Forty years after he first appeared on the iconic television sitcom Happy Days as Warren "Potsie" Weber, Anson Williams released a memoir which details his big break, his triumphs and failures. "Singing to a Bulldog" (out Tuesday) also puts emphasis on his unexpected mentor - Willie Turner - whose advice changed Williams’ life forever.
Williams grew up in Burbank, Calif. with a lack of self-confidence as a result of parents who discouraged him from getting into showbiz. At 15, Williams got a job as an assistant janitor for Leonard’s Department Store and was introduced to Turner, the head janitor who encouraged him to try his luck in entertainment.
“He didn’t make me who I am, he helped me find who I am,” Williams, 65, told Enstars.com. “I had no idea I had these talents. If it wasn’t for someone selflessly caring for me and selflessly helping me find the confidence, there would be no stories.”
Yet, the aging African-American janitor wasn’t one’s typical role model - he was uneducated, illiterate and an alcoholic. Despite Turner’s setbacks, he helped Williams see life through new eyes.
“The underlying theme of this book is never ever judge where you are going to get your magic from or who’s going to give you your answers,” he said. “It’s not going to be some billionaire or some movie star; it’s going to be some unknown person. Be open.”
In the two years Williams worked with Turner, he acquired the courage to become a go-getter. Without an appointment, Williams boldly went to IFA Talent and sat in the reception area until an agent agreed to see him. Shortly after, he not only had representation but also an audition for Happy Days. Williams went on to find success as a director, producer and even as the co-owner of the skin care line, StarMaker products.
In “Singing to a Bulldog,” Williams offers amusing stories from his past, including the moment Robin Williams improvised a whole episode on Happy Days and the time he directed a then-unknown Brad Pitt. He also recalls a big regret - staying “professional” instead of asking rock legend John Lennon to draw a picture of him when he had the chance. Of course, Williams also speaks about his productive days on Happy Days and memorable moments with cast members like Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) and Henry Winkler (Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli), with whom he says he still keeps in touch.
While the anecdotes are heartfelt, candid and entertaining, there’s also an inspiring lesson from Turner to take away in each chapter. The biggest lesson, Williams said, is to keep moving forward.
“The book is paying Willie’s lessons forward. I wanted everyone to have that same voice, those same gifts that Willie gave me,” Williams said. “I just wanted to connect with [readers] in a positive way and hopefully improve their life.”