TODAY   |  May 07, 2010

The Fonz tackles ‘Zipzer’s’ final chapter

Actor and author Henry Winkler discusses the last book in his popular children’s series “Hank Zipzer,” which focuses on a boy battling dyslexia.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: You probably know this already, but Henry Winkler has been entertaining fans for more than 35 years. Of course, he's best known as "Fonzie," the iconic character from the classic television sitcom , " Happy Days ." But he's also the author of a series of young adult books about a clever boy who, like Winkler in real life , is coping with a learning challenge. And the 17th and final

book in the series is called "Hank Zipzer: A Brand-New Me!" Henry Winkler , good to see you.

Mr. HENRY WINKLER: What a pleasure.

LAUER: Seventeen?

Mr. WINKLER: Seventeen I wrote with my incredible partner Lin Oliver .

LAUER: So now, you're bringing this to an end because Hank is moving on.

Mr. WINKLER: Well, he is. He's graduating into middle school , and it was -- I did not know how emotional this -- writing of this book would be. You know, he's on the Broadway bus that I took every day. He's watching his old neighborhood drift by the window and his new neighborhood come into the window because he's going to meet his bliss at his new school.

LAUER: Well, look, changing schools is a difficult time for any child.

Mr. WINKLER: Yes. Right.

LAUER: But Hank has got to find just the right school.

Mr. WINKLER: He does.

LAUER: So there's an extra challenge .

Mr. WINKLER: Absolutely. And he forgot to apply to the school he wanted to, so he has to apply late. And Garry Marshall , who is one of the executive producers and co-creators of " Happy Days ," was my mentor, along with Tom Miller . And we made Garry Marshall , you know, Hank 's mentor in the book.

LAUER: Well, you know, you write something in the book about what it's like to be dyslexic, and you describe it as, quote, "It's pretty frustrating feeling like you're smart inside but when you try to get it outside, everything just gets all tangled up."


LAUER: I would imagine you talked to a lot of young adults and their parents...


LAUER: ...and they must -- they must love the fact that you give voice to this frustration.

Mr. WINKLER: They say that, `Oh, wow, I'm not alone, how did you know me so well?' The most important thing that a child has to know is no matter how they learn, no matter if they are the slowest learner in the class, it has nothing to do with how brilliant they are. Do you know?

LAUER: And we should mention, a lot of these children are very vocal, they've very articulate.

Mr. WINKLER: Unbelievable.

LAUER: And that's one of the reasons why this is sometimes missed in terms of the diagnosis.

Mr. WINKLER: Absolutely. I was very vocal and I was the class clown . And everybody thought I was just not paying attention where the real thing was I couldn't pay attention .

LAUER: You -- 17 and over here for Hank Zipzer .

Mr. WINKLER: Yeah.

LAUER: Would you -- would you consider doing another series of books like this?

Mr. WINKLER: Well, Lin and I are working on a proposal for a brand-new series. I can't tell you about it yet because it's not signed.

LAUER: No, you have to tell us.

Mr. WINKLER: But we do...

LAUER: We're not letting you out of here until you tell us.

Mr. WINKLER: Oh, OK, I'm going to work up the nerve.

LAUER: No. Keep it a secret but come back and talk about it .

Mr. WINKLER: I promise, I promise.

LAUER: Can I talk about something else that's exciting?

Mr. WINKLER: Yes, please.

LAUER: One of our own networks, USA. ..


LAUER:'re going to be appearing.

Mr. WINKLER: Unbelievable.

LAUER: "Royal Pains."

Mr. WINKLER: Stacy and I watched "Royal Pains" last year, and we were a major fan. And this year I'm on it!

LAUER: They talked about your character last year.

Mr. WINKLER: They did. Mark Feuerstein and Paulo Costanzo play brothers. And I play their really shady dad.

LAUER: Is it fun?


LAUER: Yeah?

Mr. WINKLER: They are terrific, the set is great, and it is a pleasure. And they film out in East Hampton . You know, how tony is that?

LAUER: That's not bad.

Mr. WINKLER: Yeah.

LAUER: Real quickly...

Mr. WINKLER: Yeah.

LAUER: ...what's that new series of books about?

Mr. WINKLER: Oh, yes, it's called " Hank Zipzer : The World's Greatest Underachiever."

LAUER: No, it's not. No, it's not.

Mr. WINKLER: It's not, is it?

LAUER: Congratulations.

Mr. WINKLER: No. Thank you. What a pleasure to chat with you.

LAUER: It's great to see you.

Mr. WINKLER: Thanks.