In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond, via People magazine, the actor said he wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 31, which was well into the popular comedy series’ 11-season run.
“Even in the midst of Happy Days, at the height of my fame and success, I felt embarrassed, inadequate,” he wrote. “Every Monday at ten o’clock, we would have a table reading of that week’s script, and at every reading I would lose my place, or stumble. I would leave a word out, a line out. I was constantly failing to give the right cue line, which would then screw up the joke for the person doing the scene with me. Or I would be staring at a word, like “invincible,” and have no idea on earth how to pronounce it or even sound it out.”
Winkler continued, “My brain and I were in different zip codes. Meanwhile, the other actors would be waiting, staring at me: it was humiliating and shameful. Everybody in the cast was warm and supportive, but I constantly felt I was letting them down. I had to ask for my scripts really early, so I could read them over and over again- which put extra pressure on the writers, who were already under the gun every week, having to get twenty-four scripts ready in rapid succession. All this at the height of my fame and success, as I was playing the coolest guy in the world.”
It was only later when his stepson was diagnosed with dyslexia that Winkler realized that he might also have the learning disorder. Though, once the Emmy-winning actor said he “found out that I had something with a name, I was so fucking angry.”
“All the misery I’d gone through had been for nothing,” he wrote in his book. “All the yelling, all the humiliation, all the screaming arguments in my house as I was growing up – for nothing… It was genetic! It wasn’t a way I decided to be! And then I went from feeling this massive anger to fighting through it.”
Since being diagnosed, Winkler has been publicly open about his life with dyslexia. He has also written two children’s books, Here’s Hank and Hank Zipzer, the World’s Greatest Underachiever, which offer a funny and real look at life for a child who struggles with dyslexia.
Winkler’s memoir, Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond, hits bookshelves on Oct. 31.