From Howdy Doody to Beanie & Cecil to H.R. Pufnstuff to Kermit the Frog, the history of children's television has been peppered with beloved puppets and their masters. Though lacking in the sophistication and elaborate flash of many of her peers, ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her feisty sock puppet Lamb Chop reigned supreme as the queen and princess of modern puppetry. Though adults loved the playful, peppery exchanges between Lewis and her wooly alter ego, her primary appeal was to children and it was as a teacher that Lewis made her greatest impact. Her awards included 12 Emmys, a Peabody, and seven Parents' Choice Awards.
The New York City native was raised amidst culture and Lewis herself had many more talents than belly talking. Lewis' mother began teaching her piano when she was two, while her father taught her ventriloquism and a few magic tricks. As a teen, she attended the city's prestigious High School of Music and Art, where she studied piano, violin, music theory, and orchestration. She learned to dance at the School of American Ballet and honed her acting skills at the Neighborhood Playhouse. She made her first television appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scout and won.