Al Lewis, a life well lived!

The year was 1913, 16 year old Ida Neidel arrived at immigration at Ellis Island, New York. From where she went straight into the garment industry of Manhattan, sewing dresses in grim overcrowded sweatshops. Often working long hours with her head constantly to the grindstone, for very low pay (5 cents for each completed dress she finished).

By 1922 she had met Alexander Meister a Russian-born sign painter they fell in love and eventually they got married. The next year on April 30 they had a son, Albert Meister (later to become the renowned actor, Al Lewis) The family would now settle down in Brownsville, New York. Two  brothers, Phillip and Henry, followed to complete the Meister clan.

Tragedy struck in July of 1929 when Al’s father was killed when he fell from scaffolding whilst painting. Six year old Al was truly devastated.

The pockets of the Meister family were then hit even harder by the Great Depression. Struggling to make ends meet - food was proving hard to come by. Luckily, the family had an uncle who worked in the baking industry. He would bring them a, day-old, loaf of bread, every couple of days, which three families would have to share. That’s how tough the going was for the family, Meister.

Ida wanted the best for her sons, when Al got an ear infection she made him keep up with his studies at home.

Al loved reading, he’d peruse anything he could get his hands on. Often he’d be found at the New York Public Library scouring the great literary works.

As he got over his ear illness, Al shot up in height and soon took over as the main man of the family at the tender age of 12. He’d dress in suits, smoke cigars and talk like a man way beyond his years. Indeed, his friends and family called him the alter, a Yiddish word meaning the old one. He could easily pass himself of as a young adult, getting odd jobs to pay the family rent of $26 a month. The charismatic youth, went out and bust a gut to get work. Every time he brought money back he’d plonk it on the family table for all to share.

His mother had joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union in her struggle for better conditions at work. Al also took on the establishment when his neighbors’ were evicted from their houses for non payment of rent. Al would take matters into his own hands by crow barring open the boarded up abodes and move the people back in.

Living in Douglas Street, Brooklyn, the self-taught Al left Thomas Jefferson High School early to seek work wherever and whenever he could get it.

  1. Baby Albert Meister.
    Baby Albert Meister.
  2. Albert at thirteen.
    Albert at thirteen.
He would vanish for months on end working as a Roustabout at circuses, Carnival Barker, selling peanuts at the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field and even as a dodgepot Medicine Man.

Al would travel throughout the south and southeast of the States selling a concoction, made out of herbs and alcohol, that he made in his own bathtub. Saying that it would cure anything that niggled them. The alcohol did dull the pain of course. The bottles were sold three at a time for 50 cents each. Al would look into the baying mob for the toughest, ugliest looking brute he could find and bellow to him, "You son of a bitch, Im going to get fifty cents from you. And if I get fifty cents from you, I'm going to get ten dollars from the rest because those are easy." If they weren't sold Al didn't eat.

  1. Medicine man!
    Medicine man!
  2. Dapper Albert.
    Dapper Albert.
1942: During World War II, Al served his country by enrolling as a Seaman in the US Merchant Marines. He was torpedoed twice, once in the Mediterranean and once off Murmansk. Al had bitter memories of his terrible ordeals, "You don't know what it's like to be in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. There is no more lonely feeling. You see nothing, nothing, nothing. And there comes the British Corvettes -- "bwoop, bwoop, bwoop"-- them f*****s, they didn't give a s**t about the few of us that were in the water. They were circling and dropping the ashcans looking for the German U-boats. And we were screaming "You m****r f*****s!" And they finally pulled us in. And then in Murmansk, the Yops, Russian planes, spotted us and a Russian trawler. All women manned the ships, pulled us out of the water and took us to the hospital."​

After the war the 22 year old had no immediate plans for his future. So he took a job as a waiter at the Grossinger hotel in the Catskill mountains. During the summer it was a tradition that the hotel staff put on a play for the guests. For his part, in the amateur production, Al got a huge round of applause. He loved the acclaim and he now decided that this was the thing he wanted to do with his life.

