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Mostly comedy, with parts inspiration and soul baring, Henry Winkler delighted an audience of 1,500 Wednesday evening in the Stranahan Theater.
“It is up to us to make sure our children can meet their destiny,” he said shortly before his trademark ending, “I would like to thank you very much for listening because my parents never did.”
Mr. Winkler, 68, best known for his role as The Fonz in the Happy Days series (“I love those retro shows,” a 15-year-old boy told him during the question-and-answer session that followed his talk), has had a rich career as an actor and director despite living with undiagnosed dyslexia until he was 31.
As a dyslexic child, “you spend a third of your time trying to figure out school, a third of the time wondering why you can’t figure it out, and a third of your time covering up your shame and humiliation,” he said. “I covered it up by trying to be funny.”
He’s co-written 25 novels for children about a boy who has dyslexia, is funny, and gets in trouble.
He got a hearty standing ovation, and the mutual admiration society between Mr. Winkler and the audience was at its best during the Q&A session when he bantered effortlessly.
He repeated one of his remarks for a man who hadn’t been able to write it down, gave advice on what to see in New York to another man (the top of the RCA Building), counseled a teen whose brother has attention deficit disorder (told him to ask his brother how it feels to live inside his skin), and brainstormed with another teenager who said she has dyslexia about a project she’s doing to earn a Girl Scout award.
When an 8-year-old boy approached the microphone, his father snapping pictures behind him, Mr. Winkler left the stage and walked into the audience to explain how Fonzie got his name, then kissed and hugged the child. “Adorable,” he said.
The next person in line — a blonde woman — moved in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“That’s all I wanted,” she said.
To a woman who said she had met and discussed him with his cousin, Stan Winkler, he said he had no such relative. “He has your eyes,” the woman said.
“Then he’s had surgery,” Mr. Winkler replied.
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library announced the fall Authors! Authors! lineup: Political journalist Cokie Roberts will speak Sept. 3; Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi is scheduled for Oct. 22, and best-selling writer Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) will take the podium Nov. 19.
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