Another Labor Day will pass by today without a Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon.
I know that there are millennials reading this post who are wondering what in the world I am talking about.
Well, boys and girls, a long, long time ago, in a nation where citizens actually cared about one another, an American Icon, Comedian, and Philanthropist named Jerry Lewis poured his lifeblood into producing a nationally-televised program specifically designed to raise money on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association to aid in the fight against Neuromuscular Diseases.
Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, his career in show business spanned 70 years. beginning with his first appearance with his parents, who were both entertainers, in the Catskill Mountains Circuit at age 5.
He passed away from natural causes on August 20, 2017 at the age of 91.
For 45 years, American families would, while spending time together, watch the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. The telethon would begin on Sunday Evening and continue for 21 1/2 hours, ending on Monday evening at 5:00 p.m. Central. Co-hosted in later years by Ed McMahon and Norm Crosby, stars of stage, screen, and television would appear, alongside corporate executives, all there to raise money for “Jerry’s Kids”.
And, when I say “stars”, I mean STARS.
Jerry’s good friend, Sammy Davis, Jr. would come on every year, on Monday afternoon, and do a solid 30 minutes of entertaining, usually badgering Jerry, until he would come out and do a couple of songs with him, usually ending in a tap dance “challenge”.
Here is an example of how their friendship and antics together would entertain us every year:
Sammy Davis and Jerry Lewis tee up some fun during the 1978 MDA Telethon, broadcast live from the Del Webb Sahara in Las Vegas, NV.
Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, would come on after that and bring down the house, with several high energy numbers, wearing his huge American Eagle Belt Buckle and “TCB” Necklace, which Elvis Presley gave him as a sign of friendship and respect.
Speaking of the King, while Elvis did not appear live every year, usually, also sometime Monday Afternoon, Ed McMahon would say,
Jerry, we just received a call from Graceland.
Which meant that Elvis. known throughout my hometown of Memphis for his great generosity, had just phoned in a huge donation.
Perhaps, one of the most poignant moments in the history of the telethon came during the 1976 Program, when the Chairman of the Board, Francis Albert Sinatra, showed up. Frank told Jerry that he had brought a friend with him and asked him to come out. That friend was Jerry’s ex-partner, Dean Martin. The two had been estranged for years. Jerry became emotional. He hugged Dino, and, when everyone became silent, he asked,
So, how ya been?
7 years ago, after 45 years of magnanimous service, raising untold millions for the MDA, Lewis was cruelly and unceremoniously dumped. In fact, the MDA did not even have the guts to tell Jerry Lewis that they dumped him!
We honor Jerry Lewis, we admire the work he’s done for us, and we respect his decision to retire.
That particular quote came from Valerie Cwik, the MDA’s interim president, at the time. She replaced Gerald Weinberg, who was reportedly behind Lewis’s ouster and who stepped down as president, after 54 years with the organization.
She made the lame argument that the changes in the telethon were part of a necessary evolution in fundraising strategy, to put less emphasis on the once-a-year event.
It has to change because the American audience has changed. A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world.
During 2016, the President of the MDA reached out to Lewis and attempted to smooth things over with him, opening the door for possible voice-over projects in the future.
Sadly, the gesture turned out to be too little, too late.
I swear, “The Smartest People in the Room”. a.k.a., Modern American Liberals, screw up everything.
Okay. I know that Lewis had a reputation as an ego-maniacal pain-in-the-rear to work with, but, these were people’s lives that the MDA was messing with. It could have, and should have, been handled differently.
However, Jerry Lewis also devoted over half his life for “his kids”, visiting them in hospitals around the nation, with no cameras around, along with calling and visiting Corporate CEOs and A-List Celebrities, getting them to help him raise money for those kids and adults struck down by these debilitating Muscular Disorders.
His ouster by MDA showed no respect or gratitude, whatsoever.
What happened to Jerry Lewis, has happened to American Society in general.
The lack of respect shown to Jerry had become Standard Operating Procedure for Modern American Liberals.
Jerry Lewis, if he were still alive, could not produce his Labor Day Telethon in the political climate of today.
The majority of those in the Entertainment Industry would not “lower themselves” to do it.
After all, critically ill average Americans, both children and adults, are not a part of the special interest groups which they prefer to “donate their time” to.
And, knowing the kind of American that Jerry Lewis was, they would have been told that any bashing of our country or the President would result in them not being invited back.
The focus of those telethons were those Americans afflicted with the terrible diseases which the MDA provided support and care for.
Quite frankly, I do not believe that our present bunch of “stars” could leave their hatred of President Trump and their own oversized egos in check long enough to perform on Jerry Lewis’s MDA Telethon.
In fact, after watching the memorial services of the last several days, I would say that my belief in a solid truth.
As far as today’s “stars” “shining” in Hollywood are concerned, they just don’t make them like they used to.
Jerry Lewis’ legacy will be that of a man, who, with all of his flaws, left an indelible mark on both the Entertainment and Medical Industries. The money which he helped raise for the Muscular Dystrophy Association helped advance their fight against neuromuscular disease.
And, while he was able to lend his talents to that great cause, “Jerry’s Kids” knew that they never walked alone.
Today’s Hollywood can not even admit that Neil Armstrong planted an American Flag on the moon.
Until He Comes,