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  • Lewis Shari


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Shari Lewis (1933)

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Shari Lewis (January 17, 1933 – August 2, 1998) was an American ventriloquist, puppeteer, and children's television show host, most popular during the 1960s and 1990s. She was best known as the original puppeteer of Lamb Chop, first appearing on Hi Mom, a local morning show that aired on WNBC in New York.


 early life
Lewis was born as Sonia Phyllis Hurwitz to Abraham Hurwitz, an education professor at Yeshiva University, and Ann Ritz. She had one sister. Her parents encouraged her to perform, and by age 13 her father taught her to perform specialized magic acts. He had been named New York City's "official magician" by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia during the Great Depression. She also received instruction in acrobatics, juggling, ice skating, baton twirling, piano and violin. She was taught ventriloquism by John W. Cooper. Lewis continued piano and violin at New York's High School of Music and Art, dance at the American School of Ballet, and acting with Sanford Meisner of the Neighborhood Playhouse. She attended Barnard College for one year, then left college to go into show business.

In 1952, Lewis and her puppetry won first prize on the TV show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. On Sunday afternoon, July 5, 1953, Lewis made her TV debut on a local children's program Facts N'Fun on WRCA-TV Channel 4 in New York City. The program was a variety show where she engaged her viewers and studio audiences in games, songs, stories, craftmaking, informational segments and interviews with guest performers and personalities. She also performed comedy skits with two vent figures: "Samson" and "Taffy Twinkle". The series remained on the air until September 26, 1953.

Later in fall 1953, she succeeded Ted Steel as the second and last MC of Kartoon Klub on WPIX-TV Channel 11. Again, Lewis would host a variety format with a live studio audience and perform with two vent figures: "Randy Rocket" and "Taffy Twinkle". But the series would be set against the backdrop of an enchanted realm "Kartoonia" and also feature reruns of Crusader Rabbit cartoons. (Info about Lewis hosting Facts N'Fun and Kartoon Klub can be found in "The NYC Kids Shows Round Up" section of TV

Kartoon Klub became a popular NYC children's show and later changed its title to Shari & Her Friends on Saturday, September 23, 1956.

In March 1956, Lewis made a guest appearance on Captain Kangaroo. It was on this children's program that she utilized "Lamb Chop" for the first time.

A year later, she would MC Shariland. Again, set against the backdrop of fairytale realm, Lewis and her puppets "Lamb Chop", "Charlie Horse", "Hush Puppy" and "Wing Ding" entertained and informed their viewers on WPIX TV Channel 11 in NYC from Saturday, October 13, 1956 to Saturday December 22, 1956.

The series was rerun on WRCA-TV in NYC from Saturday, August 16, 1957 to August 16, 1958 and won a NYC Emmy Award as "Best Children's Program". Lewis also briefly served as the first host performer of Hi Mom on WRCA TV Ch. 4 in NYC weekday mornings from Thursday, August 15, 1957 to Friday, March 20, 1959 and the show won a local Emmy.

Lewis hosted her first network children's program The Shari Lewis Show, which made its debut on the NBC Television network on October 1, 1960. The show ran until September 28, 1963, and featured such characters as Hush Puppy, Charlie Horse, Lamb Chop, and Wing Ding, a black crow. Lamb Chop, who was little more than a sock with eyes, served as a sassy alter-ego for Lewis. Hush Puppy had a Southern accent and a reserved shy personality, while Charlie Horse was a slow-witted goofy character. Guest TV and movie personalities and even occasional stars often appeared on her show, as they did later on Jim Henson's Muppet series.

Capturing kids' imaginations in the early 60s, consumer versions of Lewis's initial three puppets sold briskly. Subsequent television programs re-introduced these characters to a new generation of children.

In 1968, she and her then-husband, Jeremy Tarcher co-wrote the episode "The Lights of Zetar" for the original series of Star Trek.

In 1992, her new Emmy-winning show Lamb Chop's Play-Along began a five-year run on PBS. Lewis starred in another hit PBS series, The Charlie Horse Music Pizza, which was one of her last projects before her death. The video Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah was released in 1996 and received the Parents' Choice award of the year.

 personal life
"Shari" Hurwitz acquired the name Lewis by a brief marriage. By her second marriage to Jeremy Tarcher in 1958, she had one daughter, Mallory.

When Lewis appeared before Congress in 1993 to testify in favor of protections for children's television, Lamb Chop was granted permission to speak. Lamb Chop's passionate, well-informed and vivid testimony made an indelible impression.

Shari Lewis was diagnosed with uterine cancer in June 1998. While undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on August 2, 1998, she developed viral pneumonia and died at the age of 65. Her remains were cremated. She was survived by her husband, daughter and sister.

Her first husband was Stan Lewis. Her second husband, who survived her, was publisher Jeremy Tarcher, a brother of the novelist Judith Krantz.

Lewis's daughter, Mallory Tarcher, wrote for the shows Lamb Chop's Play-Along and The Charlie Horse Music Pizza. She legally changed her name to Mallory Lewis, and in 2000, she resumed her mother's work with the Lamb Chop character.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Shari Lewis", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.