Al had heroes he'd look up to, he hugely admired the genius of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy.

Eventually, the 26 year old Al returned to the Big Apple to try his hand at stage work.  He enrolled at the Paul Mann Acting studio and promptly changed his name to Al Lewis, he year was 1949. These classes weren’t cheap. Al took on a host of sidelines. He was a store detective, a plumber’s mate and he even worked with disabled kids.

1950 saw the death of his mother Ida, his made Al even more determined to make it as an actor and live up to her ideals.

After a few years, at the acting classes, he decided to confront Jose Quintero the co-founder of the Off-Broadway Circle in the Square theatre in Greenwich Village.  Al told Jose that he belonged with him and that he was as good an actor as anyone he has. His cheek paid off when he was given the role of the one time police lieutenant, Pat McGloin in The Iceman Cometh.  This drama opened in 1956 to tremendous reviews it became the hottest show in New York.

  1. The Iceman Cometh flyer.
    The Iceman Cometh flyer.
  2. The Iceman Cometh cast.
    The Iceman Cometh cast.
  3. Al and baby David.
    Al and baby David.
Al got married to Marge Domowitz --- two years later their first son, David was born (They would go on to have two more sons, Ted and Paul).His ambition was to tread the boards of Broadway. But he'd have to wait to reach his destiny. He'd take stage work, Off-Broadway theatre work, Vaudeville and Burlesque to make his living.

Then in 1958 he got his break. He made his acting debut, as a bartender, in the Broadway production of Night Circus. Then, in early 1960, he appeared as Able Seaman Colombus in One More River (on Broadway), and the City Center production of Street Scene.  In the summer of 60 he appeared in a stock production of Girl Crazy.

Al has been appearing regularly on television, in both comedy and dramatic roles, on such shows as U.S. Steel, Naked City, The Big Story and he made two appearances on the smash hit sitcom, The Phil Silvers Show (Bilko's Credit Card and Weekend Colonel).

1960 also saw Al's first role in a movie....when he played Machine Gun Manny in the gangster era flick Pretty Boy Floyd.

Next up, Al was cast in the Broadway-bound musical Do Re Mi Here he was handed the role of Moe Shtarker (and he understudied for the role of Fatso O'Rear), also in the cast were Nancy Walker and a familiar face, non other than Bilko himself, Phil Silvers. After its tryouts, the show moved to the St James Theatre (subsequently on to the 54th Street Theatre) for a full run on Broadway. It proved to be a huge success. Al was a standout in his role as Moe. Many critics thought that when Al came on the stage as a professional killer known as "The Shtarker" the whole stage illuminated. Nominated in a host of Tony Award categories, the show ran for a staggering 400 performances. Having its final curtain call in January 1962.

  1. Phil Silvers, as Hubie Cram, with the dancing girls of Do Re Mi. Al (Moe Shtarker) highlighted.
    Phil Silvers, as Hubie Cram, with the dancing girls of Do Re Mi. Al (Moe Shtarker) highlighted.
The legendary comedy mind of Nat Hiken came calling for the services of Al. He was the comedic genius behind such hit shows as The Fred Allen Show, The Martha Raye Show and, of course You'll Never Get Rich (later changed to The Phil Silvers Show).

Nat had submiited a pilot show, called The Snow Whites, for the top brass at NBC to peruse over, and scrutinise, with a view to a full blown series being commissioned for the small screen.

The show was given a huge seal of approval by NBC - although the title was now changed to Car 54 Where Are You? - and it debuted in September 1961.

Whilst Al was out of town at the Schubert theater in Philadelphia he received a call from Nat Hiken who asked him if he could do a couple of guest spots on his new show.  Al agreed right away, he played a building supervisor called Spencer who was trying to get Mrs Bronson (Molly Picon) out of a building.  Then around two weeks later he filmed another show where he played a guy called Al who's brother-in-law talked him into painting stolen police cars.  There was a tremendous reaction to both appearances especially from the sponsors.  Nat rang and asked Al if he'd like to join the show permanently? Because in his words, "the ad agency (Leo Burnett) had requested the rubber faced fellow".

