Happy Days actor Albert 'Al' Molinaro, who played 'Big Al' in the hit TV series, has died at the age of 96. Molinaro passed away at a hospital in Glendale, California, on 29 October from medical complications linked to gall stones.
Molinaro featured in more than 140 episodes of Happy Days, playing the owner of Arnold's Drive-In – the preferred hangout of lovable bad-boy, the Fonz. During a TV career that spanned 23 years he also appeared in the classic TV series' spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, and The Odd Couple.
He was known by his catchphrase "Yup-yup-yup-yup" and continued to play the role of Big Al in Joanie Loves Chachi. In the mid 1990s garage band, Weezer, put him in their Buddy Holly music video, introduceing them to a crowd at the drive-in.
Molinaro died after deciding not to remove gall stones due to his age. He is survived by his second wife, Betty, who he married in 1981, his son Michael, and three grandchildren.
His parents, Raffaele and Teresa Molinaro, migrated from Italy, and Molinaro was born on 24 June, 1919, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He said he was barred from attending drama classes at school as they may have interfered with his studies.
In the early 1950s, Molinaro headed for Southern California and worked in real estate, hoping one day to get his break to work on TV. Although it took him well over a decade, he landed guest roles in the 1960s and 1970s on sitcoms like Get Smart, That Girl and Bewitched.
After taking acting classes he was introduced to producer and director Garry Marshall, through his sister Penny Marshall who was taking the lessons with him. Marshall hired him for both The Odd Couple, and later, for Happy Days.
Marshall went on to direct classic movies such as Pretty Woman and Beaches, but Molinaro, no fan of profanities on-screen, said he would not star in any movie "that he couldn't watch with his mother". "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," he told The Chicago Tribune in 1990.
"That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. I told him: 'I don't want to do a movie that I couldn't watch with my mother, if she were still alive.'"