Shari Lewis, born 80 years ago today, was a legend of children's television. As the puppeteer behind Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy, Wing Ding and – of course – Lamb Chop, she entertained generations of children with her gentle, friendly songs and stories.
For someone talking via a sock with stitched-on eyes, Lewis created something very special. Children knew it, and so did their parents, who awarded Lewis with 12 Emmys, Seven Parents' Choice Awards, a Peabody Award, a John F. Kennedy Center Award for Excellence and Creativity… the list goes on and on.
Puppeteer Shari Lewis is shown in this 1997 publicity photo for a PBS special, "Shari's Passover Surprise." The children's entertainer who charmed youngsters for decades with furry sidekicks Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse, died of cancer, Sunday, Aug. 2, 1998. She was 65. (AP Photo/Deb Halberstadt)
The awards are great proof of Shari Lewis's talent and impact… but maybe there's even better proof in watching her work. In honor of her birthday, here are a few great Shari Lewis performances.
Plenty of mothers are grateful for quality children's TV programs like Lewis's. She gave moms an extra boost with this episode detailing how important it is for Mom to get a nice nap.
As well as on their own show – several incarnations of it – Lewis and Lamb Chop appeared on other shows, like Sesame Street.
On Lamb Chop's 30th anniversary, Lewis reminisced with a scene from the puppet's earliest days.
Shari Lewis died in August 1998 at the age of 65 after developing viral pneumonia while being treated for uterine cancer. But Lewis and Lamb Chop have not been forgotten –Lewis’s daughter Mallory has picked up the torch… and the sock.
The decision to perform her mother’s classic character was not an easy one for Mallory Lewis, herself an Emmy-winning children’s television producer and creator. But it was important to her to preserve her mother’s legacy – and to let Lamb Chop live on.
"My mom was one of the world's greatest entertainers. I don't want to challenge that. I don't think it's wise to go there. But I do want to do everything that I can do for Lamb Chop. I'll help keep her going."
Written by Linnea Crowther