Famed children’s television show host returns to his hometown high school • Brooklyn Paper

Famed children’s television show host returns to his hometown high school

Blast from the past: Irwin “Sonny” Fox from the famed show “Wonderama” and producer Arthur Forrest host a reunion show at James Madison High School, from where Fox graduated in 1942.
Photo by Sean Murphy

What a wonder-ama!

Fans of the original 1950s and ’60s children’s television show “Wonderama” — which brought kids on stage for games, prizes, and celebrity guests — got a chance to meet with old-timer host Sonny Fox at his alma mater James Madison High School for a reunion show on April 29.

Fox graduated in 1942 from the Midwood school — the same one that produced Sen. Bernie Sanders — and ran the New York City-based kids’ show from 1959 to 1967. It recently revived in 2016, but it was the inimitable Fox who made parents have to drag their kids away from the screen back in the day, and the 91-year-old is just as vivacious as he was more than 50 years ago, said Bronxite Corey Wolf, who was on the show as a lucky 7-year-old in 1965.

“I was a fan of ‘Wonderama’ when I was a kid growing up,” said Wolf. “It was fun, I enjoyed hearing Sonny’s recollections. I was happy to meet him again and to give him the honor that he deserved for putting on such an important show that was part of so many of our lives growing up back in the ’60s.”

The guest celebrity when Wolf was on the show was the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated just three years later, he said.

“I was 7-years-old and the guest on the program was Sen. Robert Kennedy, that’s pretty remarkable, wouldn’t you say?” said Wolf.

And one of the show’s early directors and producers also made an appearance at the reunion. Fox had a way with kids and it showed, said Arthur Forrest.

“It was wonderful, if you knew Sonny you’d know that he had an affinity with these children. That’s why the show was so successful,” said Forrest. “We had 60 children in the studio audience and had a 6-year waiting list. When a woman became pregnant, that’s when they applied for a seat. That’s how incredibly successful the show was.”

For kids growing up in New York in the late 1950s through 60s, Fox was the man to watch, said Forrest.

“For a generation of New York kids, before there was Sonny Bono or Sonny Corleone, there was Sonny Fox,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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