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Shari Lewis (1933 - 1998)

A photo of Shari Lewis
Phyllis Naomi (Hurwitz) Tarcher
1933 - 1998
Born
January 17, 1933
Bronx County, New York, United States
Death
August 2, 1998
Cedars-Sinai Hospital 8700 Beverly Blvd, in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, 90048, United States
Other Names
Shari Lewis, Sonia Phyllis Naomi Hurwitz
Summary
Phyllis Naomi (Hurwitz) Tarcher of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States was born on January 17, 1933 in Bronx County, New York, and died at age 65 years old on August 2, 1998 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital 8700 Beverly Blvd, in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California. Phyllis Tarcher was buried at Cremated, ashes given to family.
Updated: December 27, 2022
Biography ID: 2772907

Phyllis Tarcher's Biography

Family, friend, or fan this Collaborative Biography is for you to show & tell Phyllis' life so that she is always remembered.
About Phyllis

Introduction

Shari Lewis is best remembered as a ventriloquist, puppeteer & children's entertainer. Her sock puppet Lamb Chop is loved by many.

She was born in the Bronx, New York, as Sonia Phyllis Naomi Hurwitz to parents Ann Ritz (1908 - 1994) and Abraham Hurwitz (1906 - 1981). She had one sister. Abraham was born in Lithuania and Ann was born in Manhattan, New York. Entering the world of entertainment might have been inherited from her father Abraham since he was named New York City's "official magician" by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia during the Great Depression.

Shari married Stan Lipschitz or Lewis in 1953 and they divorced in 1957. She married again, to Jeremy Phillip Tarcher, in 1958 and they were married until her passing in 1998. She had one daughter named Mallory Tarcher who legally changed her last name to Lewis in the year 2000 and took over her mother's work with Lamb Chop.

Shari entertained millions and won her first puppetry prize on the CBS tv series Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1952. NBC gave Shari her first network program called 'The Shari Lewis Show' which introduced the world to Lamb Chop and debuted on October 1st, 1960. Fun fact: this tv program is what replaced the famous 'The Howdy Doody Show". See Shari Lewis: Professions.
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Shari Lewis
Most commonly known as
Phyllis Naomi (Hurwitz) Tarcher
Full legal name
Shari Lewis, Sonia Phyllis Naomi Hurwitz
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Last place lived

Last residence

January 17, 1933
Birthday
Bronx County, New York United States
Birth location

Birth details

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Ethnicity & Family History

Shari is of Jewish decent of Lithuanian heritage. Her father was originally from Vilnius, Lithuania.

Nationality & Locations

She was born in the Bronx New York and spent her life in New York City and Los Angeles, California.

Education

Her father was Abraham Hurwitz who was an education professor at Yeshiva University. She studied music (the piano and violin) at New York's High School of Music and Art, dance at the School of American Ballet, and acting with Sanford Meisner of the Neighborhood Playhouse. Shari briefly attended Barnard College until she went into show business.

Religion

dd/mm/yyyy
Baptism date
Unknown
Place of worship

Baptism date & location

Shari was Jewish.

