April 3: Pinky Lee
Vaudeville comedian and children’s entertainer Pinky Lee (Pincus Leff) died on this date in 1993 at 85. Lee was one of the only burlesque comedians to transition comfortably to television. His trademarks included a natural lisp, a loud plaid jacket with baggy pants, an undersized pork-pie hat, high-energy dancing, lots of hugging, and a friendly, sexless, goofy style. The Pinky Lee Show, launched in 1954, was followed by Howdy Doody, until parents began complaining that his show excited their kids too close to suppertime, resulting in a scheduling switch to Saturday mornings. In 1957, he hosted The Gumby Show, home of the claymation wonder and his horse, Pokey.
“Pinky Lee made it so successful that few parents of the children watching his tv show ever suspected that the wholesome, effeminate and elfin Mr. Lee had been equally at home with naughty burlesque routines.”—Cullen, Hackman and McNeilly, Vaudeville Old and New