BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The body of actress and comedienne Shari Lewis has been exhumed, the Los Angeles Medical Examiner announced today, initiating a new investigation into the circumstances surrounding to her death in 1998. The death which had originally been investigated as a suicide but ruled "death by natural causes" is being reopened as a probable homicide.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office denied that this move bore any relation to the posthumous publication this week of Ms. Lewis's autobiography, entitled "Socks, Lies and Videotape." The book details the rocky relationship between Ms. Lewis and her protégé, co-performer and longtime companion, Lamb Chop.
Observers have long noted that the witty on-air banter between Lewis and Lamb Chop became increasingly acrid over the years, paralleling the increasing warmth of relationship among Lewis, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse.
According to his close friend Oscar, Lamb Chop always resented the "cute" Lamb Chop name, as well as getting second billing to Lewis. "They treat us like their little marionettes," said Oscar, adding, "And who do you think wrote our best stuff? Henson? Lewis? Right. Neither one of them could improv their way out of bag puppet. Just one time, I'd like to Punch and Judy them."
The interview with Oscar terminated quickly when the topic of Henson's untimely death was raised.
In her autobiography Lewis reveals that in late 1996 she began to develop an allergy to wool "which put a barrier between Lamb Chop and me." Lewis also said that Lamb Chop often complained of "being used." She quotes him as saying to her, "How would you like to try to perform comedy with someone's hand stuck up your . . ." just before throwing himself onto the middle of the bedroom floor in tears.
"Toward the end," Lewis wrote, "our friendship was just an act."
Buzz Berkeley, of E. F. Mutton and Associates, the public relations firm representing the artist formerly known as Lamb Chop, said that "Chopper had moved on in his life" and that "this travesty would do nothing but unravel old wounds."
Attorney Levi Cohen, of the law firm of Cohen, Kohein, Cohn, Cahn, Cone, Kohn, Kahn and possibly Katz, which represents the Lewis family, said that regardless of how the investigation turns out, he is sure his firm will make lots of money.
Chopper, who was a "sock of interest" in the original investigation into Ms. Lewis's death, parlayed that notoriety into a new career as part of the popular rap duo Chops and the Ice Kween. Sales of the latest C/IK cd, "Bust Yer Chops," spiked following the exhumation announcement.
LAPD investigators said technology unavailable in 1998 may bring to light new information regarding the death of Lewis. "For example," said Detective Kram Manfuhr, "the previously unexplained rash on Lewis's neck may have been caused by contact dermatitis." Manfuhr was quick to note that while the re-opened investigation was "not focusing" on any one individual, "Mr. Chop was the only one in the room at the time of Ms. Lewis's death."
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Puff (the Magic Dragon) busted
LONDON -- Puff (the Magic Dragon), who had disappeared from the public eye following the last Peter, Paul and Mary Reunion Tour, re-appeared in a London courtroom today. Puffy, as he is currently known, was arrested in Heathrow Airport after drug sniffing dogs alerted customs officials to a suspicious smell.
The barrister representing Puffy, the Honorable Lord Beaverbrook, said that his client was "absolutely, undeniably, unequivocally innocent." According to Lord Beaverbrook, Puffy hasn't done any "illegal substances" since he entered treatment at the Betty Ford Center in 1989. "In his day Puffy did his dope, just like we all did back then, but now he won't even touch out-of-date cottage cheese."
It's a simple case of mistaken olfactory, Lord Beaverbrook contends. "The dogs smelled smoke, without a doubt, but he's dragon for God's sake! What's next? Arresting Topo Gigio for having Limburger on his breath?"
Regarding the "green vegetable matter found on Mr. Puff's person," Lord Beaverbrook argued that this was "an herbal preparation Puffy used to treat his glaucoma." This eye-condition, which is an issue in a civil suit filed by Puffy against Warner Brothers, was, according to briefs filed earlier in a Los Angeles court, "induced by overexposure to the fine print on record industry contracts."
In the late '60's Puffy was indicted and tried twice, but convicted neither time, on drug smuggling charges. Accusations of jury tampering and witness intimidation were never proven. Inside sources at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, however, remain convinced that Puff was linchpin in the Hanah Lee - Los Angeles drug connection.
Gary D. Gaddy was once a regular viewer of the Shari Lewis Show.
A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday April 24, 2008.
Copyright 2008 Gary D. Gaddy