  1. I Won't Go (As Spencer).
    I Won't Go (As Spencer).
  2. The Paint Job (As Al).
    The Paint Job (As Al).
  3. Remember St Petersburg (As Leo Schnauser).
    Remember St Petersburg (As Leo Schnauser).
Download the scene
Download the scene
Download the scene
Al Lewis was now multi tasking he was appearing on stage in Do Re Mi at the St. James Theater and by day he was filming Car 54 at the old Biograph studios, the building forever immortalised by the production of the classic films of D.W. Griffith.
  1. Officer Leo Schnauser finally arrives at the 53rd Precinct!
    Officer Leo Schnauser finally arrives at the 53rd Precinct!
After about three shows as Leo, Nat Hiken came to Al and told him he had "carte blanche" over how the character comes across and to use the lines written for him in any expressive way he deemed fit.

Joe E. Ross (Gunther Toody) was very indisciplined, he wouldn't learn his lines and he'd stay out until the early hours of the morning. So, It was decided that the part of Leo would be expanded by introducing his wife.  In the process Al was now getting more air time. Sylvia Schnauser was a perfect foil for Al's combative talents to shine through.  Sylvia was played by Charlotte Rae, (one of the funniest ladies in the business) who had made a huge mark on an earlier season one Car 54 show, when she played the terrified Bank Cashier, Miss Berger in Get Well, Officer Scnhauser. The on-screen chemistry between the Schnausers made for great televisual viewing. 

Asked, years later, what he thought of the show Al said, "Match these shows against the best Lucy or Gleason. In my opinion, they're better written and better performed. That's my opinion. Because of the writing. I'm a big fan of writers."

The show finished in 1963 after 60 rollicking laugh-out-loud episodes.

In 1964 Al got a call from Jerry Hensler, Head of Creative Development at Universal, asking him if he'd be interested in taking part in a pilot comedy show which also saw him reunited with an old acquaintance, Fred Gwynne.

Al and Fred took the plane to the studio and spent all day with the make-up crew, thinking to themselves what a hard show they've got involved with. Hard in the sense of the enormous make-up required.

The pilot lasted just 16 minutes. It was a production to present to Grey Advertising who inturn sold it on to a bevy of sponsors.

  1. Pilot show: Al with the soon to be replaced Joan Marshall.
    Pilot show: Al with the soon to be replaced Joan Marshall.
Al got a call from Jennings Lang, Universal Studios Producer, who told him, "Now, you're going to do the series." That series was to be called The Munsters.

In this new Horrorwood comedy, Al played a 378 year old vampire character called Sam Dracula (aka Grandpa). The Munsters depicted the home life of a family of monsters. It starred Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster and Yvonne De Carlo as his wife, Lily Munster. The series was a satire of both traditional monster movies and popular family entertainment of the era.  The family, while decidedly odd, considered themselves fairly typical working-class Americans. Herman, like many husbands of the 1960s, was the sole wage-earner in the family, though Lily and Grandpa made (short-lived) attempts to earn a little money from time to time. While Herman is the titular "head of household," Lily actually made most of the decisions. Between September 24, 1964 and May 12, 1966 70 shows were broadcast over two hilarious seasons.
  1. Yvonne De Carlo (as Lily Munster), Fred Gwynne (as Herman Munster) and Al Lewis (as Sam Dracula).
    Yvonne De Carlo (as Lily Munster), Fred Gwynne (as Herman Munster) and Al Lewis (as Sam Dracula).
It's obvious to anybody that The Munsters was written for Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis. The twosome regularly carried the show. If they didn't like a script they'd frequently enter the office of the producer and scream blue murder.

According to Al the idea for the stairway Dragon (Spot) was his and Fred's. Fred drew up a mock image and went to the prop department to have it made.

