Lan O’Kun, 87, TV writer (Insight; Shari Lewis; Trek/Next; Littlest Angel; TW3)
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That Derek
2020-01-12 13:37:52 UTC

Breaking News

Lan O’Kun Dies: Emmy Winning Collaborator With Shari Lewis, Screenwriter And Playwright Was 87

By Bruce Haring
January 11, 2020 4:06pm

Lan O’Kun, a multi-talent whose long collaboration with sister-in-law and entertainer Shari Lewis brought to life Lamb Chop and other beloved characters, died Jan. 9 at his home in Malibu. He was 87 and passed from heart failure.

A composer, lyricist, writer, performer, storyteller, and pianist, O’Kun created hundreds of scripts and songs for ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her puppets Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy.,

Born January 13, 1932 in New York City, O’Kun was enrolled in New York’s High School of Music and Art. He graduated from Syracuse University in New York.

His career as a writer includes scripts for “The New Twilight Zone,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Love Boat,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Apple’s Way,” “That Was the Week That Was,” and many episodes of the award-winning “Insight” anthology series. His Hallmark Hall of Fame special “The Littlest Angel” is regarded as a TV classic, as is his children’s series, “Tales of the Riverbank,” a much-loved British TV show. He also wrote the book, lyrics, music and produced “The Juggler of Notre Dame”, for which he won an Emmy. For many years, he was the Musical Director at NBC television.

O’Kun’s longest-running collaboration with performer-ventriloquist Shari Lewis lasted 44 years. O’Kun was Ms. Lewis’s brother-in-law, having married her younger sister, Barbara, in 1960. Their collaboration defined the popular puppets Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy, and resulted in numerous Emmy, Peabody, and other awards. After Lewis’s passed in 1998, O’Kun continued to write and work with her daughter (his niece) Mallory Lewis. Through their efforts, Lamb Chop lives on.

Other high-profile artists with whom O’Kun worked include Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Duke Ellington, and Peggy Lee, as well as the guests who appeared on various Shari Lewis shows, including Martin Sheen, Dom DeLuise, Ossie Davis, Jerry Orbach, Fred Gwynne, and others.

He wrote the Broadway musicals “Coming of Age” with lyricist Sammy Cahn, as well as the Broadway show “Pickwick.” Other endeavors include events and programming for the New York and Canadian World’s Fairs, the animated feature “Puss ‘n’ Boots,” and children’s books and videos in partnership with Shari Lewis.

In later years, he wrote and narrated audiobooks of short fantasy stories including “The Dragons of Broad Swatch” and countless poems.

O’Kun is survived by his wife of 60 years, Barbara O’Kun; niece Mallory Lewis; grand-nephew Jamie Hood; and a large extended family. The O’Kuns’ son, Shawn, predeceased his father in 2017.

Memorial plans have not been announced.
2020-01-12 18:15:26 UTC
Post by That Derek
He wrote the Broadway musicals “Coming of Age” with lyricist Sammy Cahn, as well as the Broadway show “Pickwick.”
Lan O'Kun's only Broadway credit, per IBDB, is for contributing "additional music" to 1994's "Lamb Chop on Broadway."
I can't find any record of "Coming of Age," or anything else Lan worked on with Sammy Cahn.
There was a musical called "Pickwick," but it's a 1963 British musical (written by Leslie Bricusse, Cyril Orandel and Wolf Mankowitz) that had a Broadway run in 1965.

Here is a delightful video of Barbra Streisand performing two patter songs that Lan O'Kun wrote witty lyrics to:
"Piano Practicing," adapted from Toccata (Sonata in A major) by Pietro Domenico Paradies;
and probably his best-known work, "The Minute Waltz," adapted from Chopin.

That Derek
2020-01-12 18:44:27 UTC
Here's a YouTube link to the aforementioned "Minute Waltz," from early-1970s Sesame Street - back in the pre-1974 days when PBS was exempt from paying song royalties:

Here's Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop performing it:

Here's Bugs Bunny performing "The My-Newt Waltz" by Choppin. Listen for the Liberace and Jackie Gleason references: