Henry Winkler made it clear he was Henry Winkler and not Fonzie
''It's just that I leave Fonzie in my dressing room after the show and become who I am, Henry Winkler.''
When a successful role plays out on a television screen or in a film, it's difficult for viewers to differentiate the successful character from the actor or actress who plays him or her. It's a part of the business that every actor knows about.
When a character is taken to a supersonic level of success, like Henry Winkler's Fonzie from Happy Days, sometimes there is no separating the two.
For 11 seasons, Winkler played the cooler-than-cool Fonz, a character that picked up steam on Happy Days and eventually became the star of the series. The portrayal of the character put Winkler on the map in a big way.
"I have been anonymous for 27 [and a half] years, and suddenly I'm known everywhere," Winkler said as a 28-year-old in a 1974 newspaper article from New York News published in The Shreveport Times. He simply looked the part better than several other actors trying to best-fit the Fonzie description.
"I went to the audition on my birthday. I was one of the tallest persons there. The rest of the actors all had greased-down hair because the series is about the '50s. I wore mine a little long and had a little bit of a beard. Well, I guess I was just what the producers were looking for. They didn't want a greased-down look."
With the perfect amount of grease in his hair, Winkler landed his career-defining role and all the fame that came with it.
"I was in Little Rock, Ark., recently and was told I was to be met at the airport by five people. Well, I was met by 2,000 - and it was at 1:30 in the morning. I was a Beatle for a moment... It's just incredible."
With all the fame, the nation simply couldn't separate the actor from the character, something so many actors go through. This situation was unique, though, as Winkler apparently began hearing rumors he didn't like his character, or at times couldn't stand to be associated with Fonzie.
At the age of 32, in a 1977 article fromThe Miami News, he put those rumors to rest, but did make it clear he and Fonzie were two different people.
"I like him and I love him," Winkler said. "I don't like being called The Fonz, but I don't hate him. That's something the press has made up."
He said he doesn't love being called Fonzie simply because he and the character couldn't be more different. For example, Fonzie was a high school dropout, while Winkler graduated from the McBurney School for Boys in New York City, according to the 1974 New York News article.
"Fonzie is a fantasy," he added. "There is no way that I could be like that man and I don't consider it a tribute that they confuse me with him. It's just that I leave Fonzie in my dressing room after the show and become who I am, Henry Winkler. I don't mind talking about the show at all."
Winkler got to play a monumental character in the classic television world. Fonzie, in his words, is a character he likes and loves. But, if fans need a way to separate character from real person, Winkler said in 1974 he knows nothing about cars, a striking difference from one of Fonzie's best skillsets.
"He's a master mechanic," Winkler said. "I myself don't know the first thing about motors. The only thing I know about a car is where to put the key."