Even today the show is still played worldwide, possibly because it was a family show in the truest sense of the word. Plus, the cast really did get on with each other. The crew was ideal; Al, Yvonne, Fred, Butch Patrick (Eddie), Beverly Owen (First Marilyn) and her replacement Pat Priest - this was perfect casting of the highest order!

For the pilot, and very early shows,  Al's make-up was done by John Chambers (he made the masks for Fred and Al). Everything seemed to be played a little too straight and dark. Al didn't like this and he complained to the Universal's Head of Makeup, Bud Westmore. Al wanted Sam Dracula to be less of an evil vampire and more a pernickity old man and to show more of a mischievous side. Al requested Bud to get the top man himself...noneother than his own brother Perc Westmore. The request was eventually granted and Perc proved to be a wonderful piece of recasting.

  1. Al Lewis and Fred goofing around with two make-up artists. Perc Westmore on the right and Karl Silvera on the left.
    Al Lewis and Fred goofing around with two make-up artists. Perc Westmore on the right and Karl Silvera on the left.
Arriving at 6am, Al's makeup took two hours to apply. Fred Gwynne's would take anything between three to four hours.  All the waiting around was clearly not a good thing, yet, Al loved every minute working on this show because he knew he was creating great comedy.​

He was now playing his role just as he wanted. A Grandpa that any child would love to have. An active, cantankerous, mischievous, joke-playing one!

In 1966 the doors were closed at 1313 Mockingbird Lane when The Munsters television show was cancelled after two huge seasons.

Al said this in 1995: "What I attempted to do with Leo Schnauser in Car 54 and with Grandpa on The Munsters I'm proud of. What we created, people recognize. The thing I hear most of all - doesn't matter where I am - in the States, in England, Canada, New Zealand is "Grandpa, we love you". That's terrific."​

After the cancellation, It wasn't long before the movie section, of Hollywood, came calling for the services of one Al Lewis and for which part would he be wanted? Yes, you've guessed it!!  They wanted him and the regular cast to reprise their roles as Munsters in a colour movie version of the hit television show. The movie was called Munster, Go Home.

Al and the other Munster cast members led a protest when the younger, Debbie Watson was preferred to Pat Priest as Marilyn but to no avail.

For diehard fans of the series, Munster, Go Home a great benefit of this movie was that it was shot in colour unlike the original series so you got to see the sensational makeup and costumes for the actors in vivid colour. Plus the new Dragula, the Munsters dragster, which moved from zero to 150mph in seconds!

Al was the comic heart of the group as the lovable old vampire Grandpa and his onscreen chemistry with Fred Gwynne was magical in  this movie as of course it was in the TV series. The film was really enhanced by the appearance of several top notch supporting performers - these included actors Hermione Gingold, the quintessential Englishman, Terry Thomas and John Carradine who here played the manservant, Cruikshank (Carradine appeared in The Munsters series as Herman's boss). These excellent veteran performers brought all their years of knowhow to their roles and made even the smaller parts most fascinating.

"We did that (movie) in five weeks. Terry Thomas was delightful. But you could only work with him in the morning, because when he went to lunch he loved meeting John Barleycorn."  Al remembering Munster, Go Home.

Now living in Sherman Oaks, California, the family Lewis consisted of three sons (David, Ted and Paul). Al himself was 43 years of age.

Al's family had gone on vacation, with relations, in the Sunshine State of Florida. Whilst there, they were involved in a horrific head-on car crash whilst driving on Red Road. All the injured parties were transferred to the Palm Springs General Hospital in Hialeah.  Al's wife, Marge was in a critical condition. When he got the dreadful news Al immediately got on the first plane to Miami and stayed with his family for days on end in a 24-hours-a-day seven-day-a-week vigil.

A natural beauty of a lady, Al's wife Marge now had a smashed face, broken limbs and horrifically, had lost an eye. From here Al had to support and endure his wife the best he could and he did just that. Spending month after month by her side gradually getting her back to some kind of better health.

