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Welcome to my world: Henry Winkler

THE son of Jewish immigrants who escaped Germany for the US on the eve of the Second World War, in 1973 Henry Winkler took the minor role of a leather-jacketed grease monkey on Happy Days.

A decade later The Fonz was the star of the show. Numerous TV and film roles followed, but Winkler also branched out into writing, with a hugely successful series of books for kids inspired by his dyslexic schooldays. He is touring schools in Scotland and Ireland on the First News Reading Tour this week (in Glasgow and Edinburgh until Wednesday 20 May) and will be talking to children about what it was like for him growing up with dyslexia and introducing them to his hilarious and touching Hank Zipzer novels, available from.walker.co.uk.

Describe your perfect weekend

My perfect weekend in the city would be great food and the theatre, or a movie. My perfect weekend in the countryside would involve fishing for trout. It might be one of the greatest things a human being can do outside of curing cancer.

What would you do if you ruled the world?

I would spank people who are interested in creating war and cruelty. I would send them to their room without dinner.

What one thing would improve your life?

Being able to overcome my need to be perfect instead of just who I am.

Who did you last receive a text from and what did it say?

My youngest son, Max, saying he was not giving me the money he owed for his telephone bill.

When did you last feel sorry for yourself?

I try very hard never to feel sorry for myself. Except, of course, when I can't button my pants because of too much pasta.

Would your mother be proud of you?

It took a while for my mother to get with the "pride programme". I truly believe it is important for a parent to be proud of their child all the time. Not just when they accomplish something.

Who does the cleaning in your house?

We all do, BUT, let it be known I make the least mess. And that's the truth no matter what anybody else says.

What's the most you've ever spent on a purchase, apart from a car or property?

1,000 on a Winston Fly-Rod and Reel.

What is your earliest memory?

Trying to figure out what my next meal was.

What song is the theme tune to your life?

Rocky, sung by The Three Irish Tenors.

Should you vote? If yes, how did you vote?

We should always vote, and I can honestly say I am so happy President Obama is leading my country out of the darkness.

What worries you in the wee small hours?

That my children remain healthy and live happy productive lives in this uncertain world, that we survive this economic crisis and that we stop shooting at one another. And another, and this is especially true in America, is the worry of remaining relevant. Ageism is deadly.

When were you last naked in front of another person?

My wife… who laughed.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

School was incredibly difficult for me. I am in the bottom three per cent academically in America. I would have to say my high school music teacher, who had faith in me when others said I'd fail.

Who is your fantasy date?

Kate Winslet.

What is your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possessions are the scripts that I have either acted in, produced or directed, bound in leather. When I look at them, I see accomplishment.

What do you remember better, your first car or first kiss?

My first kiss was in the 4th grade with a girl named Susie, under the back stairway in my apartment building in New York City. I was ten and turned red as a beet.

If you didn't have your current career, what would you do?

I would work exclusively with children, making sure their self image was strong and intact. I believe self image is the most important cornerstone of living.

What do you think of celebrity?

I see celebrity as a tool. It is not reality. We are not born with the ability to handle that kind of attention.

What has been your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement in life is my three children. They are wonderful citizens in the world… they are rude, but wonderful contributors. My greatest achievement professionally is the series of Hank Zipzer books. I never thought I could write even one novel, let alone 16. And the fact that they make children and adults laugh is the icing on the cake.

How old are you?

I am 63 and a half.

How has dyslexia affected your life?

Dyslexia is hereditary. We who have learning challenges are wired differently in our brain. What I have come to understand is that our learning challenges have nothing to do with how brilliant one can be. Maybe my learning challenges helped me achieve my dream.

How did you overcome any problems this might have thrown up?

I think the most important phrase I have come across in my entire life is: "If you will it, it is not a dream." Which was first said (I believe) in 1946. That phrase makes the world go round. No matter what the obstacle, if you keep your dream at the front of your brain, prepare yourself and place one foot in front of the other, it is very possible to negotiate your learning challenge and meet your dream.

 
 
 

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