After 45 years of marriage, Henry Winkler has learned a thing or two.
The Emmy Award-winning actor, who starred as Arthur Herbert “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on “Happy Days,” has written a new memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond.”
In it, the star detailed how he skyrocketed to fame on the hit sitcom and his struggles with dyslexia.
In the book, the 78-year-old reflected on his decades-long union with his wife Stacey. The couple tied the knot in 1978.
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Henry Winker met Stacey Weitzman in 1976. They married in 1978. (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
“What’s the secret? First, it’s picking the right person,” Winkler told Fox News Digital. “In 45 years, there are ups, there are downs. You need the right person who can face those ups and downs with you. There is also the will to be together – I believe in that very strongly. I’ve rethought this, and it always comes back to that. The center of the relationship is the ear — not the heart, not the head.”
Winkler met Stacey in 1976 at a Jerry Magnin clothing store in Beverly Hills. At the time, the “Happy Days” actor was three seasons in, and he was already one of the most famous people in America.
“This beautiful redhead … gave no indication whether she knew who I was — or if she did, whether she cared,” Winkler wrote in his book.
Henry Winkler’s memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond,” was published on Halloween. (Celadon Books )
The future “Barry” star was smitten, and he went back to the shop several days later hoping to catch a glimpse of the single mom.
The actor scored a date with Stacey, and she wanted to go to the movies. Winkler warned her that she wouldn’t be prepared for the onslaught of fans eager to approach him in public. She wasn’t fazed.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how to describe it to you,’” Winkler recalled to Fox News Digital. “I remember we sat down in the middle, and the entire theater stood up to come to say hello. She turned to me and said, ‘Oh!’ Then we drove to West Hollywood for dessert at a restaurant that no longer exists. I’m driving and waving. She said, ‘Who are you waving to?’ I said, ‘I have no idea. They’re waving at me. So I’m waving at them.’”
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Henry Winkler and Stacey Weitzman on their wedding day in New York City, circa 1978. (Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images)
Winkler insisted he wasn’t worried about his fame scaring Stacey away.
“I couldn’t think about that,” Winkler explained. “It is what it is. I was working as an actor, which was a dream of mine since I was old enough to reason. My fame came from that. I was working very hard and doing really well. I went from being given just six lines to being known by the world. I was entertaining people and making them laugh. … I had no control of that.”
Henry Winkler skyrocketed to fame after playing “The Fonz” on “Happy Days.” (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Stacey was up for the challenge. The couple married at a synagogue in New York. They’ve raised three children together: Zoe, 42, Max, 40, and Jed, who Stacey shares with ex-husband Howard Weitzman.
Henry Winkler with wife Stacey and stepson Jed Weitzman at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, circa 1979. (Ralph Dominguez/MediaPunch via Getty Images)
“Before I met Stacey, I felt that I’d never want to marry a woman with a child – I was determined to start from scratch,” Winkler wrote in his book. “Then I met an amazing woman who had a child, and everything I thought up until then went into the garbage bin.
“We were wildly attracted to each other,” he shared. “She was beautiful, she was kind, and she helped me learn to spell. She introduced me to good food. No more TV dinners. … And she apparently thought a lot of things about me were pretty good, too.”
Therapy has also been essential to the couple’s lasting marriage. In the book, Winkler recalled how Stacey was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s, and he “couldn’t be emotionally present for her in all the ways I needed to be.”
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In his memoir, Henry WInkler described how therapy has helped him cope with his tough upbringing. It has improved his life, both professionally and personally. (Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
“I just couldn’t process this gigantic news,” Winkler wrote. “I was terrified, as I know she was, but I was also scared to share my fear with her. Not my finest hour.”
Winkler recalled how he dozed off during one of her chemo treatments. Then he had to go away for work, convincing himself he was earning the money needed for the part of her treatment that insurance didn’t cover. It was a wake-up call.
Winkler began seeing a therapist seven years ago. It has helped him both professionally and personally as he addressed traumas from his childhood. Stacey even attended one of his sessions.
From left: Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on “Happy Days,” Henry Winkler and his wife Stacey in Los Angeles, circa 2019. The actor has maintained a close bond with his “Happy Days” castmates. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
“I am so proud of him, and so happy for him – and selfishly, happy for myself,” she wrote in the book. “Because when someone is feeling good about themselves, they’re a lot easier to be around. He had moments of self-satisfaction in the past, but they were brief. … This time, I really think he knows he’s good. Living with an actor can be challenging; nobody knows that the way I do. But Henry is a fuller person now.”
Winkler, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 31, said Stacey has been a supportive force.
Throughout his life, Winkler struggled with the learning disorder. He recalled stumbling during table reads for “Happy Days.” Growing up in the ‘50s and ’60s, a time when little was known about dyslexia, he was often shamed both in the classroom and at home. Those feelings stayed with him over the years.
“I remember when my stepson Jed was tested. Everything they said about him was true about me,” Winkler reflected to Fox News Digital. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m not stupid. I have something with a name.’
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Henry Winkler was 31 when he was diagnosed with dyslexia. His wife Stacey has been a supportive force in their decades-long marriage. (Images Press/IMAGES/Getty Images)
“The first thing it made me feel was angry,” Winkler admitted. “It made me angry that all the humiliation, all that punishment, all the yelling, all the disrespect I endured was for naught. And then I said, ‘OK, how do I negotiate this?’ It’s not going away. It stays with you forever. And then I think if I didn’t fight through that struggle, maybe I wouldn’t be as tenacious as I am today.”
Winkler wanted other children to know they weren’t alone. In 2003, he branched out into children’s books, writing about the adventures of Hank Zipzer, a young boy with dyslexia who overcomes many learning obstacles. The 28-book series, “Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever,” was based on Winkler’s own experiences with undiagnosed dyslexia.
Through Stacey, Winkler was introduced to a different kind of love. He recalled developing a close-knit bond with his late father-in-law, a dentist who eventually suffered from vision loss. It cost him his successful dental practice. At one point, he couldn’t recognize his grandchildren.
Henry Winkler and his wife Stacey have raised three children together: Zoe, 42, Max, 40 (left), and Jed, who Stacey shares with her ex-husband Howard Weitzman. (Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
“I loved him,” said Winkler. “He was different from my father. He was very loving to me. He was my dentist. I watched his eyesight disintegrate. I watched him have a macular degeneration.”
Winkler has since partnered with a pharmaceutical company, Apellis, in hopes of encouraging older Americans to address any changes to their vision.
“I wanted to tell people to go to their eye doctor before it gets out of control,” he said. “It’s become my responsibility.”
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“I am now 78, and I’m still having the time of my life,” Henry Winkler told Fox News Digital. (Andrew Eccles)
Today, Winkler hopes his book will inspire others.
“My greatest achievement is that I came here [to Hollywood] when I was 27,” he said. “I am now 78, and I’m still having the time of my life. I am still doing unbelievable projects that I’m lucky enough to get the call for. That is my achievement, that I was able to live my dream this long, that I was able to put food on the table and educate my children. I’m still living my dream.”
If Winkler was sitting down with his younger self today, he would have some sage words to share.
“I would tell him not to worry as much,” he said. “And buckle up — you’re going to have the most amazing adventure.”