Eventually, Al went back to work -- but as Fred Gwynne had found -- it would be a hell of a trick to shake off his previous role as Grandpa Munster.

1967 found him cast as a different kind of sorcerer. This was when he'd beencast in the role of Zalto, in an episode of the television series Lost in Space that was called Rocket to Earth. Here, the galactic magician Zalto would conjure up a spaceship so that Doctor Smith can return to earth.

  1. Galactic Magician, Zalto.
    Galactic Magician, Zalto.
  2. The beauty of Marge Lewis.
    The beauty of Marge Lewis.
  3. Hollywood Television Theatre (The Police) with Murray Hamilton, Fred and Bob Dishy.
    Hollywood Television Theatre (The Police) with Murray Hamilton, Fred and Bob Dishy.
  4. Anderson and Co.
    Anderson and Co.
1968: The Vietnam War was in full swing, Al became embroiled with the movement for peace and equality, turning his house into a meeting place for Left Wingers like Dick Gregory and Ron Kovacs. Later, even going on rallies with the Black Panther  movement. He had great sympathy for how America treated its black people and indeed, the disadvantaged and downtrodden, as a whole.​

He enjoyed basketball and loved watching youngsters playing the game.  He has been a "bird dogger" (talent scout) since  late 1930s. Seton Hall's coach, Honey Russell, was amazed at Al's expertise. Russell asked Al to help him find some talent, and Al, volunteer superscout, was born.

"I flush out the kids." Al would state. That involved a nonstop schedule of travelling all over the country -- at his own expense. So much so that he gave opportunities to students who were not so well off as others. He quickly acquired a name for himself as one of the best eyes for new talent for the basketball court. Telling coaches, up and down the land, of any players he thought could make it in the big leagues. Al actually achieved notoriety as a talent scout familiar to coaching greats like Jerry Tarkanian and Red Auerbach. 

In 1969 Al was cast as a henchman called Turkey in the, Sydney Pollock directed, marathon dancing movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They? The film went down well with critics everywhere and although Al's part was minimal he still gave his usual classy performance.

It was now proving very difficult for Al to find work, people still remembered him as Grandpa Munster. What he decided to do was, if you can't beat 'em join 'em. So he reluctantly donned the makeup and costume of the famed Munsters character and went on a personal appearances spree. He worked at Universal Studios for two summers as Grandpa Munster.

Small roles in movies also filled his schedule ---- 1970: The Boatniks as Bert. 1971: They Might Be Giants as a messenger.

Al continued to tread the boards, appearing for months in stage dramas all across America. These included; Catch Me If You Can and in Robert Anderson's, You Know I Can't Hear You When The Water's Running.

Since his Lost In Space appearance, Al has appeared in these TV shows: Gomer Pyle: USMC as Harry Whipple in episode called Hit and Write. Night Gallery as Mishkin in episode called Make Me Laugh. Green Acres as Charlie in episode called Star Witness. Love, American Style as Bernie As a Tramp in the made for TV movie, The Night Strangler. Voiced Grandpa Munster in The Mini-Munsters (part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie) Here's Lucy as Lionel Barker in episode called Lucy Plays Cops and Robbers.

Between 1974 and 1975 acting credits were gained for these movies: Death Wish as a Hotel lobby guard, Black Starlet as Sam Sharp, White House Madness as the aptly named Judge Cirrhosis and as the voice of the Godfather in Bakshi's masterpiece of animation that was Coonskin (later retitled Street Fight).

Al took work as a Mortgage Broker as well as those movie roles.

By 1976, Al and his wife Marge began to fall out of love with each other. A year later, the marriage ended with a divorce.

January 11 1977: The Gorilla, a thrilling -- but nuts -- 1920s set burlesque mystery comedy opened at the Waldo Astoria Dinner Playhouse, Kansas City. The stars of the show were Al and deadpan funnyman, Dennis Allen, an actor noted for his appearances on the Laugh-In television series.

