Tuesday, September 23, 2014 Elul 28, 5774
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LEWIS

Al Lewis, the son of Jewish immigrants who later became a TV legend and far-left politician, died Feb. 3 in New York City.

Lewis, who was raised by his mother, an immigrant sweatshop worker in Brooklyn, was best known for his role as Grandpa Munster on the TV show "The Munsters," as well as Officer Leo Schnauzer in the classic "Car 54, Where are You?" Indeed, it was on that show that he and Fred Gwynne proved their talents both together and separately, and then moved over to "The Munsters" together.

If it wasn't exactly a monster career, it was a busy and varied one for the actor born Alexander Meister. The comical performer also plied the vaudeville stage at a young age, and had a radio show in his later years. Unbeknownst to most, the sports enthusiast at one time considered a basketball career, and served as a basketball scout for others.

In fact, younger audiences may recall his frequent - and at times profanity-laden - appearances on Howard Stern's radio show, pre-Sirius, where Lewis' credentials (he had earned a doctorate in child psychology) led him into some erudite discussions.

A man of protean gifts, Lewis was also a restaurateur at one time.

His devotion to leftist politics led him to run for governor of New York in 1988 when his Green Party took on the Republicans and George Pataki, the ultimate winner.

Although he couldn't drive a stake through the heart of his image as Grandpa Munster - in which he gained fame as a Dracula-like cloaked and well-coiffed gent of indeterminate age - Lewis claimed he never got tired of his fans recognizing him by the best role he ever played.

And, in keeping with the Dracula legend, no one is really sure of how old he actually was, with some reporting him to be 95 and at least one wire service crediting him to have died at age 82.

 

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