Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis...thanks for the memories!

Jerry Lewis ---there are so many great memories from my youth wrapped up in that man. I grew up in the 70s watching him on TV and listening to him on old time radio shows. Back then when I had to stay home sick from school and spent the day eating chicken soup and coloring in coloring books, I'd watch his movies on TV along with The Lucy Show.  

The biggest impact he had on me was the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Every Labor Day, our family would make a point to watch the nearly 24-hour event and every hour when they tallied we were on the edge of our seats! Applause erupted at the final tally knowing he'd broken the previous year's record.

Jerry with dear friends Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra
I remember all the celebrities he had on that stage--most of them were my faves, people my parents had taught me to appreciate, whose music, films and television I had loved all my life and still do. I remember the pride I felt when Presidents of major corporations would walk on that stage and hand Jerry and Ed a check after check after check---for millions of dollars--all raised by employees and customers in stores across America. Every major corporation donated millions to Jerry's kids. There was such pride in those moments.

Jerry gave it his all. I remember the exhaustion in his eyes in the hours before it ended. I remember that he never gave up, as tired as he was, until the very final moment it was all over when he'd sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." He cried, I cried, we all cried. Jerry Lewis gave me hope, he made me believe in the goodness of people. To a child, that is everything.

A high-ranking exec with MDA once said that the reason the telethon was changed from 21.5 hours to just 6 was that the American audience had changed. “A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world," she said.

Maybe it doesn't fit, but the telethon was a part of our history, and an important part of the lives of at least three generations of kids. Jerry was an American icon and that telethon was an American institution and when we lost both, we lost something truly special, indeed.

Jerry and the beloved Sammy Davis, Jr.

Jerry may have said some controversial things over the years that had people wondering "WTF?" but he did a lot of good--a LOT--and to me, that's what matters. No one will ever do as much for kids as Jerry did for "his" kids. He gave his heart and soul to them for 59 years and I am forever grateful for that and for what he gave me--hope!

You know---when I was growing up, even though I did not have MD, I always felt like I was one of Jerry's kids. I guess I always will!

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