There are friendly celebrities. There are charitable celebrities. And then there’s The Fonz.
Henry Winkler needs no leather jacket nor slicked back hair to completely transcend cool—as nearly 20,000 Minnesotans learned last week when he took the stage at We Day, the annual celebration of youth community service and social action. The entire Xcel Energy Center arena, filled with kids who’ve never heard of Happy Days, was transfixed by his personal story of being a kid who couldn’t read in the days before dyslexia was diagnosed and properly treated. He endured teachers telling him he wouldn’t amount to much and didn’t read a novel on his own until age 31. Since then, he’s not only kept reading—and acting and directing and producing—he's written more than two-dozen books for young adults.
Backstage at We Day, Winkler was just as inspiring, engaging and funny—pausing countless times to pose for pictures and talk to kids with singular focus on each and every person he met. “I played cool, but I was not cool,” he told a couple of “youth reporters” at the We Day press conference. “Cool is being yourself, being authentic.”
Winkler was authentic in a hot pink cable knit sweater and plaid shirt, which he happened to mention (not even knowing I play a style editor in my day job) that he had picked up that very morning at Heimie’s Haberdashery.
“Anyone want to talk about my new shirt from Heimie’s?” he asked as he left the press conference.
And of course, I did.
Winkler wandered into the downtown St. Paul men’s store before his We Day appearance and rocked owner Anthony Andler’s world. “Like a mirage in the desert, the image of cool was walking towards me, reaching out his hand,” Andler described—dead serious. “I have been touched by the Fonz. Yes, beyond my expectations.”
Heimie's manager Keith Dorsett says Winkler was extremely friendly—and amused by Andler’s story of how the Fonz helped him win over his first girlfriend. Winkler bought a plaid button down, which he wore that day under his pink sweater, and posed for a photo with Heimie’s associate Gus Gonzalez.
Heimie's Haberdashery associate Gus Gonzalez with Henry Winkler