Henry Winkler explains why the FBI showed up at his home: ‘You do not smell what you think you’re smelling’

For Henry Winkler, it was no laughing matter when the FBI showed up at his home.

The “Barry” actor, who starred as the “Fonz” on “Happy Days,” spoke on the “SmartLess” podcast in an episode released Monday. In it, the 78-year-old recalled how he once received an unexpected visit from law enforcement.

“So, I’m sitting in my apartment,” the star began. “I have a Victrola because everything was vinyl. I went to Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. I bought Dan Fogelberg, and I was listening to Dan Fogelberg on my rented Victrola. The door knocks.


The FBI had a special reason for paying Henry Winkler a visit. (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

“I get up,” said Winkler. “There are three men with badges. And I said, ‘Oh no, you do not smell what you think you’re smelling. Oh my God.’ And they said, ‘We’re with the FBI.’”

“There was some weed going [on],” co-host Sean Hayes chimed in.

Winkler said that as he broke a sweat, it turned out they had other priorities.

“’We’re not here for that,’” Winkler quoted them. “’We just wanted to meet the Fonz.’

“I was so happy that I was not being put in handcuffs, I didn’t care what they did.”

Henry Winkler greeting Queen Camilla.

Henry Winkler meets Britain’s Queen Camilla on the fifth day of the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting in Ascot, west of London, June 22, 2024.  (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

It wouldn’t be the last time Winkler got a surprise visit. In the podcast, the Emmy winner described how fans would come to his apartment “and lift their shirt and ask [him] to sign parts of their anatomy.”

In 2023, Winkler’s memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond,” was published. In it, the actor detailed how he skyrocketed to fame on “Happy Days” and how his character’s popularity tested his friendship with Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham.

The series, which chronicled the lives of the Cunningham family in the 1950s, aired from 1974 to 1984.


The book cover for Henry Winklers memoir

Henry Winkler’s memoir, “Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond,” was published on Halloween. (Celadon Books )

In the book, Winkler describes that while “Happy Days” was designed to have Howard be the star, his greaser role had taken off. Winkler was quickly given a raise from ABC. Worried about how Howard might feel, Winkler reached out to his pal.

“You’re not letting this go to your head or change who you are,” Howard told Winkler, as quoted in the book. “You’re a great team player. What you’ve created is incredible … for the show. But if I’m honest, I have to say it does hurt my feelings; more than that — it’s made me angry at times. Because you’re right — I was supposed to be the star of the show. But I was never angry at you, Henry.”

Leonard Goldenson, the president of ABC, even wanted to change the title of the show at one point to “Fonzie’s Happy Days.” Winkler balked at the suggestion.

Ron Howard and Henry Winkler on the Happy Days set

In his book, Henry Winkler recalled how the Fonz’s popularity tested his friendship with co-star Ron Howard. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

“I’m asking you not to do that,” Winkler wrote in his book. “If you do that, it is so disrespectful to everybody who has been doing ‘Happy Days’ as a family together with me. … How much more of a success can you make the show by changing the name. … That would be so hurtful — just as a slap in the face to everyone else in the cast.”

According to Winkler, “Happy Days” producers Tom Miller and Ed Milkis even approached Howard with the title change suggestion. Howard threatened to leave “Happy Days” and return to film school at USC.

Winkler said it was show creator Garry Marshall who put his foot down on the idea.


Henry Winkler wearing a brown leather jacket, a white shirt and blue jeans

Henry Winkler starred as Arthur Herbert “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on “Happy Days.” (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Then, in 1980, during the beginning of the eighth season of “Happy Days,” Winkler got a surprise phone call from Howard.

“Ron was just here for dinner with his wife and daughter, and he recounted the phone call,” Winkler explained to Fox News Digital. “What I heard was, ‘Hey, Henry, in 10 minutes it’s going to hit the press, but I wanted you to hear it first. I’m not coming back.’

“I was devastated,” Winkler admitted. “I was scared. He was my acting partner. And yet I knew this was this man’s dream, to be a filmmaker. Ron said I told him, ‘Go get it. Go out there, and you go get it because this is what you want.’ He said, ‘I’ll never forget those words because it was an impetus for me. It made me feel better about my decision.’ I said, ‘It took you 50 years to finally tell me that?’”

A close-up of Ron Howard looking down as Henry Winkler looks ahead as theyre dressed as their characters in Happy Days

Henry Winkler said he was devastated when his pal Ron Howard decided to leave “Happy Days.” (Fotos International/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the book, Winkler described the phone call that left him “completely thunderstruck.”

“[Ron] told me how disrespected the network had made him feel — financially and personally,” Winkler wrote. “‘You know,’ he said, ‘ABC just really doesn’t care about me.’ He mentioned his salary; he even mentioned the wallet the network gave him for Christmas when I got that fancy videotape player — and, finally, pushed him over the edge.

“I was scared and sad,” Winkler continued. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. My acting partner in most of the scenes on ‘Happy Days’ was leaving! My entire character was based on being Richie’s big brother; everything else was ancillary. How could I ever find somebody I felt this connected to? All these things were swirling in my brain. But mostly I felt, I love you; I want you to go out there and be unbelievable; possibly cast me…”


The cast of Happy Days today posing for a photo and smiling on the red carpet

From left: Don Most, Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross and Anson Williams in 2019 for a celebration honoring the “Happy Days” cast in California. (Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

Howard’s character Richie got drafted into the Army on the show to explain his absence, and the former child actor went on to become an Oscar-winning director. Some of his many blockbusters include “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind.”

Today, there are no hard feelings, Winkler stressed. He’s the godfather of Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard.

Howard and his wife Cheryl told Winkler, “God forbid anything happens to us, will you take the children? You can bar mitzvah them, if you want.”

bryce dallas howard with ron howard on the red carpet

Henry Winkler is the godfather of Ron Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard. (Daniele Venturelli/WireImage/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the filmmaker, 70, didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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