Rob's Blog

The death of Jerry Lewis – August 20th, 2017

by on Aug.20, 2017, under Celebrity Illustrations

Most in my age group did not grow up with Jerry Lewis. I did. From my youngest days I took in Lewis and Martin films. I admit I’m more of a fan of Dino, but Lewis had a large impact, too.

While many young people my age in the ’70s were watching media more risque and serious, i was laughing. There was more than Martin and Lewis. The Marx Brothers were a big part of it, too. Also, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Debbie Reynolds, Danny Kaye, Doris Day, etc., etc. It was great to grow up with them all. It was rather solitary. None of my family were interested and no one in school knew what I was chattering about. It was all just fun for me. I figure whatever sense of humor I have is thanks to taking in those early films. The Marx Brothers and Dean and Jerry especially.

Of course, most all were familiar with Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Telethons each Labor Day weekend. Each raised incredible sums for research. Each also was a vast showcase for a large variety of entertainment. I believe those of the last half of the century knew Lewis more for the telethon than any other media he’s done.

Lewis did so much more than telethons. There were the 17 films with Dean Martin, the Colgate Comdey hours and other radio programs and television. After Lewis and Martin split, Jerry went on to make 40 more films up to the year ago. Lewis even had a hit record with ‘Rock-a-bye My Baby’. He was a media whirlwind continuously between 1949 to about 1970.

After ’70 Lewis was older and the ’60s had altered American tastes. His films were harder to finance and he had more trouble making them. Though he continued to produce films he never hit a stride he seemed to aim for and Woody Allen has accomplished of a film a year for almost 50 years.

It was around 1980 when i read ‘Everybody Loves somebody (Especially himself)’ by Arthur Marx (Groucho’s son). The book is about Martin and Lewis and their time in entertainment. Marx wrote of Lewis being a control freak and insufferable during during the entire filming process. He also wrote of Lewis’ office in the ’60s. It was set a foot off the floor so Lewis could look down on anyone in the room. Lewis would also bring in his old shirts, socks and underwear into the office and lay them across the floor. he would then invite staff members in to take whatever they could use. Marx’s book really turned me off to Lewis and have never forgotten it. Along the way Lewis apologized for so much he did earlier in his career to the point of nausea. I believe he meant it.

Lewis admitted to some of his meglo-manical past. At one point he was writing, producing, directing and sweeping the studio floor. Along the way he also developing filming techniques that broke new ground and still used today. The first film Lewis directed (and wrote and starred in), ‘The Bellboy, was entirely assembled in Miami Beach and filmed at the legendary, and original, Fontainbleu Hotel. It was a pioneering effort as Lewis broke ground using video assisting equipment so that director Lewis could watch that actor Lewis was correctly performing Lewis’s script. If i recall correctly, Lewis wrote the script in weeks and rewrote during production and the entire film was shot in a month. For Florida, the Bellboy is a video tour of the magnificent Fontainbleu on Miami Beach. The hotel has been severely changed and ‘the Bellboy’ forever preserves memories of magnificent architecture.

Lewis also took the stage. that is where i got to see him closest. While performing in ‘Damn Yankees’, the play stopped in Oralndo, Florida, at the bob Carr Auditorium. I got a hell of a seat in the second row that was as much the front row. The play was amazing. best was, during intermission, Lewis coming from behind the curtain doing about 15 minutes about himself and just to joke around. An incredible night!

As the years went on it was realized this comedy legend might live forever. In December 2015 media host Raymond Arroyo did, in my opinion, the best interview i’ve heard with Jerry Lewis. One of the best i’ve heard with any celebrity. Though Arroyo is a bit fawning, Lewis opens up about everything. It is very revealing and cane be found here:

It is very sad today to learn about Jerry Lewis’s death. One of the greatest clowns ever has darkened the stage.


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