Professions

A consummate entertainer, ventriloquist and puppeteer, Shari Lewis wrote more than 60 children’s books, created 24 videos and won 12 Emmy awards. Lewis started her career in show business early. As a toddler she was pulling rabbits out of a hat as her father, Abraham B. Hurwitz, was the official magician of the New York City parks department. She credited her mother, a music coordinator for the New York City Board of Education, with inspiring her boundless energy and enthusiasm and arranging her musical training. Shari began studying piano at age 2 and as she grew up, she added music theory, orchestration, more piano and violin at New York’s High School of Music and Art, dance at the School of American Ballet and acting with Sanford Meisner of the Neighborhood Playhouse. In 1952, barely 19, Lewis was a winner on Arthur Godfrey’s television talent scout show. Within five years, she introduced Lamb Chop on the “The Captain Kangaroo Show” for children. This led immediately to “The Shari Lewis Show,” which ran in NBC’s Saturday morning lineup for several years. In a 1966 interview with The Time, she said “Like dancing and singing, if a child develops a natural proficiency in ventriloquism, it can be refined later by careful instruction and practice". Career highlights: 1952: Wins on the “Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout” program, her first big break in show business. 1957: Introduces Lamb Chop in single appearance on “The Captain Kangaroo Show,” which leads to “The Shari Lewis Show” Saturday mornings on NBC. Mid-1960s: Performs in popular nightclub act with Donald O’Connor in Las Vegas. 1968-76: Has her own Sunday night television series on the BBC in Great Britain. 1992: “Lamb Chop’s Play-Along” on PBS wins the first of five consecutive Emmys. 1998: “The Charlie Horse Music Pizza” debuts on PBS Jan. 5. File name: casinos graphic

Personal Life

Married twice with one daughter and devoted to children, Lewis worked on their behalf far beyond the camera and microphone. She raised a daughter, Mallory Tarcher, who was the producer and executive story editor of Lewis’ show. She also served on the national boards of the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America and of the International Reading Foundation. In 1995 she was national spokesperson for the American Lung Association and, being fond of live animals (as well as her puppet imitators), she was on the board of the Los Angeles Zoo for three years.

Military Service

Did Phyllis serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with her life?
August 2, 1998
Death date
Cancer - pneumonia while undergoing chemotherapy
Cause of death
Cedars-Sinai Hospital 8700 Beverly Blvd, in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California 90048, United States
Death location

