John Ritter and Henry Winkler are two of the more beloved television actors of all time. They each played iconic roles on major sitcoms, and were catapulted to mega stardom in the process. They are also known as being two of the nicest people in Hollywood of all time. And while John Ritter passed away unexpectedly in 2003, he managed to pack in a prolific acting career before then. Winkler, on the other hand, is still with us today, and remains an acting powerhouse.
But did you know that these two television comedy giants were good friends? We suppose it’s not that surprising, given their shared passion for acting, and how they are both considered among Hollywood’s most genuine and nice people. But it’s still always great to hear about kindred spirits who find friendship amidst the craziness of an industry like the entertainment industry, which can be cut throat and mean at times.
Today we’re gonna delve into the friendship between John Ritter and Henry Winkler, and even reveal what Ritter told Winkler a mere hours before passing away. So join Facts Verse, as we take a look at what John Ritter said to Henry Winkler hours before he died!
John Ritter and Henry Winkler were two of the biggest names in TV comedy in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Winkler became famous from his turn as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the classic TV show “Happy Days.” His cool guy persona, complete with motorcycle, leather jacket, and suave personality resonated with viewers as they watched the nostalgic show and remembered life in the 1950’s. The role catapulted Winkler to mega stardom, and he remains one of the biggest legends in TV history.
John Ritter’s role on the campy and wild sitcom “Three’s Company” in the 1980’s served as his springboard to mega-stardom. His portrayal of Jack Tripper was goofy, over the top, and hilarious. He instantly became a household name, and spent 172 episodes as Tripper.
According to an interview with Winkler, the two became friends at the 25th anniversary party for the ABC network. This was right before Three’s Company was to air for the first time. According to Winkler, he was seating at the table next to Ritter’s. And in fact, their chairs were back to back. Even though they had never met, Winkler had recently seen ABC’s promo for the upcoming show, Three’s Company, and had impressed by it. Said Winkler, “I leaned over and whispered to him that I thought the promo for his new show “Three’s Company” was very funny and that his physical comedy in it was fantastic. That started a long and loving friendship.”
Although the two had never met before this interaction, they did have an interesting acting overlap, as often happens in the acting world. They had both been guest stars on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, though not on the same episode. Winkler appeared in an episode called “The Dinner Party” which aired in 1973. Ritter on the other hand in an episode from 1975 called “Ted’s Wedding.” So despite having never met, the two at least had something to talk about right away if necessary! Join Facts Verse to discover what John Ritter Said This to Henry Winkler Hours Before He Died.
John Ritter’s Death
John Ritter was in the middle of rehearsals for his hit show, “8 Simple Rules… for Dating My Teenage Daughter on Sept 11, 2003, when he began feeling ill. The shoot at the Disney lot in Burbank, and while rehearsing, Ritter started to experience chest pain. He also started to vomit and sweat heavily. The crew knew something was night right. So they rushed him across the street to the closest hospital. This was Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, which oddly enough, was the same place Ritter was born in 1948.
At first, Ritter symptoms led doctors to presume he was having a heart attack. He treated for that ailment, as doctors monitored him further. But quickly it became clear there was something else going on. As his condition got worse and worse, doctors eventually realized he had an aortic dissection. They rushed him into the operating room and attempted to do emergency surgery to save his life. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to. Ritter died that evening at the Medical Center. The world of entertainment, as well as Ritter’s millions of fans shocked by this tragedy.
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Winkler Pays Tribute To His Friend
After John Ritter died, many people from the world of showbusiness came forward with their thoughts and remembrances. This included John’s long time friend, Henry Winkler. In December of 2003, Winkler penned a heartfelt tribute to his friend. He wrote, “I met John at ABC’s 25th anniversary party in 1978. When he walked into a room, his utter Johnness just filled it up, every corner, every crevice.” Winkler continued, adding, “It was a life force, a joy, an energy that made you think ‘My God, how does he maintain it?’ He was so gigantic, smart, and perceptive. And so funny. There was so much funny in him that it was almost like his body couldn’t contain it.”
Winkler also talked about how, as John’s good friend, he was able to see sides of Ritter that were kept private from the general public. He claims Ritter wasn’t always the jovial and happy-go-lucky person that he played so often on television and in films. Instead, Winkler said he got to see that John was a much more serious person in private. Winkler claimed Ritter was forever searching for answers, and didn’t act carefree like his public persona suggested. He also said Ritter was “duty-bound” and that attribute also played a big part in why he was such a great father and husband.
Winkler has also said publicly that he misses Ritter every day. He remembers John as having such a sense of perfect comedic timing, that he could potentially tell you the same joke day after day, and you’d keep laughing as hard each time. He referred to John’s talent as being “Limitless.”
Winkler Spoke To Ritter Before His Death
Amazingly enough, Ritter’s good friend Henry on the set of 8 Simple Rules the day Ritter died. Winkler had signed on to play a guest part in the episode they would shoot that week. Winkler and the rest of the cast, including Katey Sagal, Kaley Cuoco, Amy Davidson, and Martin Spanjers, were all rehearsing together, trying to prep for the upcoming taping of the episode.
That’s when Ritter began experiencing the series of ailments that ultimately led to his death a few hours later.
Winkler has shared in interviews that he and John were on a break from rehearsing, and were chatting about a play they had just finished doing. That play was Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party.” At some point Ritter began experiencing his first symptoms of sweating profusely. As a result, he had to cut their conversation short. Winkler said that John turned to him and said, ‘I’m sweating, I’m gonna get some water.’
Winkler responded by saying, ‘I’m gonna memorize my lines so I don’t stink up the room.’
And, according to Winkler, those were the last words the two ever spoke to each other. Shortly after this conversation, Ritter taken to the Medical Center across the street, where he died several hours later.
Winkler Testified In Court About John’s Death
After John Ritter died in 2003, his widow, actress Amy Yasbeck filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital as well as the doctors who treated John. Her contention was that they misdiagnosed John when he arrived at the hospital, thinking he was having a heart attack. She also sued his cardiologist, claiming he had previously missed an enlarged aorta when he treated Ritter 2 years before his death.
Winkler asked to testify in the court case on the matter, to which he readily agreed. Most of his testimony focused on the type of man and father John Ritter had been, as well as his recollection of the events as they unfolded the day of Ritter’s untimely death.
He recalled speaking to John before he was taken to the hospital, then received a call later that night that he had passed. Winkler said on the stand that “Any conversation we had wrapped around his children, the pride and the love.” Winkler added that Ritter and his wife Amy were a stellar team who acting like two sides of a whole. After his testimony, Winkler spoke to the press, but didn’t weigh in on whether or not he felt the doctors and the hospital were at fault for Ritter’s death.
The jury ended up deciding for the defense, saying that neither the doctors nor the hospital were at fault for John’s untimely end.
Winkler has continued acting throughout the years, most recently turning in an incredible performance in the HBO show, “Barry.” He’s considered an acting legend, and seen as one of the nicest people in the entertainment industry. But perhaps most importantly, he is clearly a good friend.
Now it’s time to hear from you. What’s your favorite memory of John Ritter? Did you know that he and Henry Winkler were such closer friends? Let us know in the comments section below. And before you go, be sure to give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content.