Jerry Lewis MIA at MDA (2011)

Before anyone gets in a tizzy, let me first give the caveat that the MDA telethon is first and foremost, and only, about those afflicted with MD.  “Jerry’s kids.”  It’s not about ego or personality in the end.  That said, I deeply miss Jerry Lewis.  I have literally (with my mom) been watching this telethon since I was a newborn.  Jerry Lewis is inextricably linked with MDA.  I’ve only missed the last few years, due to lack of TV, and if I had known that last year was Jerry Lewis’ last year, I would have found a way to watch it.  That’s the thing,  Jerry Lewis had no send off.  Yes, he was getting on in years.  But still.  He gave decades to this cause.  If it wasn’t for Jerry Lewis, the public at large wouldn’t even know about MD.  I don’t know what happened between Jerry Lewis and MDA, but the end result was wholly unfair.  I feel he was wronged.  Give the man a proper send off.  Give him his one last show.  Let him go out with dignity.  Let him come on, periodically, and especially at the end to do “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Let him gracefully usher in a new post-Jerry Lewis era.  And at least, if you have any respect for him at all, keep the MDA telethon running as it always has been.  That is, the full almost 24 hour shebang.

I watched this year’s MDA Telethon (not Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon), to see what the differences would be.  It was only 6 hours.  Which means that you have to stay up ’till midnight (eastern time) to catch the finale (otherwise in previous years, those not staying up the whole time could catch the finale at a more reasonable hour).  As a kid, as with New Year’s, it was a point of pride to be able to stay up all night and catch the whole thing.  I have to admit the line-up was fairly decent.  (no Charo, or others, but Carrot Top was there)  But Jerry’s absence hung over the whole thing.  There wasn’t, likely due to time constraints, the big “local hour” as usual.  did anyone hang by the phone? no shots of your neighbor Betty waving a phone and hopped up on sleep deprivation…  And, shock of shocks, there were no periodic drum roll moments of flashing to the giant total.  Not even at the end.  And lastly, the telethon didn’t end with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  I half expected that, as it wouldn’t be the same without Jerry Lewis.  But they could’ve done something similar, some song or gesture that would emphasize hope and encouragement to MD troopers.  Instead? a heavy-hitting American patriotism.  yuck.  complete with flag waving.  I thought it was wholly inappropriate.  MDA doesn’t just afflict Americans.  What do national anthems have to do with overcoming physical disability? I didn’t get it and I didn’t like it.  This isn’t the 4th of July.

I did, unfortunately, miss the opening and the first hour of the telethon (knew it was at 6pm, but forgot about the time difference), and I missed about a half hour two-thirds of the way in, but caught the rest.  So I did miss when the new hosts praised Jerry in opening.  Glad they did that, and Nigel Lithgoe’s “You will never be replaced.”  The controversy is did Jerry Lewis actually retire or was he “unceremoniously ousted“?  I would venture the latter, as I figure Jerry, if up to him, would make an appearance to announce this telethon as his last.

For most of the duration of the telethon, there were no Jerry caricatures on the curtains.  No mention of “Jerry’s kids”. nothing.  As if everyone had been forbidden to utter his name.  Until the very end.  One of the firefighters, handing over the last check, mentioned Jerry Lewis.  And then, ten minutes ’till the end, they gave a brief tribute to Jerry Lewis in photos.  I’m glad they did at least that.  But I was still wholly disappointed.  I was still waiting for Jerry Lewis to show up at the end and sing his song and give a goodbye – so that those who’ve watched him on the telethon for decades could say goodbye. and everyone could rest easy.  I did appreciate – I think it was Nigel Lithgoe who shouted, as the curtains closed, “We miss you Jerry.” at least there was that.

you will be missed Jerry!

Jerry Lewis:

and the telethon, (1952-2010):

The Jerry Lewis MDA telethon really is American history.

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