I’d really be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of comedian Jerry Lewis last week at the age of 91. You see, I was born in Largo, Florida on the morning of September 6, 1971, which that year Labor Day. On TV that morning on one of the Tampa Bay area stations was the 1971 Labor Day telethon out of New York. Yes, I looked it up the local TV listings in the St. Pete Times archives one day. Hey, the Google can be a wonderful thing more often than not.
The telethon was its own brand of Jerry’s schmaltz on display for most of the 21 1/2 hours or so they’d occupy on Labor Day, beginning with the previous night. It did bring an iconic moment in 1976 when Lewis had a surprise guest in his former comedic partner of a generation past, Dean Martin. But most years, the telethon consisted of the story line of a chase: for MDA to raise a buck more than they did the year before. Unlike Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Jerry was often successful, barring a bad economy, or a hurricane hitting or threatening a major area in the United States.
Thirty nine years later, it was another day where September 6th was a Labor Day Monday. I just had a feeling about seeing Jerry on TV the night before when the telethon started that this particular showing in 2010 was going to be his last one, and I made a donation. Not a big one, but what can I say? I had to respect someone who did good work as I came into the world. My hunch turned out to be a premonition, as he was replaced before the next Labor Day came around. The Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon went on a few more years, but without Lewis there it just wasn’t and couldn’t be the same.
This video is from Howard Cosell’s short lived syndicated talk program, Speaking of Everything, which was also the name of Howard’s weekend radio show of days gone by where he spoke of things beyond the sports world. If you’ve ever wondered if Howard and Jerry talked to each other, here’s some documentation of that.
Have a good weekend, everybody.