Al Molinaro, Diner Owner on ‘Happy Days,’ Dies at 96

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Al Molinaro, Big Al on ‘Happy Days’ actor, dead at 96: reports.

Al Molinaro, an actor who specialized in lovable blue-collar roles and played his Midwestern cadence, penguin-like physique, beaked nose and wayward eyebrows for laughs on the long-running sitcoms “The Odd Couple” and “Happy Days,” died Friday at a hospital in Glendale. The actor is best known for playing Al Delvecchio on “Happy Days.” The character — who often told long stories ending with the phrase “Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep” — ran Arnold’s, the Milwaukee hangout for Richie, Fonzie and the rest of the gang. A native of Kenosha, Wis., Molinaro joined Happy Days — also created by Marshall — in 1974 for its second season, and his character eventually took over the diner from Pat Morita, who had played Arnold (and left for his own sitcom). He left his job as assistant city manager in Kenosha and gradually cobbled together emceeing and other entertainment work, while supporting his family running a collection agency. He was a regular cast member in Seasons 4 through 9 of “Happy Days,” which was broadcast on ABC from 1974 to 1984; left the show to reprise his role in a short-lived spinoff, “Joanie Loves Chachi” (1982-83); and reappeared on “Happy Days” toward the end of its run.

Set in midcentury Milwaukee, “Happy Days” followed the fortunes of a group of teenagers, chief among them Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), familiarly known as the Fonz. In 1994, Molinaro reprised the role of Al yet again, this time for Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” video (directed by Spike Jonze), with the band performing at the drive-in. His character, who ran the beanery — originally known as Arnold’s and later called Al’s — where the group congregated, was known for the catchphrase “Yup-yup-yup-yup,” uttered in a world-weary phonetic blur.

Molinaro’s credits include other period mainstays like “Laverne & Shirley,” “The Love Boat,” “Bewitched,” and “Green Acres.” But most viewers will fondly recall Big Al’s days dealing with The Fonze and Richie Cunningham and their friends at their favorite hangout. Molinaro left the cast in 1982 – two years before the show’s finale – but continued as “Big Al” in another Marshall production, the short-lived “Happy Days” spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi” starring Scott Baio and Erin Moran. After that sitcom was canceled, Molinaro had roles on fleeting shows in the 1980s and early 1990s such as “The Family Man” and “Step By Step.” He also starred in a failed TV pilot called “The Ugily Family” (1982) as the patriarch of an unattractive clan who is constantly correcting mispronunciations of his surname as “ugly.” Molinaro remained a TV presence for decades, but mostly as a pitchman for products such as Mr. Michael Molinaro said that his father had a special affection for New York City, the setting for “The Odd Couple,” and that he lived there for a time in a Midtown hotel as he sought work in commercials. “The first time I went to New York City it was because he had moved there to do a number of commercials,” the younger Mr.

In high school, from which he took an extra year to graduate, he was barred from extracurricular activities like drama that might have compromised his studies. “It was my fault, not the teachers’,” Mr. He studied acting, landing guest roles in the ’60s and ’70s on sitcoms like “Get Smart,” “Green Acres,” “That Girl” and “Bewitched.” Then, through Penny Marshall, a friend from acting class, Mr.

In 1990, Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work. “I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. The episode had “the worst script in the history of ‘Happy Days,’ ” Anson Williams, who played Potsie on the show, later recalled in a television interview. With its new guest star, “My Favorite Orkan” proved so blazingly successful that the network created “Mork & Mindy.” The show was an immediate hit and ran from 1978 to 1982.

Molinaro came out of retirement to appear in “The Family Man,” a sitcom shown on CBS in the 1990-91 season, playing a bumbling man who helps his newly widowed son-in-law (Gregory Harrison) raise four children. Garry had a part for me in the first movie he made” — the 1982 comedy “Young Doctors in Love” — “but I started reading the scene … and I stopped.

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