Monday, March 2, 2009
REMEMBERING "UNCLE AL"
"Uncle Al" Lewis, who passed away last month, hosted a children's TV show in my hometown of Cincinnati from 1950 until 1985, the longest local TV show in history. I was born in '72, so it was an integral part of my childhood. Uncle Al packed the studio with local kids, who jumped and danced to his singing and accordion playing. When his show ended, it had been years after I had watched it, but it was sad that new little kids wouldn't get to participate in what had long been a part of Cincinnati life. Another titan of local TV, "The Bob Braun Show", had ended the year before, as the rise of cable led to the demise of much local network programming across the country.
So, it was time to ask my mother the burning question...why was I never on "The Uncle Al Show"? I called her today and asked her. She wasn't sure. She remembered at some point trying to go with a neighbor to take my older brother, John, but something happened and they ended up not going. She couldn't remember what happened, but I'm guessing it was troublesome enough to kill the idea for the rest of us. Or, it could be that I never bugged her about it.
There have always been rumors about Uncle Al. The big one when I was young was, 'You know, Uncle Al hates kids.' It wasn't true, of course, but the irony was just enticing enough to give the rumor some staying power. The other rumor was 'Uncle Al the ladies' man', which my mom knew about. "He had a terrible reputation, you know," she said, "with the, uh, mothers." This one's corroborated by a co-worker of mine who loves to tell the story of when she took her son to be on the show. She claims Al propositioned her after the show and asked her if she could 'get rid of the kid' that afternoon. I'm not here to sully a beloved Cincinnatian. I'm just adding an angle that wasn't mentioned in all the loving tributes.
"Uncle Al" Lewis died February 28th at age 84. It was such big news here that Channel 9 broke into programming with the story, leading to an outpouring of memories and affection from across the region. I can only hope my memorial service is this much fun. His memorial service and burial were in his adopted hometown of Hillsboro, Ohio, better known as the birthplace of Milton Caniff.