Due to some objectionable content, this was a show that would never have been written in 1977. Some of the characters - two dumb Irish detectives and a shuffling Negro butler that was scared witless by ghosts - would be shouted down as racist by the censor boards of 77. But, the play was accepted for what it was meant to be, a spoof of the highest order.....great entertainment. The laughs came thick and fast, the suspense was skillfully introduced. With the conclusion sure to surprise even the ardent detective fan.

Al had appeared before at this playhouse, but his years still didn't lessen his keenness to entertain the audience.  One of the best things about a dinner theatre was that every facial move and expression could be picked up by the closeness of the audience  to the performance area.​​

Al played Detective Mulligan and Dennis Allen as Detective Garrity. Despite their ineptness in there investigative roles everyone knew that "the gorilla" would eventually be captured and his reign of terror would be over.

The two slapstick sleuths were determined not to use Scotland Yard and to solve the case alone.  This was not for the glory of course, but so they could divide up the reward pot for themselves.

Catching "the gorilla" was complicated Thrown into the mix were mysterious disappearances, secret passageways and lights inadvertantly switching on and off.

Yet, watching this drama, with all its plot twists, you'd be pushed to name who really was "the gorilla" - such was the cleverness of the script.
  1. The Gorilla: Al (middle) tries to stop an attempt to chloroform him as he tries to find out the identity of the murderous fiend.
    The Gorilla: Al (middle) tries to stop an attempt to chloroform him as he tries to find out the identity of the murderous fiend.
Critics acclaimed the production as a hugely entertaining evening.

The show would run to February 27, comprising a matinee on Sundays and evening shows at 8pm (except Monday)  ----  But you had to get there early as the $17.50 dinner fot two was served promptly at 6:15.

In 1979 the fortunes of one Al Lewis finally swung when he was cast in the Neil Simon penned play, California Suite.  Also in the cast was Karen Ingenthron. It was whilst touring with this production that the two became an inseparable couple. Karen later said that when she met Al, it was "love at first sight" for her. In 1984 Al married Karen (she'd stay his wife for the remainder of his life).

1980 saw Al put in a great performance as Hanging Judge H.H. Harrison in the cult move Used Cars. Here, Kurt Russell portrayed a devious car salesman working for affable but monumentally unsuccessful used car dealer Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden). Luke's principal rival, located directly across the street, was his more prosperous brother, Roy L. Fuchs (also played by Warden), who was scheming to take over Luke's lot.

​Directed by an up-and-coming young man called Robert Zemeckis...of whom Al said, "That kid couldn't direct traffic.”
  1. Karen Ingenthron puts the smile back on the face of Al.
    Karen Ingenthron puts the smile back on the face of Al.
Interestingly, Canadian actor John Candy was originally down to star in the movie but had to pull out because of other commitments. He said this about the film, "It's a good thing I didn't do the movie. I wouldn't have been able to keep a straight face in the courthouse scene where Grandpa Munster, Al Lewis, played the judge."
A scene from Used Cars
1981: Universal Television came calling for the acting skills of Al for the part of, you guessed it, Grandpa Munster!!

This was in the new made-for-tv movie The Munsters Revenge. Also down to appear were Al's old sparring partners, Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo. But there would be no roles for the now too tall and ageing, Butch Patrick and Pat Priest (their roles as Eddie and Marilyn going to K.C. Martel and Jo McDonnell respectively).

Although not a patch on the original series, or indeed the 1966 movie, the flick did have one plus point. The chemistry, between Fred and Al, was still there!  The twosome came across well. As a double act these two proved once again how well they performed together.

Asked later why he did this movie Al said, "I'm a performer. I could easily say I did it for the money -- but that's not true. Not that there isn't some truth in it.  People go on about what a bad movie it was. How bad the makeup was. But you know? Bad as it was, Fred and I weren't bad in it. It was a lot of fun for us."

Next up were appearances on the TV shows, Taxi (as a Nightwatchman) and Best of the West (as a Judge). Then, whilst in New York, Al got an opportunity to do something totally different.  He became a partner in an Italian restaurant that traded on his screen persona.....he became the face of this new establishment.

