Cover of Genii (1983)
|Born||Sonia Phyllis Hurwitz|
January 17, 1934
|Died||August 2, 1998 (age 64) |
Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles
|Resting place||Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend|
Shari Lewis (January 17, 1934 – August 2, 1998) was born Sonia Phyllis Hurwitz. She was an American ventriloquist, puppeteer, and children's television show host, most popular during the 1960s. She is 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.
Lewis' father, Dr. Abraham Hurwitz, was a founding member of Yeshiva University in New York City. Her parents encouraged her to perform, and by age 13 her father taught her to perform specialized magic acts. She also received instruction in acrobatics, juggling, piano and violin. She was taught ventriloquism by John W. Cooper.
She also learned how to play the 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 Columbia University for one year, then left college to go into show business.
In 1952, Lewis and her puppetry won first prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television show. In March 1956, she and Lamb Chop were on Captain Kangaroo and by 1960 she had her own television program. She graduated to network television in 1960 as host and puppeteer of The Shari Lewis Show. The programs featured such characters as Hush Puppy, Charlie Horse, Lamb Chop, and Wing Ding. Lamb Chop, who was little more than a sock with eyes, served as a sassy alter-ego for Shari. Subsequent television programs introduced these characters (minus the black crow, whose characterization became more problematic after the 1960s) to a new generation of children. In 1992, her new Emmy-winning show Lamb Chop's Play-Along began a five year run on PBS.
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