Birthplace: Kenosha, WI
You Know Him As: Al on Happy Days, Murray the cop on The Odd Couple.
Did You Know?: While the band actually formed in Los Angeles, California, most people continue to assume that rock band, Weezer, hails from Kenosha. Credit for this misconception goes to Molinaro who, when given the option of using the city name of his own choosing for the intro to the ‘Buddy Holly’ video, snuck in a plug for his own hometown: “Arnold’s is proud to present Kenosha, Wisconsin’s own… Weezer!”.
People familiar with the sitcom “Happy Days” and the TV commercials for On-Cor frozen dinners are of course familiar with charismatic Al Molinaro. Al was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on June 24, 1919. He grew up there with his parents Rafaele and Teresa and his ten brothers and sisters at his boyhood home at 2417 53rd Street in Kenosha’s “Old West Side” neighborhood. When asked about his hometown Al responds: “I love the town; I love it. If it wasn’t that I left it for show business, I’d still be there today.”
Al’s Italian background can be traced to his father emigrating to Wisconsin from Cozensa in the Italian province of Calabria in 1879. More of Al’s family ties worthy of note include two of his brothers who contributed a significant part within the Kenosha community. His brother Joseph was Kenosha County’s longest serving district attorney, while George was a longtime state representative in the Wisconsin assembly. Though Al says that he loves the Kenosha area’s culture and friendliness, he had a dream of becoming an actor and was determined to make it happen. Al’s big break came along when he was cast as “Agent 44” on the popular TV spy spoof “Get Smart.” While he was taking acting classes with Penny Marshall, he was introduced to her brother, Garry, who was directing the TV sitcom “The Odd Couple.” Gary ultimately cast Al in the recurring role of Murry Greshler, the cop on the sitcom.
Later, Al replaced Pat Morita on “Happy Days” as the character “Alfred Delvecchio,” which proved to be a successful long-running part for him from 1976-1982. After “Happy Days” ended, Al took on the role once again, but in the “Happy Days” spin-off “Joanie Loves Chachi.” A few years after that Al and fellow “Happy Days” cast member Anson Williams opened a chain of diners in the Midwest called Big Al’s. Most recently he played the role of “Joe Alberghetti” on the TV series “The Family Man,” however, his most memorable appearances were in the 42 commercials he appeared in over the course of his career with the majority of them being for On-Cor frozen foods as the spokesman “Al the Grocer.”
For years American’s welcomed “Al the Grocer” into their homes via TV along with the jingle “For taste and more it’s On-Cor,” which now remains quite memorable within advertising history. Al’s determination to become an actor never faded and his success proves that fact as he comments about his Hollywood career stating: “I spent twenty years here before I got anything going, and from that I got lucky. It takes a lot of luck in show business too. You’ve just got to be lucky and in the right place at the right time.” He is currently retired and resides in Glendale, California with his wife Sidney, however, he is writing a book of autobiographical short stories.
Biography By Brigette Jensen
Childhood Home: 2417 53rd Street