His death was confirmed by his official website.
As host of the four-hour, New York-based Wonderama from 1959-67, Irwin “Sonny” Fox was one of era’s most popular kid-show hosts, exemplifying the local flavor that markets across the country had adopted. Wonderama was produced at New York’s Metromedia-owned WNEW-TV Channel 5, and also aired in other Metromedia markets including Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Kansas City, Cincinnati and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The show’s mix of cartoons, celebrity guests, magic tricks, art lessons, spelling bees and Fox’s slapstick humor entertained the kids in the live studio audience as well as TV viewers across the nation. Wonderama ultimately would run from 1955-77, again from 1980-87 and in 2017.
After leaving the show — he was replaced by another longtime host, Bob McAllister — Fox hosted a short-lived talk show in New York. He was exec producer on a number of programs through the 1980s, including 1981’s documentary series The Golden Age of Television. He was an early producer of NBC’s late-night Tom Snyder show Tomorrow in 1973-74 and published the 2012 memoir But You Made the Front Page: Wonderama, War, and a Whole Bunch of Life.
Prior to Wonderama, the Brooklyn-born Fox had hosted game shows The Price Is Right and The $64,000 Challenge, the latter a spinoff of The $64,000 Question, and children’s series On Your Mark and Just for Fun. During World War II, he was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for more than three months.
In 1977, Fox ran children’s programming for NBC. He also served on the board for the nonprofit Population Communications International, an organization dedicated to improving family planning issues through popular media.
On his website, Fox once wrote that curious visitors could find more information on his life via Google, adding that he was convinced “that I will never really disappear. There will be bits and shards of my life floating in hyper-space forever!”
Fox was preceded in death by son Christopher, and is survived by daughter Meredith, sons Dana and Tracy and seven grandchildren.
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