Henry Winkler joined me this morning to talk politics and of course Hollywood (and his amazing series of Hank Zipzer children’s books):
HH: Special segment of the Hugh Hewitt show. As you know, if you’ve listened to this show for the last 20 years, I get along very well with folks from Hollywood who may not share my opinions. Ron Howard’s been on this show a lot. Rob Reiner and I have done a lot of Prop. 10 work together. My favorite interview among 25,000 interviews probably with Richard Dreyfuss, and I said that to the New York Times last year. They couldn’t believe it. Well, now to add to that list, Henry Winkler joins me. Henry sent a tweet to me last week, very simple tweet – Good morning. Why does our political underpinnings seem so shifting sand unsettling at this moment? I thought that was thoughtful, because it does seem that way. I even wrote a column about it today. And then I asked if Henry would come on, and he said yes. So Henry Winkler, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. It’s great to have you on.
HW: Well, I want to say I’m very happy to meet you over the wire.
HH: Over the wire. Good to see you on the radio, as they say. I was doing my research for this, and I discovered something new about you. I know about your whole career. I’ve watched you forever.
HW: Thank you.
HH: I did not know that you were a hugely successful children’s book author. I didn’t know about Hank Zipzer, because my kids are grown since you began that. But this looks like you’ve sold millions of books.
HW: Yes. It was a fluke when we started. It was supposed to fill a void, because who knew as an actor, there would be a lull in your career? And somebody suggested writing books about my learning challenges. And we started Hank Zipzer, and there are now 32 novels that Lynn Oliver and I have, and as a matter of fact, when I finish with you, I will go to my writing partner’s office, and we will finish the 33rd’s revision.
HH: You see, I find, and it’s about a learning challenged child. Woodrow Wilson had dyslexia, Henry. Did anyone ever tell you that? He would memorize everything.
HH: And you had dyslexia.
HW: And I did the same thing.
HH: Yeah, and so it’s really remarkable. I don’t know that there’s another children’s series that actually deals with the problems of learning challenge.
HW: I think there was one, a little boy who had ADD, but our little boy is emotionally me, and the comedy, because they’re comedies first, is exaggerated. And children say to me oh, my gosh, I laughed so hard, my funny bone fell out of my body, or how did you know me so well?
HH: And when did you figure out you had dyslexia?
HW: 31 years old. My step-son, Jed, who is now 45, was in the 3rd grade. He had to write a report. He couldn’t do it. I said everything to him that was said to me, oh, come on, you’re not living up to your potential, you can do it, you’re just being lazy. We finally had him tested, and everything that they said about Jed was true about me.
HH: Now how did you ever learn scripts? You know, dyslexia is particularly challenging to people who have to read a lot. But if you have to read and memorize, who did you do that?
HW: Well, memorizing was easy. It was the reading that was so difficult. So I would read the scripts very slowly, often, and one word at a time. And then the repetition, I was able to get it in as quickly as possible. That’s the way I auditioned, too. And then I would memorize it, and what I forgot, I improvised.
HH: Well, it’s like Tony Coelho and epilepsy. When I find a celebrity who has a particular condition, I like people to know about it so they can tell their kids you see Henry Winkler from Arrested Development or from Happy Days or from the sleigh full of movies that you’ve made, he had dyslexia as well. We can do this, not to say you can do it, but that we can do it together. So my hat’s off to you for that.
HW: Thank you.
HH: Congratulations on that. Let’s talk politics.
HW: Well, I will say, Mr. Hewitt…
HH: Go ahead.
HW: I will say…
HH: Oh, please.
HW: …that I, when I talk to children anywhere in the world, I say to them school is the law. You try as hard as you can. But how we do in school has nothing to do with how brilliant you are.
HH: You know, Frank Bruni is another one of my lefty pals from the New York Times, wrote a book…
HW: Oh, he’s great.
HH: Yeah, he is. Where You Go To College Is Not Who You Are.
HH: I love that, it’s just not. And so we’ve got our agreements on the table. Let’s talk about disagreements. I actually don’t know your politics. I was, I went back and researched, and so you’re center-left. I did not know you were political, because you’re always happy, and I never see you talking politics. Has it been a central part of your career?
HW: No. When I was first doing Happy Days, my daughter in 1980 was born, Zoe. And we went to a women’s rights rally. And I took my daughter in my arms, and said I’m hoping that my daughter in this country can be and do anything that she wants. And that was the first thing that I ever did. I’m not very political. I don’t trust necessarily that what we’re seeing, what we’re hearing is always the truth. So I wait to see. And eventually, something, you know, when you ask people what their favorite restaurant is, eventually you hear the same restaurant over and over and over again, and that’s the one?
HH: Yes, okay.
HW: That’s the way I’ve lived my politics.
HH: Well now, and please call me Hugh. I think that’s very funny you’re calling me Mr. Hewitt. But Henry Winkler, when you tweeted out, the reason I responded is because it’s actually kind of raw. Why does our political underpinning seem to shifting sand unsettling? I wrote a column about it, because it does. But I don’t think it’s for the reason a lot of center-left people think it is. It’s not because of Trump. It’s because of change. We are, we’re changing everything, and like center-right people might have been unsettled by President Obama’s arrival in 2008, I think we’ll settle down when we realize that government is still boring, unwieldy and slow.
