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Monday, February 06, 2006

Goodbye 'grandpa'

Actor-comedian Al Lewis, who played Grandpa on the famed 1960s sitcom "The Munsters," died Friday night, friends said yesterday.

Lewis was widely reported to have been born in 1910, but his son Ted said yesterday that his father was born in 1923 and was 82. With an unforgettable face and an ever-present cigar, in his later years "Grandpa Al" became a popular New York restaurant owner who was active in politics and even ran for governor.

Lewis was born Albert Meister in upstate New York and was raised in Brooklyn. He worked as a salesman, waiter, poolroom owner, store detective, circus clown and vaudeville performer, and along the way he earned a Ph.D. in child psychology from Columbia University.

Then television made him famous, first in the role of Officer Leo Schnauser on the police sitcom "Car 54, Where Are You?" - which ran from 1961 to 1963 - and then as the vampire Grandpa Munster on "The Munsters" from 1964 to 1966.

"The Munsters" especially has enjoyed an extended life in reruns worldwide.

"You have no idea of the love I get from total strangers because of 'The Munsters,' " Lewis once told the Daily News.

Later, he ran a brokerage firm in Los Angeles for a time and made cameo appearances in a number of Hollywood films, including "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and "Married to the Mob."

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