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Jerry Lewis Now Walks Alone says Work at Home Grandma

Updated on November 4, 2014

MDA Telethon is No More

Labor Day Changed

Fall is officially here and soon the snow will be flying. For many years we watched Labor Day come and go ushering in the crisp days of fall and then everyone’s ‘beloved winter’. I can always remember as a kid and again as an adult, spending the Sunday before Labor Day and into Labor Day watching the MDA Telethon hosted so diligently by none other than the multi-talented entertainer, Jerry Lewis.

I have watched with annoyance the arrogance of indifference given to aging professionals by the bureaucratic entertainment world when the personality in question becomes unable to meet their stringent requirements.

I was disappointed when Bob Barker left the Price Is Right, which he hosted for 35 years, and then was snubbed and ignored for the 40th anniversary show. I was disgusted that Regis Philbin was forced to resign from the show he made famous because of a salary dispute and I was downright enraged when Bert Parks was fired by the Miss America Pageant after 25 years for being just too old to “cut the mustard” anymore.

But nothing saddened me more than the stunning revelation that Jerry Lewis was fired from the MDA Telethon, an event for which he had sacrificed his very heart and soul for over 50 years. The shocking and unexplainable news even surpassed the break-up of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in 1956.

It is admittedly true that no other American entertainer has divided audiences and frustrated his peers like Jerry Lewis. When he split off from the team of Martin and Lewis, most people thought Jerry would fail on his own, but this was not true at all. Although Dean Martin went on to become one of the wealthiest entertainers ever, Jerry Lewis would become one of the most successful and famous entertainers of all time.

Born in Newark, New Jersey as Joseph Levitch in 1926, Jerry Lewis performed with his comedic parents every summer from an early age. He met Dean Martin in 1946 while performing in Atlantic City. They became America’s most famous comedy duo until they split in 1956.

Even though they had dissolved their partnership, Martin and Lewis co-hosted the 1956 Telethon originating from New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall. After the successful Telethon, Lewis was named National MDA Chairman, a position he would hold for 55 years.

The Greatest Array of Entertainment in One Day

The Famous and Surprise Guests

The weekend show originated from New York, Las Vegas and Hollywood. It encompassed more than150 television stations and frequently included live remote segments.

Scores of entertainers added their talents to showcase an array of songs, skits, and tributes. Each year the MDA Telethon garnered an increasing number of guest entertainers from young to old.

Over its 55 year span, the Telethon included such entertainers as:

Alan Alda, Jason Alexander, Woody Allen, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Richard Burton, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Doris Day, Robert DeNiro, Patty Duke, Jimmy Fallon, Don Francisco of “Sabado Gigante,” Jackie Gleason, Whoopi Goldberg, Woody Harrelson, Neil Patrick Harris, Larry King, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Howie Mandel, Dr. Phil McGraw, Eddie Murphy, Bob Newhart, Paul Newman, Rosie O’Donnell, Gregory Peck, Regis Philbin, Ray Romano, Mickey Rooney, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, William Shatner, Martin Short, Ed Sullivan, Barbara Walters, Betty White, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey.

Alabama, Count Basie, The Bee Gees, Tony Bennett, Clint Black, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Ray Charles, Cher, Kenny Chesney, Chicago, Phil Collins, The Commodores, Perry Como, Sammy Davis Jr., Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban, Faith Hill, Enrique Iglesias, Julio Iglesias, Alan Jackson, The Jackson 5, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Tom Jones, KISS, Eartha Kitt, Cyndi Lauper, John Lennon, Tracy Lawrence, Paul McCartney, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Oak Ridge Boys, Donny and Marie Osmond, Dolly Parton, Tom Petty, Queen, Debbie Reynolds, LeAnn Rimes, Kid Rock, Kenny Rogers, Carlos Santana, Spice Girls, Ringo Starr, Rolling Stones, Sugarland, Randy Travis, Tina Turner, Eddie Van Halen, Clay Walker, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Wynonna. Even the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, performed on the MDA Telethon.

Who can forget Frank Sinatra’s surprise to Jerry when his old friend Dean Martin visited the Telethon they had started together. All of us remember the incomparable Ed McMahon who anchored the Telethon for 40 years. It was amazing to watch the tote board spin and the tremendous volume of contributions that would come pouring in for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

It was all in the name of “Jerry’s Kids”, a name adopted by the entertainer as given to him by the kids themselves. Jerry completed each Telethon with his signature tribute song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. He would then begin the next year’s preparation so each year would garner donations greater than the year before.

As I searched through the immense library of videos on the Telethon over the many years, I was amazed at how a young, vibrant comedienne grew old and tired but kept “walking on” just as his signature song says.

Walking Together is Better Than Walking Alone

At His Best

Jerry Silently Says Good-bye

In 2011, MDA announced that Jerry was stepping down as the host of the annual Labor Day MDATelethon. The show was being cut from 21.5 hours to just 6 hours, and Jerry’s replacement would be a quartet of hosts with Jerry making an appearance at the end of the show to sing his mantra song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, one last time. What was a disgusting turn of events turned into a montage of ugliness when MDA announced just weeks before the Telethon that Jerry Lewis would not be making an appearance and had resigned his post as MDA National Chairman. Jerry wanted to do a live appearance but MDA wanted only a pre-taped insulting version of a good-bye. They probably lost millions as a star studded good-bye to the “father of Jerry’s Kids” would have been a fundraising extravaganza.

