and society.
The Paley Center for Media is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms, drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the media community. The general public can participate in Paley programs in both New York and Los Angeles that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media. They can also access the Paley Center’s permanent media collection, which contains over 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. Through the global programs of its Media Council and International Council, the Paley Center also serves as a neutral setting where media professionals can engage in discussion and debate about the evolving media landscape. Previously known as The Museum of Television & Radio, the Paley Center was founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, a pioneering innovator in the industry.
The Paley Archive
The Paley Center for Media has an international collection of over 160,000 programs from over 70 countries, covering more than 100 years of television and radio history, including news, public affairs programs and documentaries, performing arts programs, children’s programming, sports, comedy and variety shows, and commercial advertising.
“Lost” television programs recovered by The Paley Center for Media and preserved in the collection include the first Super Bowl, a Rat Pack benefit variety show, and James Dean performances.
Throughout the year, The Paley Center for Media hosts discussions with influential newsmakers, journalists, and world leaders on today’s important issues. The Paley Center also celebrates excellence in drama, comedy, and documentary film with a range of events that examine the creative process behind great entertainment.
Named for William S. Paley, founder of CBS and the Paley Center, this annual Festival began in 1984 to celebrate the collaborative creativity behind making great entertainment content. In connecting media enthusiasts with individuals who bring to life outstanding programming, PaleyFest creates an extraordinary interactive pop culture event.