Character actor Al Molinaro, best known for playing Arnold’s (later Al’s) Diner owner Al Delvecchio on the sitcom Happy Days and the show’s spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachie, has died, his family confirmed today. He was 96. According to his family, he died from gall stone complications, having chosen not to remove the stones owing to his age.
Born in 1919 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Molinaro came to acting later in life. Moving to California in his 30s, he made a small fortune in real estate, and only began acting in the 1960s after he was already financially independent. His earliest television role was on Get Smart, playing Agent 44 in two episodes. Soon after, he landed the role of Officer Murray Greshler on The Odd Couple, appearing in 73 episodes. It was after The Odd Couple ended that he got his most famous role, joining Happy Days in season four as a replacement for Pat Morita, who left the series at the end of season 3. Molinaro remained with the show through its final season, though he took a year off in 1982-83 to appear on the short-lived Joanie Loves Chachi.
After Happy Days ended, Molinaro appeared infrequently on television, including an episode of Punky Brewster, until taking a regular spot on the short lived series The Family Man. His final television role was in 1992, on an episode of Step By Step. He also appeared in two films, 1976’s Freaky Friday, and 1980’s The Great American Traffic Jam.
Molinaro would reprise the role of Al Delvecchio several times, notably in a series of commercials. However, perhaps the most famous instance was in the video for the Weezer song “Buddy Holly”, which we’ve included here.
TMZ first reported the news.