April 28 1987: Situated at 252 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, the restaurant  called Grampa's Bella Gent was now open.

  1. He even got his old artistic chum, Fred Gwynne to design the menu covers.
    He even got his old artistic chum, Fred Gwynne to design the menu covers.
For the next three years, Al would work non-stop to make a success of the new venture - he'd work six days-a-week getting the business running and known.

People would flock from miles around to dine at the eatery and of course on the off-chance that they might catch "Grampa" in the joint!! The restaurant was a great success story - what followed was a huge surge in demand for all things Grampa.....we had Grampa pasta, children's videos (Grampa's Silly Scaries) Munster packs etc etc

Al was a recurring guest on The Howard Stern Show. In 1987, during a Howard Stern Freedom Rally against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which was broadcast live on the air, a clearly emotional Al, repeatedly shouted "f**k the FCC!" until Mr Stern managed to prize the microphone out of Al's mischievous fingers.

From 1987 to 1989, Al hosted an afternoon horror movie show on the Turner Broadcasting network and, of course, he was wearing his Grandpa Munster outfit!  Also between those same two years he was the host, as Grandpa of course, of Super Scary Saturday --- Grandpa introduced each episode with information about the featured monsters for that week's particular horror movie.

1988: Appeared, alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Alec Baldwin, as Uncle Joe Russo in the funny gangster film Married to Mob.

1989: A new venture was underway, when Al opened and ran his very own comedy club. This was called Grandpa's situated on New Dorp Plaza in the New Dorp section of Staten Island.

Al was apperaring in guest spots as Grandpa Munster all the time now.

In 1990 Al was asked if he'd revisit a character he used to play on television and act out the role in a movie. This time, for a change, he wasn't asked to play Grandpa Munster again......but Leo Schnauser!!

The film was of course an updated version of Car 54 Where Are You? This "comedy" film was directed by Bill Fishman and starred David Johansen as Officer Gunther Toody and John C. McGinley as Officer Francis Muldoon.

As well as Al, also reprising his role from the original series was funnyman Nipsey Russell, whose character Anderson is now a captain.  Schnauser (Al Lewis's character), now spends his time watching TV reruns of The Munsters.

When it was eventually released in 1994, the film received terrible reviews. In fact, It is generally regarded, by critics and ordinary cinema goers alike, as one of the worst movies ever made.

In 1991, he starred as Vernon Cooper in a low-budget New Zealand family movie called My Grand-dad's a Vampire wearing much the same costume as he did in The Munsters.

1993: Al portrayed a Holocaust survivor in the Charles Dumas, written and directed movie, The Garden. In this poignant short film about racism, Al played Abel a character who relived the terror of his past by interacting in his garden with his black history professor neighbour.

This same year saw the sad death of the great Fred Gwynne.

  1. Al as Abel in The Garden.
    Al as Abel in The Garden.
As an activist, he hosted a politically oriented radio program on WBAI, and ran as Green Party candidate for Governor of New York in 1998.

In that race he sought to be listed on the ballot as Grandpa Al Lewis, arguing that he was most widely known by that name. His request was rejected by the Board of Elections, a decision upheld in court against his challenge. Despite this setback, Al achieved one of his campaign objectives.

His total of 52,533 votes exceeded the threshold of votes set by New York law (50,000), and hence guaranteed the Green Party of New York an automatic ballot line for the next four years.

He said that, with no political machine and no money backing him, the likelihood of winning the governorship would be like climbing Mount Everest barefooted.

Al lived on Roosevelt Island. In 2003, he was hospitalized for an angioplasty, and complications from the surgery led to an emergency bypass and the amputation of his right leg below the knee and all the toes on his left foot. He died on February 3, 2006, of natural causes in a hospital. He was cremated, and his funeral was held at Riverside Church in New York City. His favourite gospel music was played, and he was buried on February 18, 2006 in his favourite cigar box.