Friday, February 4, 2011

Explaining Jerry Lewis

1963 was a rough year for Jerry. His one success was The Nutty Professor. After that he appeared as a replacement for Jack Paar for 2 weeks. He was such a screaming success that the network offered him a multi-million dollar contract to do a Saturday night program, a 2-hour show each week. His first night all these performers and variety show hosts appeared and wished him good luck. Steve Allen (with Karyn Kupcinet), Johnny Carson, and actors like Robert Stack and Jimmy Durante. Jerry was very humbled by it all. But the story goes that that night the producers decided to scrap the show at the end of the year.

President Kennedy was assassinated. They shared a friendship. A girl he brought to Hollywood to make the movie The Ladies Man in 1961, and who was in the audience with Steve Allen, was found dead a week later. Her death went unsolved. Even Cyril Wecht could not call it.

All that fall his wife was pregnant and Jerry kept singing a song from a Broadway Show, "Think Pink." He wanted a little girl. He already had 5 sons. Of course, his wife gave birth to a boy, Joseph, who OD'd on drugs last year. No one knows if it was an accident or not. I don't think Jerry even acknowledged his passing. When Jerry started the Telethon this year, he dedicated it to "all my kids" who died. Was he just talking about the kids with Muscular Dystrophy? At the end of the show he was sobbing so badly I thought he was going to fall off the stool But why?

Anyway,the reason Jerry became "Jerry," the guy who yelled at everyone on the Telethon of years past, was his professional embarrassment over losing that multi-million dollar TV contract. After that Jerry wasn't too funny anymore. He became angry. In the mid-sixties he did a pratfall and badly injured his back. His doctor put him on Percodan, a narcotic. By the 70's he was taking 13 of them a day.

So that's what made Jerry "Jerry."

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