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Business News/ Special Report / Henry Winkler’s Secret to Always Smelling Great

Henry Winkler’s Secret to Always Smelling Great


On the heels of a new memoir, the actor, producer and author talks about therapy, thinking about exercising and the legacy of The Fonz.

Therapy and its transformative power come up often in Winkler’s new memoirPremium
Therapy and its transformative power come up often in Winkler’s new memoir

For Henry Winkler, Monday morning means it’s time for therapy.

“I look forward to it," said the actor, producer and author, 78. The sessions have deepened his understanding of himself. “The kernel of who I actually was, was very early on covered in Chernobyl-thick cement," he said, “and [my therapist] helped me find the right jackhammer."

Therapy and its transformative power come up often in Winkler’s new memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond," released this month by Celadon Books. In the book, Winkler describes difficult periods of his childhood, his challenges with dyslexia and his experience playing Fonzie on “Happy Days"—“the coolest guy in the world"—while struggling with insecurities off-screen.

“I started off being who I thought I should be," he said. “I am now becoming who I am."

After 10 seasons as Fonzie, Winkler became a producer of TV shows, including “MacGyver," and a children’s book author. His later roles, on “Arrested Development," “Parks and Recreation" and “Barry," introduced him to new fans.

Winkler lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Stacey Winkler, with whom he shares three children and six grandchildren. Here, he talks about his breakfast-making skills, parenting and his self-described shoe fetish.

What time do you get up on Mondays, and what’s the first thing you do after waking up?

Sometimes 4:15 a.m., but then I go back to sleep until 6:30. There are three dogs. A goldendoodle, Maisie, who is 4—she has alopecia, and it’s very important she eats bland. Sadie is 5, a labradoodle, and I think she was a soccer player in her former life. Then we have inherited for the last five years my youngest son’s idiosyncratic, three-legged German shepherd, Hamlet.

How do you like your breakfast?

The other day, we were watching “The Crowded Room" on Apple TV+, and twice during the episodes we watched, the young man, [played by] Tom Holland, had a B.L.T. I woke up the next morning and immediately made a B.L.T. on Wonder Bread. Usually, I have my coffee with heavy cream and three Splendas.

I’m very good at breakfast. Our oldest grandson says, “Papa, will you make me your scrambled eggs?" whenever he comes over. My heart explodes.

I read that you always smell very good. What’s your secret?

Step one, wash. Step two, Terre d’Hermès. It’s the perfume, not the eau de cologne.

What do you do for exercise?

Here it is, and this is hard: I have actually thought about walking a mile. That’s it! I think about it.

One of the main themes in the book is parenting, how you wanted to be a different kind of parent from your parents.

I cannot even begin to tell you how true that is. I thought about it every single day in some form or another that I would not be the same. A key I learned is listening. You’re late for a meeting. The child in front of you is 2 and says, “Dad." “Yes?" [Pause] “I like green."

“I am so happy that you said that. We’re going to talk about that as soon as I come back." A heard child is powerful.

If you knew what playing The Fonz would mean for the rest of your life and career, would you take the role again?

Yes. As The Fonz?! Oh, my God, I love him. I loved him. Now I thought I could beat the system, but there is no beating the system. I thought I could be very careful and not be typecast, and that just isn’t the truth. So, he forced me to be a producer because I couldn’t get hired as an actor. “MacGyver" wouldn’t have been born if I’d just kept going. “Sightings," “So Weird"—none of that would have happened because I wouldn’t have been forced to redefine my life.

You have a close relationship with Adam Sandler. Are there any funny anecdotes or memories with him that didn’t make it into the memoir?

I talk to him a lot. I email him a lot. I love him a lot. I think he is just the definition of talent. I have a wonderful relationship with Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t see him that often, but we fished in June together in the same boat in Idaho. It was stupendous. Ron Howard is like my brother. And then my civilian friends, Frank and Bob, those relationships are 45 years old, from the beginning of getting into Hollywood.

What was it like to say goodbye to “Barry"?

It’s very hard. It’s still going on. I miss those people. I’m having breakfast with Bill [Hader] next week and I can’t wait. I’m sad that [other] people were not able to be on that set with those human beings. And what a character!

Your wife, Stacey, wrote passages of the memoir from her point of view, which made me think it should be industry standard for when someone’s spouse writes a memoir.

Stacey is very verbal and is a good writer and she’s also a good reader. When we read the kids bedtime stories, because I can’t read, she read them and I acted them out. I had to find my role. Because I would read the simplest story, and my eyes would get so tired from tracking the words, I was asleep before the children.

What do you do to relax?

I sit in the armchair in our living room, and I listen to the sounds of nature. It refreshes me. I sit in the backyard and I throw the ball for Sadie, who could play ball for 24 hours.

Is there anything you like to splurge on?

Shoes. I have a shoe fetish. And as my daughter said, “Oh, Dad, they’re beautiful. They look just like the ones you just bought!" A lot of suede. I love suede.

In the book, you say that it wasn’t until you started working with your therapist seven years ago that you started to feel like a fully formed adult and began to discover your power. Do you ever feel frustrated about all those years before?

Oh, my God, that is my life. I mourn the time that I was lost in the wilderness of molasses. What happens is the more you come out, like a little plant, the more you release your anger. You have no idea what you can accomplish until you try it. You say, “Oh, I can’t do that. I have no time. I’m too old, I’m too busy." That is not true. You have time for everything.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Write to Lane Florsheim at

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