The MDA Telethon proceeded as planned and was rumored to have brought in $61.5 million, more than the previous year. When breaking it all down, however, the vast donation amount touted to have been received is far from the truth. The Internal Revenue Filing showed a mere $30 million, less than half of what they claimed.

The Telethon that had become a part of Labor Day is no more. In 2012 it had gone from the greatest array of emotion, self-importance and showbiz glamour all with a beautiful philanthropic purpose to a mere three hours of second rate entertainment. The MDA is suffering the consequences of the loss of Jerry Lewis. The entertainer known for his love of “his kids” brought in over $2 billion during the 55 years of his reign.

MDA’s overall donations fell from $158 million in 2011 to $149.5 million in 2012. They even took a loss of $14 million in 2011 and $19 million in 2012 after expenses were added up. There’s no doubt that MDA does a lot of good. They still give a sizeable amount away every year– in 2012, they distributed $47 million in grants– about $12 million in aid, and $34 million in research. However, when Lewis was at the helm, MDA gave away over $61.6 million in 2008 and in the thick of the recession of 2009 it was $53.5 million. Not too shabby for Jerry’s kids. Of course, the salaries of the MDA executives do not appear to be falling with about eleven of them pulling in six figure incomes.

A Young Man Turn Old Doing What He Loves

About the Consequences

The MDA has repeatedly stated that Jerry Lewis “retired” when we all know this is just not so. The delude themselves into believing donations have not changed since Jerry left but that too is a fallacy. They claim the cancellation of the Telethon in its previous form was necessary due to a “change in the evolution of fundraising strategy”.

In 2014 MDA had the audacity to “use” Jerry’s great contributions by holding a vote on their website for most popular performance ever on the Labor Day Telethon. They label it as: “Vote for Your Favorite MDA Telethon Moments.”

Many of the clips are of Jerry himself and the many celebrities who performed in the show due to their friendship and allegiance to Lewis himself. What a slap in the face for a great man.

I recently read an appropriate article by one of my favorite motivational icons, Robert Ringer. He always seems to give me a great ending for whatever I’m doing just at the appropriate time. In his recent essay he was discussing how each person views reality in their own way or their perception of reality. An excerpt from the article is below:

“While it’s true that everyone perceives reality differently, reality could care less about our perceptions. Reality does not change to adapt to our viewpoints; reality is what is. Reality is fact. Reality is truth. Reality, however, is not always a known, which is where perception of reality comes in. While reality is a fixed factor in the equation of life, perception of reality is a variable.

This is why it is so important to learn to differentiate between a principle and an opinion. The most significant aspect of a principle is that it can neither be created nor altered. Thus, a principle is the essence of reality. It is what it is, and it’s up to us to discover it.

The problem arises when people refuse to accept the reality that principles can only be discovered, and instead choose to believe they can create their own principles. Which means they believe they can create their own reality, a belief that can lead to disastrous consequences.

There are an infinite number of natural laws to be discovered, but, fortunately, you don’t have to have a detailed understanding of every one of these laws to succeed in life. However, there is one law with which you must be totally familiar and which you must unfailingly use as a guide for all your actions.

The law I am referring to is the ultimate, immutable law of the universe, the foundation of reality itself: Actions have consequences.”

How very appropriate. The actions taken by a group of self-centered bureaucrats have had serious consequences for the many that suffer with muscular dystrophy who have been impacted by their current lack of funds. But how does Jerry Lewis feel about the ending of a tradition that brought not only financial support for so many but gave an outpouring of love to those who needed it most?

Jerry is 88 years old now and still actively performing. When asked about his feelings about the Telethon, he can only say, “That’s not a place I want to go. Because if I go there, you’ll never get me back,”

The Last Good-bye From a Broken Man

Do You Remember The MDA Telethon?

Do you think Jerry Lewis was treated unfairly

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    • profile image

      sheilamyers 2 years ago

      I never really watched the telethon nor did I follow any part of Lewis' career, but I do know how large a part he played in the MDA. It's a shame they couldn't find someone else with the same drive and commitment to take Lewis' place. Nothing ever works as well with bureaucrats in charge as it does when someone who really cares about the cause does the job. I know some people will try to convince me the new people do care or they wouldn't be there. I say if they care that much, they'd be able to draw in the crowds and donations the way Lewis did.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image
      Author

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Sheila

      The hardest part of the whole thing for me was watching him decline in health and yet he still kept pushing himself for the telethon only to be fired from the thing he loved most. It must have broken his heart.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 2 years ago

      Sandra: So true! He was always there even when most people would've probably said "I'm too sick" or "I'm too tired".

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I remember the first telethons he hosted. He really made it so entertaining. I haven't watched it for a number of years so I'm was not aware of his aging. It's sad that stars are asked to step down when they still have much to give.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image
      Author

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Teaches 12345

      Yes it was especially so in his case as the telethon without him was nothing and what a huge loss for those that suffer from such a horrible disease. Thanks for reading it.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 2 years ago from Minnesota

      I watched many of Jerry's MDA Telethons. He put so much of his heart and soul into it and it breaks my heart to hear they fired him. A slap in the face indeed! They should be ashamed of themselves for throwing this passionate, loving man, under the bus. I had no idea he was fired. I am truly hurt to my core to hear about it.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image
      Author

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Yes, the interesting part of this whole thing is that he only showed his loving passionate side to these kids. In his other life he is often referred to as being very rude. It is interesting how love can change a man and to have that pulled out from underneath him was really a tragedy. Thanks for the read. Take care.

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