Death details

dd/mm/yyyy
Funeral date
Cremated, ashes given to family
Burial location

Gravesite & burial

Obituary

AUG. 4, 199812 AM Shari Lewis, the perky strawberry blond ventriloquist, puppeteer, singer and dancer who graced the television screen and nightclub stage for four decades, accompanied by her lovable sock puppet Lamb Chop, has died. She was 65. Lewis, who was found to have uterine cancer in June, died of pneumonia Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said her publicist, Maggie Begley. Lewis had been undergoing chemotherapy for the last six weeks. The 5-foot, 98-pound overachiever amassed a dozen Emmys, a Peabody Award, the John F. Kennedy Center Award for Excellence and Creativity, seven Parents’ Choice Awards, the Action for Children’s Television Award, and in 1995 the new Rommie award for her CD-ROM “Lamb Chop Loves Music.” Lewis wrote more than 60 children’s books and created 24 home videos, including “101 Things for Kids to Do,” which won many awards. A consummate musician, she played violin and piano and conducted major orchestras, including the National Symphony in Washington and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Educational as well as entertaining to generations of children, Lewis’ programs were most often produced for PBS. Her current show, which debuted in January, is “The Charlie Horse Music Pizza” produced by KCET in Hollywood. The show, which she said was designed to teach children the joy of making music, is co-produced by Golden Books Family Entertainment, which bought Shari Lewis Enterprises Inc. last year. “There is no way to continue the show because Shari was everything,” said Laurel Lambert, spokeswoman for KCET. She said, however, that the series is airing repeats that will continue through the fall, and that three new episodes for the fall season have been taped.Although Lewis manipulated dozens of puppets, her original Lamb Chop was the most enduring and endearing and became the trademark and alter ego of its creator. Next most famous were Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy. In the early 1990s, Lewis created the PBS series “Lamb Chop’s Play-Along” which she dubbed the “anti-couch potato show” because it encouraged sluggish youngsters to get up and interact with the program.Interaction was integral to Lewis’ shows for its educational value, she told a Times writer in 1992, quoting an ancient Chinese proverb: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. In the doing is the learning.” Lewis’ specials came to symbolize holidays for children and their parents around the world—"Shari’s Christmas Concert,” “Lamb Chop in the Haunted Studio,” “Shari’s Passover Surprise” and “Lamb Chop’s Special Hanukkah.” Although she was known as a children’s entertainer, Lewis also delighted nightclub crowds in Southern California and in Las Vegas, often with Donald O’Connor. Her act typically included distinct segments—such as puppets named Zsa Zsa and Phyllis comparing measurements and the unending search for men; Lewis dancing with a life-size replica of Fred Astaire; and curly-lashed Lamb Chop in adult mode, tipsy and searching for a martini. Lamb Chop always appeared, at one time aspiring to be a Playboy bunny, complete with long floppy ears attached. Reviewing Lewis’ act at the Century Plaza’s old Westside Room in 1967, Times critic John L. Scott rated her “cute . . . skillful . . . with fresh and engaging material.” Lewis relished the change from the television studio, where she played to unseen children, to the nightclub stage, where she could interact with a live adult audience. “It’s like roulette on stage every night,” she once said. She took her act to larger stages as well, most recently in December at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.The extraordinarily versatile Lewis also performed in several Broadway musicals, including “Damn Yankees,” “Bye-Bye Birdie” and “Funny Girl,” as well as in her own “Lamb Chop on Broadway.” On prime-time television, she appeared in hundreds of movies and variety specials. She also was seen on game shows and such talk shows as “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” Lewis burst into show business early—as a toddler pulling rabbits out of a hat. Her father, Abraham B. Hurwitz, official magician of the New York City parks department, taught her how. She credited her mother, a music coordinator for the New York City Board of Education, with inspiring her boundless energy and enthusiasm and arranging her musical training. She began studying piano at age 2. As she grew up, she added music theory, orchestration, more piano and violin at New York’s High School of Music and Art, dance at the School of American Ballet and acting with Sanford Meisner of the Neighborhood Playhouse. The ventriloquism was inborn. “Like dancing and singing, if a child develops a natural proficiency in ventriloquism, it can be refined later by careful instruction and practice,” she told The Times in 1966. “But I never heard of an adult ‘learning’ the art sufficiently to become a successful professional.” In 1952, barely 19, Lewis was a winner on Arthur Godfrey’s television talent scout show. Within five years, she introduced Lamb Chop on the “The Captain Kangaroo Show” for children. That led immediately to “The Shari Lewis Show,” which ran in NBC’s Saturday morning lineup for several years. Devoted to children, Lewis worked on their behalf far beyond the camera and microphone. She raised a daughter, Mallory Tarcher, currently producer and executive story editor of Lewis’ show. She also served on the national boards of the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America and of the International Reading Foundation. In 1995 she was national spokesperson for the American Lung Assn. Fond of live animals as well as her puppet imitators, she was on the board of the Los Angeles Zoo for three years. Lewis is survived by her husband and frequent collaborator, publisher Jeremy Tarcher; her daughter; and a sister, Barbara Okun. Services will be private, although a public memorial will be planned. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Girl Scouts of America. Cards or notes can be sent to the family care of KCET-TV in Los Angeles. A consummate entertainer, ventriloquist and puppeteer, Shari Lewis wrote more than 60 children’s books, created 24 videos and won 12 Emmy awards.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Shari Lewis lived 14 years shorter than the average Hurwitz family member when she died at the age of 65.
The average age of a Hurwitz family member is 79.
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Memories: Stories & Photos

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Shari Lewis
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Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah
Cover of the 1995 movie, "Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah,". In this story, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop tell the story of Chanukah "Hanukkah" and its traditions.
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Shari Lewis Puppeteer
You may have to have a few years on you to remember Shari Lewis (and Lamb Chop) but during the 1950's and 1960's she was the hottest children's entertainer around. She also appeared with her puppet Charlie Horse (but Lamb Chop was my absolute, all time favorite).

