Celebrities with ties to Burbank attended the Hollywood Show at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport convention center on Saturday, Feb. 4.
The two-day pop culture celebration is carried out quarterly in Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas, and and each gathering has a unique lineup of beloved entertainers and writers. In the past, an array of stars like Barry Williams, Barbara Eden, Tim Curry, Melissa Gilbert and Jimmie Walker, to name a few, have taken part in these meet and greets. This past weekend, nearly 100 celebrities, including Debbe Dunning, Clint Howard and Anson Williams, stopped by to sign autographs, take photos, and chat with enthusiastic fans.
Dunning was born and raised in Burbank and is best known for her portrayal of “Tool Time girl” Heidi from the fan-favorite ‘90s sitcom “Home Improvement.” She was joined by another alum of the series, Richard Karn, who played Al Borland throughout the show’s run. Additionally, Dunning’s daughter, Spencer Timmons, was present, and she and Dunning donned “Tool Time” outfits reminiscent of Dunning’s “Home Improvement” wardrobe. Dunning shared that visiting Burbank for the Hollywood Show gave her an opportunity to converse with fans, as well as reconnect with familiar faces.
“Being here today is kind of cool because I’ve not only seen tons of people that I grew up with, which is so crazy, on television, but I run into a lot of my friends that I went to high school with, people that I used to know from different jobs, restaurants, what have you,” Dunning said. “Last night we went to the Smoke House, and it was fantastic. It’s just a walk down memory lane.”
Dunning and Karn often jointly attend fan events. She says they are “still friends off the job, and [they] golf together and hang out.” “Home Improvement” was added to Hulu in September 2022, and occasions like the Hollywood Show have demonstrated to Dunning how viewers are still captivated by the series over three decades after its premiere.
“The show was 30 years ago, so to still remain friends and continue to literally find people who are interested … And now that it’s on Hulu, people are going crazy,” Dunning said. ‘It gets a whole new audience.”
In 2022, Karn teamed up with “Home Improvement” star Tim Allen for a series inspired by “Tool Time” called “More Power.” Dunning says she would be interested in acting with Allen, Karn and the rest of the cast for a reboot or reunion special. Lead cast member Earl Hindman, who portrayed wise neighbor Wilson W. Wilson Jr. on “Home Improvement,” died at the age of 61 in 2003. In light of this saddening loss, Dunning hopes the group can work together again sooner rather than later.
“I certainly wish we would too,” Dunning said of potentially doing a reboot. “I know Richard’s got his own thing going on with Tim right now, which is very similar to ‘Tool Time.’ But yeah, it would be really nice. I mean, you know how it is – we already lost Earl Hindman … We’d better hurry up.”
Howard is a Burbank native and still resides locally. He’s appeared at numerous Hollywood Shows over the years, and this hometown event brought him together with several former collaborators. Among the actors Howard met up with are Anson and other “Happy Days” stars Don Most and Henry Winkler, Chris Mulkey, whom Howard acted with in “Mad Families,” his “Evilspeak” costar Haywood Nelson, and a longtime friend of his, Burton “Bubba” Gilliam.
“[I was] certainly glad to come back and visit,” Howard said. “There’s a wonderful thing that happens for me when I do a show in Los Angeles, and that is, I see people that I’ve worked with, I’ve had dealings with, and Hollywood is a big place. There are people I haven’t seen in 20 years, and I got to see them this weekend. So there’s double the pleasure on that.”
With his wide-ranging body of work, Howard’s roles such as Balok in “Star Trek,” Leon in “The Andy Griffith Show,” Mark Wedloe in “Gentle Ben,” and Whobris in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” have touched a variety of audiences. Howard noted that he enjoys the interactions with those who follow his portrayals “now more than ever.”
“There are people that grew up watching me grow up, and that has to be a trip, so I get it,” Howard said. “And the fans, 99.9% of them, are just absolutely wonderful. I hear stories, I love to engage people. … I’ve connected with a lot of different people over the years because I’ve been involved in a lot of the genres.”
