Sunday, September 02, 2012

Labor Day Telethon and No Jerry Lewis

(Nashville, Tennessee) The booting of Jerry Lewis will not be televised.
Lewis has been all but erased from the telethon’s memory. This year’s show, airing the Sunday night before Labor Day, has been further downsized, to just three hours, with no named host and a smattering of B-list guest stars (Carrie Underwood,, Khloe Kardashian). It is no longer called a telethon, but simply an “entertainment special,” and there will be no tote board tallying the donations. In the press announcement of the event, Jerry Lewis’s name is nowhere mentioned.

The story behind Lewis’s departure remains untold. But a few things have become clear in the year since the awkward public breakup. Jerry Lewis was dumped by the MDA, the charity he had been identified with since the 1950s. He’s still bitter about it. And the telethon is withering without him.[…]

The pain is not hard to discern. “This was a hurt man,” says Richard Belzer, the stand-up comic and Law and Order co-star, who has developed a close, almost father-son relationship with Lewis. Jerry’s goodbye appearance was scrapped after he and the charity could not agree on its format and length. Lewis wanted to do it live; the MDA floated several pre-taped options — “all insulting,” Belzer claims. “It’s as if they were trying to provoke him to leave.” In the end, he did. “It was a moral outrage, a PR nightmare and a sad commentary on this incredible philanthropic career,” says Belzer.[…]

MDA officials continue to maintain that Lewis simply retired. “We honor Jerry Lewis, we admire the work he’s done for us, and we respect his decision to retire,” says Valerie Cwik, the MDA’s interim president. (She replaced Gerald Weinberg, who was reportedly behind Lewis’s ouster and who stepped down as president last December, after 54 years with the organization.) And she insists that the changes in the telethon are part of a necessary evolution in fundraising strategy, to put less emphasis on the once-a-year event. “It has to change because the American audience has changed,” says Cwik. “A 21.5-hour show doesn’t fit in a 140-character world.”
It seems that Jerry Lewis was ousted without even a "Thank you." Arguably, it's punishment for a good deed.

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