Shari continued entertaining and educating children through the 1990's - her last series was on PBS. She really cared about children.
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Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop & Charlie Horse
Puppeteer Shari Lewis with her puppets Lamb Chop & Charlie Horse taken in 1960.
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Facebook Fan
via Facebook
05/24/2022
Absolutely loved her and still have my puppets.
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Facebook Fan
via Facebook
05/24/2022
🎶This is the song that has no end, it just goes on and on my friends🎶......I was just a kid when I saw her the first time on 'Ed Sullivan'....
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis
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Shari Lewis Television Shows & Movies & TV Specials
Television:
Shariland—(1956–1958)
Hi Mom—(1957–1959)
The Merv Griffin Show - 2 episodes (1962 & 1967)
The Shari Lewis Show—(1960–1963)
Car 54 Where Are You- Puncher & Judy (4/7/63)
The Danny Kaye Show - 2 episodes (1964)
The Dean Martin Show - 2 episodes (1965-1966)
The Shari Lewis Show (BBC)—(1969[28]-1976[29])
Star Trek: The Original Series - Writer - episode - The Lights of Zetar (1969)
Shari's Show - TV Mini-Series (1970)
The Shari Show (syndicated)—(1975–1976)
Dinah! - 2 episodes (1975-1976)
Lamb Chop's Play-Along—(1992–1997)
Biography - episode - Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop (1994)
The Nanny - episode - Lamb Chop's On the Menu (1995)
Sesame Street - episode - Sloppy at day care (1996)
The Charlie Horse Music Pizza—(1998–1999)

Movies:
You Can Do It!—1984
Have I Got A Story For You—1984
Kooky Classics—1984

TV Specials:
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1975
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1976
Shari Lewis Magic Show—1979
Shari's Christmas Concert—1981
101 Things For Kids To Do—1987
Lamb Chop's Sing-Along, Play-Along—1988
Don't Wake Your Mom!—1989
Lamb Chop in the Land of No Manners—1989
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1992
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1993
Lamb Chop in the Land of No Numbers—1993
Lamb Chop in the Haunted Studio—1994
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade —1994
The 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards—1994
Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah—1995
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1995
Shari's Passover Surprise—1996
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1996
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—1997
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I never met her but I was told that she was my mother's cousin or something.. My grandmother was Gertrude Tarcher and she had siblings, Ann and Marty Tarcher. All of them are deceased.
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Family Tree & Friends

Phyllis' immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Tarcher family tree.

Phyllis's Family Tree

Parent
Parent
Shari Lewis Shari Lewis
Partner
Child
Partner
Child
Sibling

Friends

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1933 - 1998 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Phyllis' lifetime.

In 1933, in the year that Shari Lewis was born, the day after being inaugurated, the new President, Franklin Roosevelt, declared a four-day bank holiday to stop people from withdrawing their money from shaky banks (the bank run). Within 5 days of his administration, the Emergency Banking Act was passed - reorganizing banks and closing insolvent ones. In his first 100 days, he asked Congress to repeal Prohibition (which they did), signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, signed legislation that paid commodity farmers to leave their fields fallow, thus ending surpluses and boosting prices, signed a bill that gave workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions as well as suspending some antitrust laws and establishing a federally funded Public Works Administration, and won passage of 12 other major laws that helped the economy.

In 1945, Phyllis was merely 12 years old when on June 22nd, the Battle of Okinawa ended. A joint Army and Marine campaign, supported by the Navy, the Battle of Okinawa went on for 82 days. The last Japanese resistance on Okinawa was defeated. 4,907 Navy, 4,675 Army, and 2,938 Marine Corps personnel were killed in the battle on the US side. It is estimated that 110,071 on the Japanese side were killed - the estimate includes Okinawan citizens who were pressed into service and includes children. With the win of Okinawa, the United States gained an important base of operations in the Pacific.

In 1959, at the age of 26 years old, Phyllis was alive when on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

In 1981, she was 48 years old when on January 20th, Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. He ran against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, and won 50.7% of the popular vote to Carter's 41.0%.

In 1998, in the year of Shari Lewis's passing, on December 19th, the House of Representatives initiated impeachment charges against U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was subsequently acquitted of these charges by the Senate on February 12th.

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