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Good Night, Grandpa
February 4, 2006 12:27 PM   Subscribe

We say so long to "Grandpa" Al Lewis, patriarch of the Munsters family, restauranteer, politician, gadfly, character actor.
posted by moonbird (43 comments total)

 
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posted by moonbird at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by fixedgear at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by ursus_comiter at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2006


You're forgetting, of course, college basketball scout.
posted by Kibbutz at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2006


Wow! What a cool dude! From the politician link above:

Now, 30 years after the original series ended, TV's #2 horror sitcom family is taking one last well-deserved shot at the big time: Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis is running for governor of New York, as the Green Party candidate.

This is a proposition that brings numerous questions to mind, not the least of which is, "You mean he's not dead?" Indeed, Al Lewis is alive and kicking at the age of 88, about as undead as a normal human can get. It was skillful makeup artistry that enabled Grandpa Munster to look 378 years old back when Lewis was only in his fifties.

But why is he involved in politics? And why the Green Party? If those folks wanted to nominate an old classic TV star, it looks like they could have found somebody whose image was more in tune with their agenda, like maybe Jim from Wild Kingdom, or that pot-smoking hippie Bob Denver.

The surprising truth is that Lewis has been active in politics all his life, and is just about as qualified to be on a gubernatorial ticket as he is to be on Nick at Nite. During the Great Depression, the young Lewis was a political activist involved in Home Relief demonstrations to oppose unfair evictions. In 1941 he became Dr. Al Lewis, earning a Ph.D. in child psychology from Columbia University at the age of 31. He served in the Merchant Marine in World War II, where he survived close calls on two sunken ships, and also became a union organizer for the National Maritime Union.

After the war, Lewis launched a career in show business, which he had previously dabbled in as a circus clown and a performer in vaudeville shows and radio. He was a top comedic actor in 1950s television, appearing on almost every show that broadcast live from New York. In the early '60s, Lewis starred as Officer Leo Schnauser in Car 54, Where Are You?, alongside fellow future Munster Fred Gwynne. During this time, Lewis was also an active participant in the growing civil rights movement. He became an ally of the Black Panthers, helping them raise funds for their legal battles against the FBI's COINTELPRO operations. Lewis also taught classes on black history for the group's members. Imagine Grandpa Munster teaching Black Panthers about their people's roots... now that's more profoundly inspiring than anything Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder could ever do side by side on their piano keyboard.
posted by stenseng at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2006


uhh . . . I mean, college basketball scout.
posted by Kibbutz at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2006


Yeah, he was big into b'ball, and I meant to say restauranteur in the link. He also earned a PhD in Child Psychology. A true renaissance man.
posted by moonbird at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Smart Dalek at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2006


For some reason, I have a vivid memory of a scene from "The Munsters" in which Grandpa was in his laboratory, dissing a bat: "You're a mouse that joined the Air Corps."

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posted by Gator at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by jonmc at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2006


and reading that biography. he sure sounds like the type of guy I would've enjoyed drinking with.

I'm also stunned that he outlived Herman.
posted by jonmc at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by eriko at 1:13 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Sticherbeast at 1:13 PM on February 4, 2006


Damn you, Dr. Van Helsing!
posted by Guy Smiley at 1:21 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by WhipSmart at 1:22 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by First Post at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2006


I liked his radio show on WBAI. RIP Grandpa Al.
posted by caddis at 1:35 PM on February 4, 2006


Oh crap.

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posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2006


Aw, not Grandpa Muster! I loved that guy.

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posted by MrBadExample at 1:44 PM on February 4, 2006


We'll miss you, Uncle Fester!
</humor>
posted by hal9k at 2:06 PM on February 4, 2006


They seem to forget mentioning that he was known to get his perv on in Las Vegas at the various internet porn conventions.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2006


..

(just one seemed not enough)
posted by JeffK at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by notclosed at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2006


rough ashlar, good for him. I hope at that age I'm still able to get my perv on.
posted by jonmc at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Slap Incognito at 4:37 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Mijo Bijo at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by brundlefly at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by nj_subgenius at 7:25 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Faint of Butt at 7:47 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Scoo at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2006


Grampa to YOU kidlings ...

Leo Schnauzer to me.


Now get off my lawn!
posted by RavinDave at 8:35 PM on February 4, 2006


... Leo Schnauser to me.

Now get off my lawn!
posted by RavinDave at 8:36 PM on February 4, 2006


Leo Schnauser to me. ;)
posted by RavinDave at 8:36 PM on February 4, 2006


And he had a bitchin' car.

I ate at his restaraunt in NY, he was sitting at another table for the whole meal. That was pretty cool.

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posted by doctor_negative at 9:12 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by Lynsey at 9:31 PM on February 4, 2006


Oh, darn darn DARN!
(stomps foot)

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posted by evilcolonel at 10:26 PM on February 4, 2006


Not to put too fine a point on it, but since he was technically Lily's father on the show (and she married Herman Munster), his name was not Grandpa Munster. I don't know what it was, but RIP nevertheless. He was a heck of an active guy.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:49 PM on February 4, 2006


oh man. this guy is a life changer. he nearly single handedly kept independent radio alive with WBAI. I happened to go to a bai event one time, and there was grandpa munster in his rasta cap and sandals with socks, just chatting with anyone who came by. In the time I was in earshot, more than half the people who came by said things along the lines of "Thank you so much for being who you are. I owe you my life/job/relationship/life again/sanity, etc..." and then told stories of how his activism and radio station changed their lives. This is truly sad.
posted by shmegegge at 10:56 PM on February 4, 2006


He was universally loved. An anecdote from the New York Times, years ago when I was living in New York: late one night there was a mob rampaging through the West Village, trashing the windows of every store and restaurant they passed.

Lewis, cape and all, stood outside his restaurant smiling and waving.

"Holy shit! That's Grandpa!!"

The mob took autographs, and passed his restaurant and carried on rampaging with the place next door.
posted by Mutant at 11:07 PM on February 4, 2006


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posted by BoringPostcards at 2:36 AM on February 5, 2006


I've met him on several occasions. Every time I said "Hey Grandpa Al, I love you." I meant it. A really wonderful person.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:07 AM on February 6, 2006


Also, back in high school, I knew a lot of aspiring Eddie Van Halens. For some reason, the one song they all knew how to play was a fuzzed-up version of the Munsters theme.
posted by jonmc at 10:36 AM on February 6, 2006


Wow, I got his autograph when he was at the Heart of Texas Auto show. He was there with the Dragula, and I think the Munster Koach was there, too. I must have been about 8 or 9, and I was a Munsters freak. (The Addams Family being a bit too cerebral for me at the time) I remember what a nice guy he was, having to autograph hundreds of pics for the slavering kid fans.

The Batmobile was there, too; only Batman and Robin were fakes. Honestly, did they think we wouldn't notice?

Goodbye, Grandpa.
posted by sdswift at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2006


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