Friday, May 19, 2006

Clarabell the Clown (1922-2006)

Long mute as Clarabell, the clown on "Howdy Doody," Lew Anderson broken his silence at the end of the popular show's final episode in 1960. With trembling lips and a tear in his eye, he spoke the shows final words" "Goodbye, kids."

Anderson, a musician and actor, died this week in upstate New York.

Although Anderson was not the only man to play "Buffalo Bob" Smith's sidekick, he was the best, Smith said in his memoir.

With the Peanut Gallery full of kids looking on, Anderson used bicycle horns to give yes and no answers. For more expressive moments, he wielded a bottle of seltzer.

The show, which began in 1947 when TVs were still a novelty, was the first network weekday children's show. Anderson joined "Doodyville," a circus town peopled with puppets and human actors, in the mid 1950's.

His fame as Clarabell followed Anderson throughout his life, but he also was a success as a musician and bandleader. In recent years, his All-American Big Band appeared on Friday nights at New York's Birdland jazz club.

It was when he joined the Honey Dreamers, a singing group that appeared on radio and early television shows, that he met Smith and became a clown

"Clarabell just fell into his lap," said his stepdaughter, Lorie George.

Anderson followed Bobby Nicholson, who later played Doodyville's J. Cornelius Cobb, into the role. The first to play Clarabell was Bob Keeshan, who later became known as Captain Kangaroo.

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