‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard Chastised an ABC Executive Over Henry Winkler’s Christmas Gift

Happy Days wasn’t always a happy set. Ron Howard writes about some of the conflict that arose during production in his new book. Clint and Ron Howard cowrote The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family. Ron wrote about one time the ABC executives gave Henry Winkler a much nicer Christmas gift than the rest of the ensemble. 

Happy Days: Ron Howard and Henry Winkler stand in the diner
L-R: Henry Winkler and Ron Howard | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

The Howards were guests on Rob Lowe’s Literally podcast to promote The Boys on Oct. 27. When Lowe asked about the Happy Days Christmas gift story, Ron explained how he had to set network executives straight. 

ABC made the ‘Happy Days’ cast feel they were less important than Henry Winkler

One Christmas, the Happy Days cast got wallets. All except for Henry Winkler. Winkler’s character, Fonzie, had broken out. When Winkler revealed he’d received a VCR, his co-stars were upset. Remember, in the ’70s, VCR’s were the top of the line new technology.

“They were just brand new,” Howard told Lowe. “You couldn’t get one and they were like $1500 or something like that. He got one. It wasn’t even the crew, it was just the cast and we all got wallets. They were nice wallets, they were perfectly fine wallets but everybody was upset about this discrepancy. We were an ensemble and prided ourselves on that, including Henry. And yet this thing happened and Henry kind of sheepishly admitted it and he certainly wasn’t going to give the VCR back.”

The ‘Happy Days’ cast looked to Ron Howard to make things right 

Howard played Richie Cunningham on the comedy. Since he was the lead of the show, his co-stars asked him to speak to the network.

RELATED: ‘Happy Days’ Henry Winkler on Ron Howard’s Emotional Departure: ‘When I Said Goodbye to Richie, I Said Goodbye to Ron’

“I kind of became the shop foreman,” Howard said. “It fell upon me. I think Tom Bosley put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You’re the star of the show, first billed. You need to talk to the network.’ Thanks, Tom. So I made the call and a guy who wound up being an all time great television producer, Bob Boyett happened to be the executive on the other end of this. I was learning a lesson and getting some calluses.”

Ron Howard chastised the network for singling Henry Winkler out

Howard said Fonzie-mania was already a sensitive subject among the Happy Days cast. Winkler’s character was a supporting role in the first season. Howard credits Winkler for making Fonzie such a memorable character, but it still wasn’t right to give him such a bigger gift. And Howard told Boyett as much.

“I said, ‘Look, we’re an ensemble. It’s a tenuous situation because of what’s going on with Henry from kind of an ego standpoint around here but it’s going great. The show’s working. We love each other but when the network does something like this, it’s symbolic of something that is not constructive,’” Howard recalled. “I said it more or less that way even though I was only 20 or 21. I articulated it pretty well.”

Ron Howard and Henry Winkler stand together in Happy Days
L-R: Henry Winkler and Ron Howard | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

RELATED: Why Henry Winkler Threw a ‘Horrid’ ‘Happy Days’ Script Against a Wall

Howard went further to make a symbolic gesture to Boyett. However, he later learned he was alone in that gesture.

“He was sort of discombobulated and said, ‘I had no idea that Christmas gifts could matter so much,’” Howard continued. “I said, ‘Maybe they shouldn’t but they do. I’m sending my wallet back.’ I later found out I was the only one who sent the wallet back.”

Source: Literally with Rob Lowe podcast