11 spunky facts about Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop
The world's most famous lamb spent decades entertaining children and even testified before Congress.
Image: AP Photo/Nick Ut
For forty years, Shari Lewis entertained kids with a gang of puppets that included Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy and Wing Ding. But none were more famous than Lamb Chop, the spunky six-year-old sheep with a thick New York accent.
While most humans in Hollywood fight to stay relevant, Lamb Chop easily spent decades in front of audiences, appearing on television programs and touring around the world. Of course, it didn't hurt that the woman behind her was an expertly trained puppeteer with some serious charm.
Sadly, Lewis passed away in 1998 at the age of 65. Although she's no longer around, her legacy of entertaining children lives on through her most famous puppet. Here are a few things you might not have known about Shari Lewis and her sidekick, Lamb Chop.
1. Her parents were entertainers.
During the Great Depression, Lewis' father, Abraham Hurwitz, was given the title of New York City's "official magician" by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
Image: Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation
2. She was almost a ballet dancer.
As a teenager, Lewis studied dance at the American School of Ballet. When she couldn't break through the chorus line, she decided to take up puppetry. The move definitely worked in her favor.
3. Lamb Chop debuted on 'Captain Kangaroo.'
The first appearance of the iconic puppet was on an iconic television program. In March of 1956, Lamb Chop made her debut on Captain Kangaroo.
4. Her original show no longer exists because of politics.
After gaining popularity, Lewis was given her own show in 1960 to take over The Howdy Doody Show. For three years, The Shari Lewis Show entertained kids on Saturday mornings. However, in 1964, the network decided to use the tapes from the show to record the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
5. 'Lamb Chop's Play-Along!' won six Emmy Awards.
After 30 years in the business, Lamb Chop received her own show on PBS in 1991. Lamb Chop's Play-Along! was a hit from the start, and earned Lewis and the crew a total of six Emmy Awards throughout its six-year run.
Image: AP Photo/Joe Tabacca
6. She also acted occasionally.
In the '60s and '70s, Lewis starred in programs like Car 54, Where Are You?, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (pictured here) and Love, American Style.
7. She wrote an episode of 'Star Trek.'
In addition to her work onscreen, she also wrote an episode of the original Star Trek series. Along with Jeremy Tarcher, Lewis wrote the season three episode "The Lights of Zetar."
8. She enjoyed lamb from time to time.
In 1994, Lewis told the Wilmington Star she liked to joke around with waiters by ordering a rack of lamb "at every opportunity."
Image: Dennis Wong
9. She was also an orchestra conductor.
When Lewis was a child, she not only studied ballet and puppetry but also instruments like piano and violin. Her love of music lead her to conduct major symphonies in the United States, Japan and Canada.
10. Lamb Chop testified before Congress.
Lewis was an advocate for educational programming for children, and even testified before Congress in 1993. Lamb Chop was also granted permission to testify, and gave a rousing speech urging politicians to protect children against bad content on television.
Image: AP Photo/John S. Stewart
11. Lamb Chop still travels around the country today.
After Lewis' death in 1998, her only daughter, Mallory, took the reigns and made sure Lamb Chop's legacy would live on. Today, Mallory tours the country with her son and the original puppet.
Image: U.S. Air Force