Fashion Plate

If you like Texas Jot, please take a look at my other blog, Fashion Plate. It is the home of my handmade retro Barbie clothes and lots of delicious recipes from my cookbooks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MDA Telethon: Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Step Forward

I grew up watching Jerry Lewis movies. This is understandable, since the slap-stick, nonsense of silly voices and zany faces would appeal to the immature or the French; who considered him worthy of the French Legion  of Honor (1984) for his "comic artistry." Although Lewis' career began at the tender age of five, it wasn't until he was paired with crooner Dean Martin that his fortunes began to rise.  From 1949-1956 they partnered in sixteen movies.  During that period, they also had a successful four-year run on NBC radio.
Setting a precedent for failed relationships, he and Martin parted way in a widely publicized breakup.  Lewis married in 1945, divorced in 1980, married again in 1983 and is in the process of another break-up with the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. As for his failed female relationships, Lewis is quoted, "Every man's dream is to be able to sink into the arms of a woman without also falling into her hands." "I think of her (woman) as a producing machine that brings babies into the world."  When his performance was unfavorably critiqued by the now editor-in-chief of the Victoria Times (Canada), Linda Chodan, he countered, " You can accept one individual's (opinion) particularly is it's female...when they get a period it's really difficult for them to function as normal human beings." As to his his other failed relationships, this snippet might shed some light.  "People hate me because I am a multi-faceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius."  I mean, what's not to love?
When the MDA telethon began in 1952 in New York City, Lewis was named national chairperson.  Then in 1953, he and Dean Martin appeared on the first coast-to-coast broadcast lasting two hours.  While managing to raise over one billion dollars during the last fifty plus years, not all these funds directly emanated from tote board pledges.  Most of the funds are raised during the course of normal fundraising events and then tallied into the totals for the live event.  There is some speculation whether Jerry's exclusion from this year's telethon and shortened time-frame will harm or benefit the event.  Lewis was to have appeared just as the closer, singing his swansong rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone." The eighty-five-year old is being replaced by a Biggest Loser and an appropriate! 
Good with kids?
Over the years, Lewis' fundraising tactics have been criticized by the very community he is supposed to championing.  From his on-air faux pas to his insulting comment while holding up a child with MD , "God goofed and it's up to us to correct His mistakes." When people with disabilities complained of his pandering to stereotypes, his replay was. "Pity?  You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair?  Stay in your house." At a time when the talk  finally turned to freedom and access, many questioned his apparent lack of understanding.
Although Lewis was never paid for his telethon appearances, over the years it has generated much good will and publicity for him. He has spent 900 hours on an event billed with his name, The Jerry Lewis Telethon and the term Jerry's Kids is part of the vernacular. So why are they now killing the fatted calf?  Lewis' ability to gracefully run the telethon has dwindled.  While I'm sure MDA is more than grateful for his hard work, they are also a business whose business it is to raise funds and awareness.  They are the world's largest non-governmental sponsor of research for neuromuscular diseases and run the most comprehensive service program of any US nonprofit. (3/4 of all funds raise go directly toward programs.) It would have been great if Jerry could have "sung" his song and walked off into the sunset, but it won't end that way.  Right now, neither party is talking.  MDA states that even though he won't be appearing on the telethon, Jerry is still the national chairperson. While there is speculation about the state of Jerry's health, aging and ego-related issues, we will have to wait for his side of the story.  Lewis has announced that he will have an international press conference to comment on his lack of appearance, after the event. I hope he bows out gracefully so we can be left with memories of  G-rated movies for kids and funds raised for a worthy cause and not focus on all the Jerry-phernalia that went along with it.

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