Henry Winkler spills secrets of his early career in candid interview

The former Fonz did not read a book until the age of 31 — and could not ride a motorcycle.

Henry Winkler revealed his early struggles with dyslexia in a recent interview with CBS. The former Happy Days star opened up about the severity of his reading disorder.

“It was horrible,” he told interviewer Mo Rocca . “It was humiliating. It was scary. And I learned to memorize as much as I could from any page and then improvise.”

His parents, who fled to America from Nazi Germany, gave young Winkler a nickname — Dummer Hund, German for "dumb dog." As dyslexia was not fully understood at the time, adults believed the boy was merely lazy. Winkler confessed that he was grounded for most of high school, and that he did not read his first book until the age of 31.

The disorder even affected his motor coordination, and in turn his work on Happy Days. Surprisingly, the Fonz had difficulty riding a motorcycle. "[I] could not piece together the gear, the gear, the speed, the brake," the actor said. "It was too much. I couldn’t comprehend.” He admitted that he only rode the bike about 15 feet.

Still, despite his dyslexia, Winkler achieved success. He attended Emerson College in Boston before entering the Yale School of Drama. He earned his acceptance with a "Shakespearan monologue," which was in fact all improvisation.

Today, Winkler is an author of children's books. He has published 17 books in his series about a fourth grader with dyslexia named Hank Zipzer. 

Hank Zipzer has even become a hit TV show in Britain.

Read more of the interview at CBS, in which Winkler talks about his passion for fly fishing.

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