Entertainment: Happy Days diner owner Al Molinaro dies aged 96



Al Molinaro, left, and Henry Winkler, right, in an episode of Happy Days

American actor Al Molinaro, who starred as "Big Al" Delvecchio in sitcom Happy Days, has died at the age of 96.

He appeared as the owner of Arnold's Drive-in, where the main characters would gather, from 1976 until 1982.

Molinaro, who also spent five years playing Murray the cop in the TV version of The Odd Couple, retired from acting in the 1990s.

He died in a California hospital of complications from a gallstone infection, his son Michael said.
'Important show'

Molinaro had taken over the role of Al two years into the series' run and starred in more than 100 episodes, according to the LA Times.

The part had originally been played by Pat Morita, who went on to star as Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid.

Molinaro told the LA Times: "When you live with a character as long as I have, you know how he would talk in almost any situation."

Al Molinaro
Molinaro had retired from acting in the 1990s


Ron Howard (l), Henry Winkler (c) and Al Molinaro (r)
The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler (c), and Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard (l), would gather at the drive-in in the 1950s-set sitcom


Wisconsin-born Molinaro also appeared in Happy Days spin-off series Joanie loves Chachi in the 1980s.

After retirement, Molinaro became best known for commercials and set up a chain of diners called Big Al's. He also reprised the character of Al in the music video for Weezer's song, Buddy Holly.

Speaking in 1992 on a Happy Days reunion show, he described the 1950s-set sitcom as an "important" show.

"In the industry, they used to consider us like a bubble-gum show," he said.

"But I think they overlooked one thing. To the public in America, Happy Days was an important show, and I think it was and I think it still is."

Source: BBC Entertainment

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