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Clarabell the Clown Lew Anderson


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Clarabell the Clown Lew Anderson

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Lew Anderson in the mid-90's

NEW YORK, New York - Lew Anderson, who captivated young baby boomers as the "Howdy Doody Show's" final Clarabell the Clown, died Sunday, May 14. He was 84. The musician and actor died in Hawthorne of complications from prostate cancer, said his son, Christopher Anderson.

Long mute as Clarabell, Anderson broke the clown's silence in the show's final episode on September 24, 1960. After 2,243 episodes, it was Clarabell who had the show's last words. Since until then he had only honked, they were also his first words. With trembling lips and a visible tear in his eye, he spoke the show's final words: "Goodbye, kids."

Though Anderson was not the only man to play "Buffalo Bob" Smith's mute sidekick, he was the best, Smith said in his memoir. With the Peanut Gallery looking on, Anderson used bicycle horns to give yes and no answers. For more expressive moments, he wielded a bottle of seltzer.

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Clarabell the Clown and Buffalo Bob Smith on the 'Howdy Doody Show'

The show, which launched in 1947 when televisions were still a novelty, was the first network weekday children's show. Anderson joined "Doodyville," a circus town peopled with puppets and human actors and watched by a Peanut Gallery of kids, in the mid 1950's.

When the Clarabell part opened up on Bob Smith's show, "Howdy Doody," Smith and the other producers asked Anderson if he could juggle. "No." Dance? "No." Magic tricks? "No." What can you do? "Nothing." Smith told Anderson, "Perfect, you start tomorrow."

Though his fame as Clarabell followed him throughout his life, Anderson was also a success as a musician and bandleader. In recent years, Anderson was well respected in those roles to the 16-piece Lew Anderson All-American Big Band which appeared on Friday nights at New York's famous jazz club, Birdland.

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Clarabell the Clown

Anderson was born in 1922 in Kirkman, Iowa. He started a band while serving in the Navy during World War II and later toured the Midwest with bands before landing in New York. 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 the mute clown was Bob Keeshan, who later became known as Captain Kangaroo.

Anderson, who lived in South Salem, New York, is survived by his wife, Peggy; two sons, Christopher, of Ridgefield, Connecticut and Lewis Jr., of Providence, Rhode Island; his stepdaughter, Lorie George and five grandchildren.

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