By Lynette Rice
November 14, 2019 at 08:38 AM EST
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All that was missing was their booth at Al’s: five original cast members from Happy Days reunited in Los Angeles Wednesday to pay tribute to their former boss and mentor, the late Garry Marshall.

The beloved quintet — Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Don Most, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross — were honored at a gala to support Marshall’s eponymous 130-seat theatre in Burbank, California. But the fundraiser turned into a sentimental trip down memory lane as Richie, Potsie, Ralph, Marion, and the Fonz talked about the good ol’ days on the Paramount lot with Marshall, the Happy Days creator who died in 2016.

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Howard, 65, recalled how a chance audition with Marshall for a Love, American Style spin-off “kept me out of the f–king jungle” during the Vietnam War. That meeting not only led to his six-year run on the ABC sitcom, but helped to launch his successful directing career. (Howard’s 1982 comedy, Night Shift, was penned by Happy Days writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel and costarred Winkler).

“You can’t take these things for granted,” said Howard. “We’re here in Garry’s name and yet I’m experiencing a connecting of the dots of an entire story.”

Winkler recalled how he came from New York City after studying drama at Yale to audition for the Fonz. “They wanted a tall Italian and they got a short Jew,” quipped Winkler, who was nominated for an Emmy three times for Happy Days before finally winning his first (and second) trophy for costarring opposite Bill Hader in HBO’s Barry.

Ross got a little salty upon arriving to the gala podium (“I’m 90-f–king-1”) before expressing admiration for her fellow costars. “You never saw two guys who filled the top spot so beautifully [than Howard and Winkler],” she said. “I’m proud to be their mother.”

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Most, who was a junior at LeHigh University when he auditioned for Happy Days, said “we were so good at what we did because we respected each other and loved each other,” said the 66-year-old. “We made it look easy and it wasn’t.”

As for Williams, 70, he was grateful for Marshall’s encouragement to explore other opportunities in Hollywood. He went on to become an episodic director. “Marshall said ‘you may not be actors all your life, especially you Anson,” said Williams. “He actually said that ….he gave us an amazing break. He gave us a life.”

Marshall founded his Burbank theater, then called the Falcon, in 1997. (The Politician star Ben Platt was one of its early actors). It was re-established as the Garry Marshall Theatre in 2017.

A documentary about Marshall’s life and career is in the works for 2020.

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