When television was young, Nancy Lewis was, too.
She was 15 in 1949, when she was picked to co-host a national show, the “TV Teen Club.” The big star was big-band leader Paul Whiteman, but Lewis, a pretty blonde with a good memory and a great personality, sang and played piano like an old pro.
The show was produced at WFIL-TV in Philadelphia, where Lewis was still working a few years later when the station management wanted to help a promising young radio personality switch over to TV.
They came up with a show called “Lewis and Clark” because it starred TV vet Nancy Lewis and this new guy — Dick Clark. “Lewis and Clark” didn’t run for long, and when the host of another show, “Bandstand,” got in trouble, the station moved Clark up to take over.
“American Bandstand” and decades of rockin’ New Year’s Eves followed and became TV history for Clark. But his old co-star, Lewis, had a long entertainment career of her own.
She became a popular local singer, working at clubs from Philadelphia to Atlantic City to Wildwood and beyond. But Nancy Lewis Lenzi was long retired and living quietly in Somers Point when she died last month, at 77.
Her first husband, Jack Cosgrove, remembers her being a regular on the stage at Atlantic City’s famed 500 Club. But there were other Atlantic City shows, some hosted by another TV legend with local ties, Ed McMahon.
“Nancy sang, but she was an entertainer,” said Cosgrove, now of Lantana, Fla. “She didn’t just mouth the words. She knew how to sell a song, and the audiences really loved her.”
Cosgrove was a WFIL cameraman who married the star and “staff vocalist” in 1955, when Nancy was 21. In 1957, she had a daughter, Jill, and put her career on hold.
But by 1959, she was ready to start again, Jill Cosgrove said. Nancy sang all over the region, including at her friend Cozy Morley’s North Wildwood nightclub.
She and Jack divorced in the late ’60s but stayed friendly. Nancy was still working, and when Atlantic City’s casinos started opening in 1978, musicians were so busy that she moved to the shore for work. There, she met Guy Lenzi, or Guido, a bass player and singer, and the two were married for 27 years.
Lenzi is distraught about his loss. “I loved my wife,” he said through frequent tears in the small home they shared.
Nancy Lewis Lenzi sang until the mid-’90s, her daughter said, then slowed down as the casino music scene did, too.
“Of course, Dick remembers Nancy and remembers the show,” Dick Clark’s wife, Kari, said Friday, from their Los Angeles office. Dick Clark also called the former Nancy Lewis a “delightful co-host and personality.”
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