Sunday, February 05, 2006

Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis

One of the most beloved figures of the American left has died. The actor, Al Lewis who was best known as "Grandpa Munster" had a colorful life. Born in 1910, 96 year old Al Lewis lived a very full life of varied occupations as well as political activism.

Al Lewis was a circus performer in the late 1920's and had earned a Ph.D. in child psychology. He worked in both burlesque and Vaudeville before becoming a 1950's broadway stage actor. In high school, Lewis stood at 6 foot, 1, so made a natually good basketball player and even went on to become an NBA high school talent scout in later years. He also owned an Italian restaurant called "Granpa's" as well.

In the 1930's , Lewis was a labor organizer seeking to unionize nonunion workers. And he was involved in other political activities. Lewis was the Green Party candidate for New York Governor in 1998, polling 52,533 votes. On the ballot, Lewis sought o listed as "Grandpa Al Lewis", but elections officials were able to turn back his court challenge and he was listed as Al Lewis on the ballot. He hosted a progressive politics talk program on KBIA-FM in New York.

But Lewis was best known as the very lovable Granda Munster character from 1960's CBS TV, even more so than his role in CAR 54 , WHERE ARE YOU. In both popular TV comedies, Al Lewis and Fred Gywnne starred. But THE MUNSTERS became the defining role for both actors. Both Lewis and Gywnne were perfect for their roles. Lewis played an elderly Dracula-like character, and Gywnne was an outrageous and childlike bumbling, but well intentioned Frankenstein's Monster character. The show involved some of the coolest 1960's themes in it, such as a great 1960's soundtrack, comedy horror, and other things that made it hip and cool. A custom coach built by custom car designer George Barris that looked like a wild old time horse drawn hearse was built and powered by a wild Ford Falcon 260 V8. An even wilder coffin based dragster was built from what Herman Munster claimed was a "box" he brought home from work at the funeral home.

Like Burgess Meredith best known for his role as the Penguin on the 1960's show BATMAN, or Bon Denver as the boyish screwoff, Gilligan, AL Lewis became forever typecast as Grandpa Munster and embraced the role. Al Lewis survived some serious health issues and even emerged from a coma to live to the ripe old age of 96.

Lewis not only sought to make life more far for people, promote progressive political causes. but made 1960's TV really something special. Thanks so much Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis, it was a way cool ride. You made a lot of kid's childhoods great. You're a real hero in my book.


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Lizzy said...


He owned a restuarant downtown in Manhattan.

I am sorry I did not take the time to stop in and thank him.

At 3:08 AM, Blogger Paul Hooson said...

Al Lewis was a great progressive American, Lizzy. I share your love for him. He wanted to move America ahead, while social regressives seek to turn back the clock.


Post a Comment

<< Home