Gene Sheldon was born Eugene Search on February 1st, 1908 in Columbus, Ohio. (Gene eventually changed his last name to "Sheldon", a name he chose from a street sign.) Known to millions as the deaf-mute Bernardo of the Zorro tv series starring Guy Williams, the versatile actor, pantomimist and musician was the son of Ada and Earl Search . He attended Dana Avenue Grade School and West High School in Columbus. He got his first job working in a shoe factory there and later a music store. Gene became very interested in show business when his father, who had invented a version of sawing a woman in half, presented the act onstage. Gene was about 13 years old at the time, and appeared with his father as the "girl" who was sawed apart. Before long, Gene was fully embarked on a theatrical career. Gene made his first professional bow as a radio performer in Toledo in 1925, and during the next decade, moved on to successes in every entertainment medium. In 1936 Gene began a three-year tour of Europe, appearing in a vaudeville act in Paris, Berlin and other capital cities. He played six months at the Palladium in London, then starred in a smash West End production of It's in the Bag. On Broadway in 1940, he scored with a hit in Priorities, which ran for a year. He starred in subsequent stage shows before making his Broadway debut in Take a Bow. Sheldon debuted in Hollywood as the heavy of Martin and Lewis' comedy, Three Ring Circus. He also acted with Betty Grable and June Haver in The Dolly Sisters and with Mitzi Gaynor in The Golden Girl.
In addition to extensive night club and hotel experiences, Sheldon also performed many times on television. These include The Julius LaRosa, Paul Winchell, Jackie Gleason, Perry Como and Dinah Shore Shows. Walt Disney signed him to a long term contract, which began with Zorro in 1957 through 1959. Sheldon's favorite hobbies at the time were cooking and photography. He owned his own photographic equipment and did a good deal of his own developing. He loved to fish and was not too enthusiastic over rock 'n roll or calypso music and much preferred guitar and banjo music. His favorite author was Steinbeck and his number one color was blue.
After Sheldon finished out his contract with Disney with Toby Tyler in 1960, Babes in Toyland in 1961, and The Golden Horseshoe Revue in 1962, he went into semi-retirement, making personal appearances with his act at hotel lounges, on TV, on variety shows, and a Johnny Carson Special. Gene married the former Margaret McCann. They met when they appeared together at a Columbus nightclub. They were married in Las Vegas on December 11th, 1944. They are parents to a daughter and son. Gene passed away in Tarzana, CA. on May 1st, 1982.
(Special thanks to Tracy Sheldon and Dr. Roy Sheldon.)