Friday, October 30, 2015


Al Molinaro, who played the beloved chef at the drive-in on "Happy Days" ... died in a Wisconsin hospital on Thursday.

Molinaro's son confirmed the actor's death ... telling us he had very bad gall stones, but Al elected not to have surgery due to his age. He was 96.

Al moved to California in the early 1950s and worked odd jobs, finally saving enough money to start his own collection agency. He eventually sold his business and became interested in southern California real estate speculation. His investments paid off when one of his properties was purchased by a conglomerate which used the land to build one of the largest retail shopping malls of its day.

As a result, Molinaro was already financially independent when he decided to pursue his longtime dream of being an actor. He began his role as Officer Murray Greshler on The Odd Couple by poking his nose through the peephole doorway of Oscar and Felix's apartment, prior to walking in. His nose, by itself, got so many laughs it changed the flow of the scene. Murray was an instant hit with fans, and Molinaro became an "overnight success" after years of struggling in the entertainment business.

On "Happy Days" he played Big Al, who started out as the chef at Arnold's Drive-In. He eventually became owner of the Fonz's fave hangout, and remained on the show for 10 years.

Molinaro also played the Big Al role on the spinoff, "Joanie Loves Chachi." His character would famously spin long tales ... that always started with, "Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep ... "

Al is survived by his wife, Betty and his son Michael .. who tells us the actor was extremely proud of his family and his roots in Kenosha, Wisconsin...

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