“May I call you Fonzie?” I inquired this morning when Arthur Fonzarelli phoned me at 8 a.m.
A polite Henry Winkler replied, “No, because that is a fictional character that I could never live up to. It was extraordinarily fun to play, but I couldn’t live up to that.” Fonzie said he often tells people that snapping your fingers at women in the 21st century isn’t a good idea. “You will end with them [your fingers] in a cast,” he says.
Fonzie, played by the actor, Winkler, is in town this week to win an Inspire Award from AARP The Magazine for his work with stroke victims. His mother had a stroke in her 70s and suffered horribly from upper limb spasticity. Fonzie has worked hard on the issue. And it worked — the FDA approved Botox therapy, and it is working wonders, he says. “I’m telling you I have seen it with my own eyes the incredible sense of hope that this new therapeutic use of Botox gives to victims whose upper limbs [are spastic]. It’s almost as if they are rigidly stuck to their chest. I met one woman whose arm was stuck out of the side of her and they called it her chicken wing.”
Moving on from chicken wings, let’s talk about the media. Yesterday afternoon Fonzie was watching MSNBC at his hotel and noticed WaPo‘s whippersnapper Ezra Klein. So impressed by Klein, he looked up the number for WaPo and called him just to say how impressed he was. He left a message, but no number. Klein tweeted last night “If anyone knows how to get in touch with Henry Winkler — yeah, that one — tell him “thanks” for me.”
Fonzie went on and on about Klein, who appeared on MSNBC incessantly Wednesday. “How did you know?” he asked, shocked. (I explained the Twitter message.) He continued, “I called him yesterday from my hotel room. I find him to be really…he gets to the heart of the matter. This is the third or fourth time I saw him. I looked up the number to Washington Post because I thought he was just fantastic and I’m thinking, I should just tell him. I said, I think you are just of real great clarity. I just was a fan.” I informed Fonzie that Washington City Paper recently wrote what could easily be construed as a negative piece on Ezra. Fonzie sounded worried. “Why? Tell Ezra that all things shall pass…tell him that someone writes an article and it passes and he is still here standing.” Fonzie added that he also likes MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, but didn’t elaborate.
On Tuesday, Fonzie visited the Smithsonian, where his famous leather jacket is on display. He said he hadn’t seen it since 1980 when it first arrived there. “It was very exciting,” he said.
Aside from Klein and Todd, Fonzie would like some presidential interaction. “I’d like to meet the President, but that’s not happening,” he said. (At which point I told him I wanted to meet Bo the dog.) “I tried to convince the family to get the Labradoodle, but they didn’t listen. My Charlotte is actually the queen of dogs. She is the only one in the whole family who can speak Spanish and she has never gone to class.”
Q & A
How’s Richie, you seen him lately? I do. His name is Ron [Howard] and he is one of the most successful directors on the planet. We had dinner a month and a half ago in New York City – Scotto a great Italian restaurant.
Come on, what did you really think of Joanie and Chachi? I loved them as individuals and I think it is really hard to have a romantic relationship when you are working so closely together.
Which owner of Arnold’s did you prefer? Can’t answer that question. They were incredible guys, both of them…so different in personality can’t even choose.
Which fellow award winner are you most looking forward to meeting? (Joy Behar, Maya Angelou, Tony Danza, Jane Pauley (MC) etc…) I have met them all before so I am very excited that we will all be at the same place together.
Pick one: The Daily Show or Colbert? Wow, that’s tough. I will go with “The Daily Show” which is the mother ship of all others.
Arthur Fonzarelli was a high school drop out. I take it you went to high school? I went to high school in New York City, a school for boys, to Emerson College in Boston to study Theater, and got a Master’s degree from Yale.
Do people ask you to fix things by punching? Does this irritate you? No, they don’t. They just tell me they love laughing with the show for all those years, that they sat with their parents, grandparents, children and thoroughly enjoyed themselves on Tuesday nights. And now, a lot of those people are talking to me about [his new show] Royal Pain.
Who is more annoying Potsie or Ralph Malph? They are really good friends of mine so I find neither of them annoying. I can’t make fun of my own family.
How do you feel about the phrase jump the shark? Well, I’m the only actor on the planet who has jumped the shark twice, once on Happy Days and once on Arrested Development, so I’m very proud of that fact.
Who is your favorite person in the media? Rachel Maddow. Because she just has a steel trap brain. In my collection I have a hat from her show. Someone got me a hat, I’ve never been on. And I love that I have it.
Pick one please – CNN, Fox News or MSNBC: MSNBC, just because Chris Matthews, the people you see, Joe [Scarborough] in the morning they are just good, they’re smart.
Do you watch the Sunday morning political shows? I like ABC’s “This Week.” I think Christiane Amanpour is really fantastic. I also like GPS, Fareed Zakaria [CNN]. I think he is probably one of the extraordinary minds in all media. Maureen Dowd [NYT] is funny, my wife loves Maureen Dowd.
What websites do you go to daily? I’m dyslexic and I’m lucky I can turn it on. I sent emails for the first time four years ago.
What magazines do you read regularly? AARP