On Happy Days, redheaded Ralph Malph was always making a joke or playing pranks to attract girls’ attention at Arnold’s Drive-In. But the sweetly goofy character was nothing like the actor who portrayed him. “In high school, I was the exact opposite of Ralph,” Don Most confesses to Closer. “I was more like Richie Cunningham, an honor student, co-captain of my swimming team and kind of shy.” It’s a testament to Don’s acting skills that he made Ralph so real and lovable.

Today, Don still acts on TV, in films and on the stage, but he’s also returned to music, his first love. “About seven years ago, I said if I’m ever going to do something with my love of jazz standards and big band, it was the time,” Don, 68, shares. “I figured I wasn’t getting any younger. So, I put together an act and started doing jazz clubs. It’s my passion.”

So how did you get started performing?

“I grew up in Brooklyn, and I really wanted to pursue singing. I’d take the subway into Manhattan on Saturdays when I was 13 to go to a school run by an old vaudeville guy and his wife. They taught singing and dancing. The summer I was turning 15, I was singing in the Catskills resorts.”

But you majored in engineering in college, right?

“Yes, but my head wasn’t really in it. I was continuing to commute into Manhattan to go on auditions. After my junior year, I decided to go out to LA for the summer and try to make some contacts.”

How long was it before you landed Happy Days?

Two, three months. I actually turned it down, believe it or not.

You turned Happy Days down?

Yes. I was more interested in drama than comedy. I had auditioned for Potsie. They said, ‘You didn’t get that, but they liked your screen test so much they want to create a role and make you a regular.’ But there was a TV film I wanted to do, so I passed on Happy Days.”

How did you end up playing Ralph?

“My agent played basketball every Saturday at the house of Garry Marshall, who was the creator and executive producer of Happy Days. Garry told him that instead of $750 an episode, he’d give me $1,000.”

And the rest is history! Was the success of Happy Days hard to handle?

“When you go to acting school, there aren’t classes to help people know how to deal with that. Luckily, I was already 20, had three years of college, went to public schools in Brooklyn, and had a very normal, stable childhood. I have a great family, and they helped me keep my head on straight.”

Don Most: 'Happy Days' Costar Ron Howard Is Still 'Like Family'

That was fortunate.

Ron Howard was also a great role model. He was a star from the time he was 5, yet he was so grounded and low-key. He never got caught up in the hype. Of course, Ron would go on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest directors.”

Did that surprise you?

“Not really, but also yes. I knew he wanted to direct, but did I ever envision that he would become one of the top directors in Hollywood? I guess that was a little surprising, but not too much.”

Does Ron still return phone calls now that he’s such a big shot?

“Yes. If I call him, he’ll get back to me right away. It’s almost like family, like cousins. I might not see him for nine months or a year, but the minute I do, it’s like old times.”

Who do you still keep in contact with the most?

“Oh, Anson [Williams] and I are best friends. We talk several times a week, and we see each other a lot.”

That’s nice. How has your relationship changed since Happy Days?

“In some ways, we’re closer now than we were back then. We’ve gone through so much together, and so many years have passed. For a long time, he lived about 20 minutes from me, so that made it easy. We’ve grown into the relationship, and it’s become deeper.”

What do you like most about being the age you are now?

“I like having a little bit of perspective and better appreciation for things that I didn’t have when I was younger.”

You’ve been married to your wife, Morgan, since 1982. What’s your secret?

“Part of the secret is that we found each other. We’re soulmates. We’re both very sensitive in nature and sensitive to each other. So I’d say sensitivity along with great respect and communication are the secrets. In a few weeks, it will be our 40th anniversary.”


“Thanks. Morgan has Parkinson’s disease, but she’s doing pretty well. She has a blog, called My Life With Parkinson’s. It’s very entertaining — she’s got a great sense of humor. We’ve adapted it into a TV series that we’re hoping to get going.”

That’s great. What do you do just for fun?

“I love to play golf. My wife and I also hike and like to get into nature. Over the past years, she’s also become a great poker player. Yesterday she was playing in a big tournament in LA. I went and watched. She came in, like, eighth place out of over 2,000 people who entered! She won $10,000.”

Wow! You’re also involved with Viral Vignettes, a collection of internet comedy shorts. Tell us about it.

“Yes, during the pandemic a producer friend of mine came up with the idea of doing a series of shorts. All kinds of people … Barry BostwickJohn Schneider, Max Gail … a whole bunch of well-known people got involved. We’ve done about 10 shorts. It was a great idea and a great way of raising money for the Actors Fund.”

Tell us about your upcoming album.

“I’m working on a new CD of contemporary jazz. I’m going back to Nashville in late February, early March, to finish it. I’m really excited. It should be out after that.”