Andrea Lucy, Bayla and I went to see Henry Winkler speak last night.  Of course, Andrea and I know him best for his role as The Fonz (though we enjoy him more as Barry Zuckercorn, the Bluth family lawyer on Arrested Development) and our daughters know him best as the co-author of the Hank Zipzer books.

It was his role as Arthur Fonzarelli that both propelled him to fame and overshadows the amazing work he’s done in the entertainment industry and for humanity.  A small portion of those accomplishments were highlighted in an introduction that took nearly as long as Mr. Winkler had for his own speech.

It was an inspirational evening.  The Fonz told stories about his own amazing journey through life, stories that illustrated a journey tied to the idea of “If you will it, it’s not a dream” — a powerful message Mr. Winkler has always lived by without realizing it until receiving that exact message on a card from a fan.  All of his stories illustrated a life that seems to have taken place as if by design and certainly too amazing to be a Hollywood movie.  And yet, despite his fame, Mr. Winkler’s life and work seems completely relatable — it really seemed as if I was spending an evening with a close friend.

While he may have had the audience completely engaged during his 35-minute talk, by far the biggest reaction he received was when he quoted The Fonz, in character: “Hey Ritchie, you can get a library card, and they’re free.” The theatre went wild.  That one line in an episode of Happy Days resulted in a 500% increase in library registrations in the United States.  Mr. Winkler used that story, and others, to illustrate how simple it is to make a positive difference in the world.

After a passionate standing ovation, Mr. Winkler wound his way through the audience, happily speaking with and signing autographs for everyone who took the opportunity to approach him (yes, I was one of them).

I had the privilege of interviewing Henry Winkler last year about his Hank Zipzer books and the challenges he’s faced with Dyslexia.  You can listen to that interview by CLICKING HERE.