Sunday, February 05, 2006
Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis died
Al Lewis (April 30, 1910 or 1923 (disputed) – February 3, 2006) was an American actor best known for the role of Grandpa (commonly but incorrectly "Grandpa Munster") on the television series The Munsters.
Al Lewis was born on April 30, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York, to parents of Polish and German descent. Lewis attended Thomas Jefferson High School. Not quite sure what he wanted to do with his life, he tried a Number of professions including salesman, waiter, owner of a poolroom, and store detective. In the late 1920s, he worked as a circus clown, riding a unicycle and performing stunts on the trapeze bar. Later, Lewis taught school and wrote two children's books.
He landed the role of Officer Leo Schnauser on "Car 54, Where Are You?-the successful Nat Hiken series that also starred Fred Gwynne. The series ran from 1961 to 1963. While finishing up a Broadway run of Do Re Mi with Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker, he was summoned along with Fred Gwynne to test for"The Munsters."
In early 1964, when Lewis began playing Grandpa Munster, he probably did not realize that he would be remembered forever for his portrayal of the petulant third-rate wizard of the Munster clan. "Fans treat me like an icon," he says. He enjoys the smiles he gives people as Grandpa, but for all the recognition he receives, there is one particular actor he reveres: "In my humble opinion, and nothing about me is humble," he says, "Chaplin was the only genius who ever worked in Hollywood. No question about it. In fact, I got to meet him at John Garfield's house once."
Also active politcially:
In 1988, he accepted the Green Party nomination for governor of New Yorksaying, "we don't inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it fromour kids". Although he lost to incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki, he stillmanaged to collect more than 52,000 votes with his name on the ballot as"Grandpa Al Lewis." Lewis' first political work was for the Sacco and Vanzetti defencecommittee. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists,were executed in Massachusetts in 1927 for a double murder and robbery amiddoubts about their guilt. Lewis worked in the 1930s to free the Scottsboro Boys - nine black teenagersaccused of raping two white women in another highly publicised case. All but one were sentenced to death, but eventually they were cleared. "If anything I consider myself an anarchist," he once said on his weeklyradio show on WBAI in New York City. Lewis had three angioplasties, and in 2003 doctors were forced to amputatehis right leg below the knee and all five toes of his left foot. He is survived by his wife, Karen, three sons and four grandchildren. - Reuters