“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.