Happy Days: Scott Bernstein biography

Scott Bernstein: biography

There was a character named Eugene Belvin on Happy Days, either in seasons 9 and 10 or 10 and 11 played by an actor named Dennis Mandel.

Between the years 1981 and 1983, just after the 10 year anniversary of the show, a new character was added, named Melvin Belvin, who was supposed to be Eugene Belvin's younger brother. 

Melvin Belvin was played by the actor named Scott Bernstein.  He joined the cast in 1981, and he appeared in the following episodes (these are the ones he remembers... there may be others):

#196 -- Fonzie the Substitute;
#199 -- Baby' it's Cold Inside (where both Eugene Belvin and Melvin Belvin are together in this episode);
#200 -- Hello, Tough Guy (again with Eugene Belvin and Melvin Belvin together);
#205 -- A Touch of Class;
#210 -- Tell Tale Tart (Scott is unsure as to whether he was in this one or not);
#213 -- Letting Go;
#214 -- Empty Nest;
#216 - A Little Case of Revenge (he was there on the set when Tom Hanks was there, but he was not in the episode itself);
#219 -- Such A Nice Girl (this is the BIG episode for the Melvin Belvin character);
#224 -- I Drink, Therefore I Am.

Scott Bernstein recalls that he was in another episode as Melvin Belvin, where there was a gypsy with a violin at Fonzie's place.  He remembers this one well, because he had severe laryngitis and completely lost his voice, and couldn't talk through all the rehearsals.  Fortunately, he was able to talk for the actual filming itself.

Scott Bernstein also says that he got a LOT of fan mail, but no one gave it to him, even though he was willing to answer it.  He never got his "Director's Chair" with his name on it, although everyone else had one. He got flowers from fans, too.  He recalls one time when one of the staff members held a bouquet of flowers, and called out, "Scott, these are for you," and Scott Baio went to get the flowers.  Later, Scott Bernstein discovered that the flowers were addressed to him, not to Scott Baio!

The Melvin Belvin character was a lovable, really adorable "nerd."  It was really the first time, long before other series, when a "nerdy" character became really popular with the "nerds" in the audience.  If the series had not ended so abruptly, there could have been a spinoff focusing on Melvin Belvin, and it would have been very popular.

Scott Bernstein became a professional acting coach after leaving Happy Days, with a successful school for actors, where he trained many actors we see today.  He was trained, himself, in professional comedic acting in New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles, studying under some of the best comedy tutors, including Harvey Lembeck.  Scott has performed in more than 100 plays on stage, and has most recently been involved in directing and co-writing two comedy stage productions in Las Vegas.

Scott Bernstein welcomes anyone to write to him.  His address is...P.O. Box 360442, Los Angeles, CA 99036

  Personal Data about Scott Bernstein, if you want to add it to your websites...

Birthdate: 9/19/56;

Full Name: Scott Mitchell Bernstein;

Degrees Earned: Bachelor of Arts in English Literature;

Current Employment: Professional Acting Coach for The PLUS Workshops (which he founded, and for which he is the current President and CEO). The PLUS Workshops has many types of acting workshops, including group workshops, comedy workshops, drama workshops, private coaching, and more; also, additional work as a director and comedy writer, as well as doing voice-overs and comedy voices for animation.  Some people consider him to be the next "Mel Blanc," as he did 11 different voices for a recent animation project.

[There is also something you should know, even though no one, not even the other actors, and not even the production staff, know to this day. Scott Bernstein is the only successful actor on Happy Days who had a significant disability.  Scott has hereditary retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, which results in "tunnel vision" and slow loss of eyesight.  At the time he was performing on Happy Days, that condition was a major problem for him, as he had very limited visual fields, no significant peripheral (side) vision, he had significant difficulties in adjusting his eyes from the strong stage lights to the almost complete darkness of the backstage area, and he also had headaches all the time from the glare of the bright stage lights, as well as being very nearsighted (which, actually, was perfect for his "nerd" character, Melvin Belvin, on the show). There were times of quick costume changes where he almost hurt himself because he couldn't see the cables on the backstage floor in time to step over them. But Scott managed to continue with his work on Happy Days, without anyone knowing that he was very close to being legally blind at the time, or about his problems with light glare on stage, or about his problems backstage, or about the fact that he didn't have any effective peripheral vision at all.  This is to his credit, and it demonstrates what a truly professional actor, who has a dedication to his art and to his job, can do when faced with difficult circumstances. In those days, and even still today, actors with disabilities aren't hired, except for "disabled" roles.  Scott and I both doubt seriously that he would have been hired if he had disclosed his visual problems when he was first interviewed, or even when he had been hired.  There are MANY actors out there, very good ones, who are under pressure to keep their disabilities silent, and who work twice or even three times as hard as the other actors.  For Scott, this extra effort was a bonus, in one respect, as he ended up being extremely popular with the audiences of Happy Days, and his performances were recognized as outstanding, even to the point of having one full episode, #219, focusing on his character, Melvin Belvin.  To this day, no one associated with Happy Days has ever known that Scott Bernstein was visually disabled, nor that Scott's eyesight has continued to worsen since he left Happy Days.  Scott, however, is still driving a car, still coaching, directing, writing, acting and doing voice-overs, and, even though he is verifiably legally blind now, continues to work professionally and his work still shows the highest standards of excellence, no matter where or in what area he performs.]

Additional information of interest... Scott Bernstein told me today that when he went for his audition for "Happy Days," he thought he was auditioning for "Laverne and Shirley," which was one of his favorite shows.  He didn't know that he was auditioning for "Happy Days" until later, after the audition was over and he got the role of Melvin Belvin!

Special thanks to Paulette Caswell for all of the information!

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