Comic and television personality Pincus Leff, aka Pinky Lee, circa 1955 (Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives)
Do you remember Pinky Lee? Depending on your age, you might:
1. Recall Pinky Lee as a beloved children's television host, right up there with Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo.
2. Wonder what the heck Rizzo is talking about in Grease when she disses Kenickie with a milkshake to the face while saying "To you from me, Pinky Lee!"
3. Think "Wasn't she that teen star married to Bobby Darin?"
4. Assume Pinky Lee was a character on that season of The Sopranos that you missed.
5. Give up on guessing and go straight to Google.
No matter which of these applies to you, we challenge you to watch this clip of Lee, who died April 23, 1993, and not be amazed and delighted.
Born Pincus Leff in St. Paul, Minn., vaudevillian Lee took the concept of high energy to a whole new level. Indeed, once when he collapsed on stage while fighting off an infection, both the audience and the show's producers – knowing about his wacky antics – assumed it was an ad-libbed pratfall. There was quite a long pause before anyone realized something was actually wrong.
Lee had to take time off from performing after the health scare, but that didn't reduce his great influence. Readers of a younger generation may see a hint of Lee in the hijinks of another famous kids' show host, Pee Wee Herman.
It's no secret that Paul Reubens took inspiration from Lee when he crafted the goofy Pee Wee character. And plenty of other irreverent children's TV shows of the past six decades owe much to Lee as well. What he created in the very early days of television was a template for the kind of programming kids really like to watch. A little bit of learning… and a whole lot of fun.
Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.