One of Howard’s most recent releases is “The Old Way,” a Western that premiered in January and also features Nicolas Cage. He’ll next star in the upcoming films “Feast of Fear” and “Music on the Bones.” Looking back on his Hollywood roots, the prolific performer observes the serendipity that has been involved in his path from his earliest days as an actor.
“I didn’t know I was going to work in ‘Star Trek’ when I was a little boy,” Howard said. “It’s not something I aimed to do. I don’t think I manifested it when I was 6 and 7 years old. I don’t think I was going, ‘My God, I want to be on that show so bad.’ To a degree, it’s a little like ‘Forrest Gump’ – you just go along and live your life well, and things tend to blow my way.”
Nearby Howard sat “Happy Days” cast members Anson, Most, and Winkler. Anson attended preschool at McCambridge Park before going on to study at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, John Burroughs Junior High School, and later, Burbank High School. The actor-director stated that he holds “so many small-town memories” of growing up on Jolley Drive and being raised in Burbank.
Prior to scoring the part of Warren “Potsie” Weber on “Happy Days,” Anson worked part time as an assistant janitor at Leonard’s Department Store in his high school years. There, his boss, main janitor Willie Turner, imparted wisdom that Anson says “changed [his] life.”
“He was African American, not well educated, a functioning alcoholic and a prophet,” Anson said of Turner. “And I was pretty unconfident at the time. [Turner] called his janitorial room ‘the talk room.’ We’d sit on oil jump cans in there, and he talked to me, not at me. Willie, during that time at Leonard’s, helped me find me and gave me the confidence to move forward, that I had something special to move forward. So I found out it’s not a star that makes you successful or some rich guy, it’s just someone who connects with you. And Willie Turner was the man that connected with me.”
Furthermore, being located by his fellow “Happy Days” actors for the event while being in Burbank was a “humbling” experience for Anson.
“Well, actually being with Don here, who’s like my brother, it’s very interesting to be back in your hometown after having a period of show business,” Anson said. “It’s a wild collaboration between friendship and stardom and being homegrown. It’s very special. It’s humbling because this town’s a big part of it.”
In January 2023, it was reported that actor Cindy Williams had died at the age of 75. Cindy began to portray her most famous role, Shirley Feeney, alongside Penny Marshall playing Laverne DeFazio when the two were guest stars on “Happy Days.” This led to the also iconic “Happy Days” spinoff, “Laverne & Shirley.” Anson detailed that his friend and colleague was not only a top-tier entertainer, but also “the most giving, sensitive, caring” person.
“It sounds cliché, but it’s not – the only thing larger than her talent was her heart,” Anson said of Cindy. “She was the most giving, sensitive, caring human being, and I’m actually still processing. It was so sudden, unexpected. I mean, Henry [Winkler] worked with her two weeks ago. It’s just a shock. It’s going to take time to neutralize. You know, I’m still processing.”
Most reflected on playing character Ralph Malph while loyal “Happy Days” viewers reminded him of unforgettable episodes from the show, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its debut in 2024.
“Well, [fans] bring me back to actual episodes because they start singling out some of their favorites or ask questions about episodes,” Most said. “And then it’s weird, it’s kind of surreal, because all of a sudden you’re transported back to that moment in time. It’s kind of funny in a good way. It’s great.”
He added, “I can’t believe that we’re going to have our 50th anniversary from the time we premiered. So sometimes it seems like it’s another lifetime.”
In August 2022, Most sang at the Garry Marshall Theatre for their summer concert series. “Happy Days” creator Garry Marshall established the nonprofit in 1997 in order to provide live shows and educate local artists on the impact of storytelling. Most opened up about this meaningful performance, in which he crooned American standards and contemporary jazz music.
“It was a great experience, and it felt so good to be at [Marshall’s] theater,” Most said. “And I know he was watching and enjoying it. I was thrilled to be there.”
Meanwhile, Winkler revisited his time playing Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, as well as his other career highlights, while he was approached by fans during the Hollywood Show. The “Barry” star described the “gift” of seeing his supporters in person.
“It is the greatest thing, to do something in a studio that is closed off from the world, and then you get to meet the people who watch you,” Winkler said. “It is a gift.”
The next Hollywood Show takes place at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport convention center on June 30 and July 1. To learn more about the Hollywood Show, visit its site here.