Friday, August 2, 2013

Remembering Shari Lewis January 17, 1933 - August 2, 1998

Shari Lewis began her life as Sonia Phyllis Hurwitz and was the daughter of a father who was a Jewish professor at Yeshiva University as well as an accomplished magician and was referred to as "New York City's official magician" by the former mayor, Fiorello Laguardia during the Great Depression.  Her dad began teaching Sonia specialized magical acts before the age of 13.  She also learned acrobatics, juggling, baton twirling, piano, violin, and yes, ventriloquism.  She continued to excel at the piano and violin while attending the New York High School of Music and Art as well as dance at the American School of Ballet.  During that time, she also did some acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse.  Following high school, she attended Barnard College and decided college wasn't for her and show business was.

Shari's first success in puppetry was when she received first place in the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.  She made her television debut on Facts N'Fun (a variety show) and did comedy skits with her "friends" Samson and Taffy Twinkle. Shari and her friends continued to appear on a variety of shows and won an New York area Emmy Awards for her work.

Her first network program "The Shari Lewis" show made its debut in 1960 that replaced the "Howdy Doody" show.  She featured her characters Hush Puppy, Charlie Horse, Wing Ding, and of course, Lamb Chop ( a sock with eyes).  Lamb Chop made its first appearance on the "Captain Kangaroo show" Many guest television and movie appearances were made on her show including occasional stars.  The consumer version of her main three puppets Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse became popular with children.  Shari made guest appearances on many popular television shows including at that time "Car 54 Where Are You" "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "Love, American Style"

Lewis also played "Dulie Hudson" in Watching Out For Dulie and co-wrote with her former husband an episode of Star Trek called "The Lights of Zetar"

She began an Emmy Award winning show in 1992 called "Lamb Chop's Play Along" that ran for five years and starred in the hit series "The Charlie Horse Music Pizza" that was one of Shari's final projects.

As I mentioned previously, Shari was an accomplished musician and conducted major symphonies throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan.  She also authored more than 60 children's books and created seventeen home videos.

In June of 1988, Shari Lewis was diagnosed with uterine cancer after being treated previously for breast cancer.  While undergoing treatment for her cancer, she developed viral pneumonia that resulted in her death on August 2, 1998 at the age of 65.

Shari Lewis had received many awards and honors over her career including 12 Emmy Awards, John F. Kennedy Center Award for Excellence and Creativity, 7 Parent Choice Awards, and the Peabody Award to name a few.

A private Jewish funeral was held for Shari (funeral program pictured) along with a public memorial service (all who attended received a lamb chop doll and memorial pin/ribbon (pictured)  Her funeral program has a quote on the cover "Not for want of trying"

Shari was cremated and returned to her family.

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