HH: Do you share that?
HW: You know what? I don’t know, but that gives me great hope. I mean, I feel a little better. I’m not sure that it is not the man who is the president-elect just because you never, you never know why or what or how he says what he says. It always seems like when he first said I’m going to keep you in suspense, and then he plays that game with us, just don’t say anything and I’ll feel better.
HH: He builds tension. Now you’re a very accomplished actor. Do you see in him a lot more acting? You know, Ronald Reagan was a very accomplished actor as well. It’s not a bad thing to actually be able to act.
HW: No, no, no. You know, I totally agree with you. I’m not sure I see an actor. I believe that instead of going and saying thank you to all of those people, I believe that every three or four months, he will start to twitch when whatever home he’s in, and will go on the road and have to have those people cheer.
HH: Huh. Interesting.
HW: Yeah, I see it as clear as day.
HH: How interesting. Well, we’ll follow that. There’s another great actor out there, Michael Sheen, British actor, played Tony Blair in The Queen.
HH: Michael Sheen just announced he’s going to quit acting to become a full time activist because of his fears of populism. I thought that was a little over, he’s a great actor, by the way. He’s a terrific actor.
HW: He is a wonderful actor. I have worked with his ex-wife.
HW: I know his daughter, Lily. I don’t know when I read that, I thought to myself, this, I don’t believe this. That man is born to be an actor. He is great at what he does. I’ve seen him on stage. I’ve seen him on television and in the movies. You know, I don’t, it did not sit, the penny didn’t drop all the way down when I read that sentence.
HH: Yeah, it just seemed a little over the top to me. That’s why liked your tweet. Your tweet expressed concern, but it wasn’t the world’s on fire and I don’t have to quit acting and get, you know, I don’t have to become a prepper in Idaho or anything like that.
HH: Is Hollywood prone to overreaction, and by Hollywood, I mean people who live in the theater?
HW: Well, I will tell you this. We live on the, on our bread and butter, the reason that we connect is because we live on the edge of our emotionality. We have to express…acting is the mirror of, and you hold yourself up and hopefully somebody knows your experience and is moved, or goes oh, my gosh, I understand something now. That’s the reason theater is there, plus to take you away and make you enjoy yourself. So yes, I would imagine it’s a long-winded answer for yes, I think we are a more dramatic bunch, but that does not invalidate the emotions we feel.
HH: Of course, not, and in fact, that’s why I’m glad you tweeted. That’s why I wrote the column about it today. Now I want to ask you about acting for a moment.
HH: I associate you…
HW: Can I ask you a question?
HH: Oh, sure, absolutely.
HW: What was the column? I did not see it, yet, so what is it that you wrote about that? How do you feel about it?
HH: I wrote, it’s in the Washington Examiner today, Hugh Hewitt – Washington Examiner, and I wrote that Henry Winkler asked me this, and here are the three reasons why people are unsettled. One is the rapidity of change, two is its transition, and three, we’re in a period of time when nothing normal is happening. And when we get to budgets and tax bills, people will calm down. And we also have this backdrop of a terrible, just maybe the worst thing I’ve seen in my life, Aleppo. Rwanda was bad, but we didn’t see it.
HW: It’s true.
HH: We see Aleppo, and that’s very upsetting.
HW: You know, my parents escaped Nazi Germany. And it struck me that I am the world that just watched while these people who now because of this instant media, you know, your instant photograph across the world, I’m just sitting and watching this horrific thing happen.
HH: And I wonder how we would have reacted if the Holocaust was televised, because we haven’t done much for Aleppo. I mean, there are relief agencies. There are people that we can help, Catholic Charities is there.
HH: But I don’t know what we would have done if the Holocaust had been televised.
HW: I don’t, either. I don’t, either.
HW: And it’s just shocking. But I will say, let me ask you, then, another question. The people, you know, show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are, or I will know who you are, which I think is a great expression.
HW: And there are some people that he surrounds himself with that do not seem to be safe for America.
HH: I understand your concern. I don’t know, and I’m sure you’re referring to Mr. Bannon.
HW: That’s one.
HH: I don’t know him. I do know Reince Priebus very well.
HW: There’s a General. There’s a general and his son.
HH: I know General Flynn pretty well. And General McChrystal, who’s widely regarded…
HW: No, no, no, just those two so far, and the young, and the gentleman, this is what I see in my mind, that the gentleman who no one can pronounce his name who is the chief of staff…
HH: Reince Priebus.
HH: He’s wonderful.
HH: Reince is wonderful.
HW: I’m sure…I believe that Steve Bannon is going to have him as an hors d’oeuvres.
HH: And General Mattis…Okay, we’ll see. I don’t think so. But you know who no one’s goinig to have for an hors d’oeuvres, is General Mattis, a nonpartisan, General Kelly, a nonpartisan. These people, Henry Winkler, are amazing.
HW: You know what? I believe.
HH: Come back another time. I was going to ask you about Manchester By The Sea, because you’re always happy, and I wanted to know if you’ve ever done a sad role. But that’s next time. Have a great holiday, and I hope everyone goes and gets the Hank books for their children in their life, very important. Henry Winkler, great to have you.
End of interview.