FIRST PERSON | Few things signal the end of summer like the traditional Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. For 40 years, Jerry and his cohorts have made their way into our homes, convincing citizens like you and me to donate our pennies to help fight Muscular Dystrophy, which burdens so many children and families. The telethon, Jerry’s brain child, has become a fundamental piece of the American summer experience.
In 2011, that piece has been removed from the puzzle.
In a weird, twist-filled story, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced that Lewis was being removed from this summer’s broadcast which, incidentally, was to be his last as figurehead. The MDA went further to say that it would not be replacing Lewis as chairman.
After witnessing numerous reports, casting different views on what had actually occurred, I thought back to all those telethons I was fortunate enough to have gazed upon. It was always interesting to see the lesser-known talent make their debuts and the established stars give of their time for the benefit of the MDA and “Jerry’s Kids.” My favorite moments, however, involve Jerry himself.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone”
Each year, if there is one singular moment of the telethon I absolutely must watch, it is the finale. It has become tradition for Jerry to sing the closing song of the event. With each successive telecast, he becomes more and more emotional and forthright in showing his gratitude and devotion to his “kids” and for the support of the population who give of themselves to help the MDA. I truly enjoy seeing him belt out that song year after year.
Not so much anymore, but over the years I have loved the video clips they would show of Jerry’s epic comedic performances. If ever there was a genius at slapstick and being able to make the simple act of slip-and-fall entertaining, it was Lewis. Those black and white comedy pieces are absolutely fantastic.
Perhaps my favorite moments are the simple times when Lewis turns to the camera to express his gratitude and genuine thanks to all who have donated. You can see the sincerity in his eye and feel it when he speaks with such fluidity and grace. He truly cares about the kids afflicted with MD, and it shows. He has a way of making you feel just a bit of what he does, eliciting the deepest emotions from you.
With his departure from the telethon, I truly believe it will not be the same, nor will it garner the same respect and donation level it has in the past. Unfortunately, the research will suffer. Fortunately, Lewis will still be around to keep watch over his “kids.”
Jerry Lewis will not appear in telethon this year, Reuters via OMG!