Henry Winkler has long been open about discussing his life with dyslexia, but he explores the topic and its relationship to his career-defining run on “Happy Days” in frank detail in his upcoming memoir “Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond” (via People magazine). The actor appeared as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on all 11 seasons of the ABC comedy series, but it wasn’t until well into the show’s run when Winker discovered at 31 years old that he was dyslexic. He writes that the discovery made him “so fucking angry.”
“Even in the midst of ‘Happy Days,’ at the height of my fame and success, I felt embarrassed, inadequate,” Winkler writes. “Every Monday at 10 o’clock, we would have a table reading of that week’s script, and at every reading I would lose my place or stumble. I would leave a word out, a line out. I was constantly failing to give the right cue line, which would then screw up the joke for the person doing the scene with me. Or I would be staring at a word, like ‘invincible,’ and have no idea on earth how to pronounce it or even sound it out.”
More from Variety
Winkler continues, “My brain and I were in different zip codes. Meanwhile, the other actors would be waiting, staring at me: It was humiliating and shameful. Everybody in the cast was warm and supportive, but I constantly felt I was letting them down. I had to ask for my scripts really early, so I could read them over and over again — which put extra pressure on the writers, who were already under the gun every week, having to get 24 scripts ready in rapid succession. All this at the height of my fame and success, as I was playing the coolest guy in the world.”
It wasn’t until Winkler’s stepson was evaluated for dyslexia that he realized he also might have the learning disorder. After finally being diagnosed, Winker was “so fucking angry” because “all the misery I’d gone through had been for nothing.”
“All the yelling, all the humiliation, all the screaming arguments in my house as I was growing up — for nothing. It was genetic!” he writes. “It wasn’t a way I decided to be! And then I went from feeling this massive anger to fighting through it.”
Winkler was able to finish his run on “Happy Days” with a greater awareness of his disorder. He would go on to write several books, including the children’s series “Here’s Hank” and participate in public events to educate others about dyslexia.
Winkler’s memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond,” publishes on Oct. 31.
Best of Variety