How I ended up quizzing the Fonz about Heathrow

So what does Henry Winkler think of the planes overhead?

So there I was, stalking the streets of Richmond in south west London, interviewing shoppers about plans to expand nearby Heathrow airport.

In the journalistic trade, it is known as a vox pop, short for vox populi, Latin for the voice of the people. In practice, it is an unscientific collection of unrepresentative views that helps us illustrate what at least some people are thinking.

It involves me standing on street corners with a producer and cameraman, sticking a microphone under people's noses and persuading them to express an opinion in a brief coherent way. It is not as easy a task as you might imagine.

Anyway, there I was, getting into my stride when suddenly a middle aged man hove in to view, scarf round his neck, shopping bags to hand.

He looked a promising interviewee so I lunged forward, began my spiel and immediately realised I was addressing no less a figure than the Fonz.

Instantly I became a gabbling, star-struck idiot, asking if he had a vote here (doh! he's an American actor), how his pantomime was going and even if he had a view on Heathrow (what was I thinking?).

As it turned out, he did have an opinion and a small TV moment was born.

For the record, it was not a set-up, it was a totally random meeting; I did know he was Henry Winkler but it took a moment to sink in; and yes, as a resident of Richmond - albeit a temporary one - he has just as much a right to an opinion as anyone.

The only regret was my last question. I asked if he was relaxed about the plans. When of course I should have asked if he was cool about them. Perhaps while giving an interrogatory thumbs up.

James Landale Article written by James Landale James Landale Deputy political editor

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