Sunday, May 18, 2008

Henry Winkler



Date: Friday, May 16th

Author: Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Book: Hank Zipzer #14, The Life of Me: Enter at Your Own Risk

Kepler's Youth Events Coordinator, Angela Kroner writes about a wonderful day of fun with the Fonz.~

Simply put, Henry Winkler is one of the nicest men I have ever met. From the moment that he walked up to the library (looking everyone in the eye, shaking hands, a big smile at the ready) to the moment he left (hugs and hand shakes all around), he made every person that he came in contact with feel as if he really cared and that he was happy to have you around him.

Equally warm and sweet was his writing partner Lin Oliver who accompanied him on this tour. She is a writer and producer of children and family programming and movies and is co-founder and Executive Director of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It was easy to see why the two work so well together, as they have an excellent rapport. Plus, Henry is very attentive to the fact that they are co-authors. He was quick to downplay his celebrity in favor of her presence and contribution to their work.

After a quick snack of New York Style pizza courtesy of “Chewie” from Escape from New York Pizza (A big fan, Chewie called us earlier in the week to see if he could deliver pizza for Henry), Henry and Lin sat down for an interview with a San Jose magazine reporter. Pretty soon, it was show time.

The two took the stage and had the audience laughing and smiling from the moment they started talking. Despite a wireless microphone snafu, Henry and Lin were relaxed and enthusiastic. He told the story of him growing up and wanting to be an actor from the age of 3, his experiences growing up with dyslexia and how it affected his acting career, and then he and Lin discussed how they write the books and where they get their ideas. Here are some pictures of them talking. Notice the woman in the front row wearing the white capris…she is related to an eccentric woman whom Henry borrowed the last name of Zipzer from for his main character’s surname:












Henry also did dramatic readings from a few of his books, which were spot on in tone and full of animation. I know, I know, he is a professional actor and he is supposed to be good at giving readings. Still, it was magical to watch. A little bit like live theater. What is even more impressive is when you factor in his dyslexia. It is still very difficult for him to read out loud, yet he did it flawlessly. Someone actually asked him about that and he said in his early acting days, when he would read for parts, casting directors would say, “You didn’t read the lines the way they are written.” To which Henry replied that he was giving them the “essence of the character”. It worked to his advantage because, well, he got the parts.

I could go on and on about this event, but I won’t because I want to get to the best part of the night, THE SIGNING LINE! As I’ve mentioned, Henry is dyslexic and the character in his books is dyslexic too. As you may guess, there were many kids in the audience who had a learning disability. It was touching to watch him speak to them. When a child came up to him who tearfully said that he couldn’t play sports because of his learning disability, Henry put down his Sharpie, held the boy’s hand and spoke to him in a soft reassuring voice. He told him that he had intelligent eyes and that he could tell that he was really smart. He told him not to give up. And some other things that I couldn’t quite hear, but I could tell were making a profound impression on the little boy. His parents were beaming as they left the table. So was the little boy. There were many, many moments like that. Lots of giggling from the kids as they posed for pictures with Henry as he told them not to laugh which made them laugh even more. It was one of the best times that I have ever had running a signing line.

Everyone was sad to see him go, but we knew that it had to end. As a final favor to me, he posed with me for a picture so that I could prove to my mom that I really worked with Henry Winkler:

One final note. On Monday morning I had a voice mail message from Henry saying that he had a good time with Kepler’s and he thanked us for a “wonderful, wonderful event”. He may not have said it, but I feel like he was giving us a great big “EHHHH!”

5 comments:

Janet Lee said...

Dear Kepler,

Thank you for your comments about the signing line. I will be attending Mr. Winkler's presentation in Windsor, Ontario in August. I will be bringing a 62 year old man with me (Arnie Stewart) who has lived most of his life without knowing how to read and write. It is my hope that Mr. Winkler will take a few moments with Arnie. Organizers of the conference have told us it is "impossible" to talk with Mr. Winkler because he is such an important man. This discouraged us, but this morning your post is very encouraging.

Thank you,
Janet Lee
www.arniestewart.org

Adam said...

Awesome story. I kind of got the feeling he was a nice guy just from his role in "Waterboy". I'm not old enough to have watched "Happy Days" so I don't really think of him as Fonz

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