Sonny Fox, who became a TV staple for children on the popular show “Wonderama,” has died from COVID-19 pneumonia at age 95.
Fox hosted the show between 1959 and 1967, which provided a whimsical and unique children’s program format. Fox found himself interacting with the children who gathered in the audience, talking with them, and even playing games.
Survivors of Fox include daughter Meredith, sons Dana and Tracy, and seven grandchildren. Christopher, his fourth child, died in 2014.
“Wonderama” also had segments for cartoons, special interviews, and other kid-friendly programming. Its style was quite different from children’s shows of its day.
A lot of programs at the time only were half-hour cartoon shows. Local television stations, though, knew that children’s programming was important to have as part of its daily shows. Around the United States, either staffers or actors would dress up as, say, “Bozo” or “Cowboy John” and entertain children on TV.
Sonny Fox Develops Special Niche With ‘Wonderama’
As for Fox, he developed a special children’s programming niche with “Wonderama.” The show mixed so many different elements during its time on the air that children would not be that bored. Segments would shift and change throughout the show, making sure to keep things lively on “Wonderama” as Sonny Fox led the way.
“Wonderama” was a Sunday morning program for TVs. Metromedia, a company created out of the old DuMont Network, took the show across TVs in New York and its metropolitan area. DuMont’s most recognizable big-name talent during its run is Jackie Gleason, who hosted its “Cavalcade of Stars” show before moving to CBS.
Metromedia hired Fox to host the show in 1959 out of New York television station WABD, its flagship station.
In addition, “Wonderama” ran for four hours every Sunday morning, which was plenty of time for all its core elements.
Fox Talks About Interviewing Children On The Show
During a 2008 interview, Sonny Fox talks about how having the children in the show started.
“We had an audience, maybe 50 kids in the studio,” Fox said. “Just from keeping them from getting bored between takes, I started talking with them, doing some games with them, and then one of the guys said, ‘Why don’t you do that on the air?’
“I gradually began to understand what the show was about; the show was about me and the kids and about exploring their minds and getting to see where I could take them,” he said. “Then the show began to be hugely successful. After about a year, I had (the kids’) trust, their loyalty.”
Besides “Wonderama,” Fox also spent time as hosts on TV shows like “The $64,000 Challenge,” “The Price Is Right,” and “To Tell the Truth.”