Wolf Wergin/Las Vegas News Bureau Frank Sinatra reunites Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin during the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon Sept. 5, 1976 at the Sahara in Las Vegas.
Monday, Aug. 21, 2017|2 a.m.
Jerry Lewis: 1926-2017 Launch slideshow” Related material Jerry Lewis, the famous actor, comic,
filmmaker and longtime Las Vegas homeowner, shared one of his secrets to success in a June 1998 Las Vegas Sun visitor column:” The important things you keep, you lose– the important things you give away, you keep permanently,” the long time Strip headliner composed.” If you have actually done it all and done it well … you begin to browse more than ever. You not only smell the roses, but you get in touch with individuals you might not have actually had time for while doing your thing. …” And Lewis undoubtedly offered whatever he had while doing his thing well, whether it was raising billions of dollars hosting
the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, directing and starring in popular films or providing snappy one-liners often stressed with childish nasally whines, including his hallmark,” La-a-a-a-dy!” Lewis, long regarded as among the world’s funniest and most gifted performers, and among Las Vegas’ most reputable star citizens passed away Sunday. He was 91. Lewis rose to fame in the mid-1940s as the comical partner of the late crooner and fellow Las Vegas showroom headlining essential Dean Martin. Over a span of 60-plus years, Lewis played various Vegas display rooms, including the historic Sands ‘Copa Space from the late 1950s to the early ’60s. While a number of Lewis’s ventures in Las Vegas were happy and effective ones, such as when he passionately and effectively lobbied the Las Vegas City board to not ban regional firemens’ from performing their MDA Boot Own on hectic street corners in spite of threat from passing vehicles, other times were rather troubling. Jerry Lewis 90th Birthday Party< img src=" https://photos.lasvegassun.com/media/img/photos/2016/03/18/Jerry-DanielleUSE_t320.JPG?0f3ddbed359eab2c0b293f3dd101a0fde643f8b3" alt=" Jerry Lewis and his child Danielle,
revealed throughout his 90th-birthday surprise
celebration at Piero’s on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.”/ > Launch slideshow” No place was that more apparent than in 1998, when Lewis’s stalker, Gary Benson, a felon who made various risks to eliminate the comic, was slated to be launched early from a Nevada prison. In an Oct. 9, 1998, Las Vegas Sun story, Lewis expressed great fear and anger that Benson, who had actually served simply 4.3 years of his six-year sentence, had made a lot time off for excellent habits that the parole board was about to set him free
. Benson, a chronic schizophrenic, was convicted of the worsened stalking– then a brand brand-new criminal activity in Nevada– of Lewis in 1995. Benson served his time in pre-trial prison (1,582 days), lockdowns at mental health centers (1,151 days) and jail (just 431 days). The absence of prison time riled Lewis and a number of his supporters.
Even more, the parole board had actually ruled that Benson would not have to report to a parole officer because he had actually served what was considered a complete sentence. Benson was required only to register as an ex-felon with authorities in the community where he chose to live. That too bugged Lewis, who feared for the security of his household.
A lot so, Lewis, in anticipation of Benson’s early release and prospective return to Las Vegas, preceded a Clark County justice of the peace to extend a 1992 protective order that had cautioned Benson to have no contact with Lewis.
” I am incensed and stressed,” Lewis told the Sun, keeping in mind that he had been stalked by Benson for almost a years and that Benson had actually threatened Lewis’s daughter’s life when she was an infant.
The stalking occurrence was a case of life mimicing the movies. Lewis had starred in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 movie “The King of Comedy,” in which Lewis’s character, celeb late night TELEVISION host Jerry Langford, was stalked by compulsive fans portrayed by Robert de Niro and Sandra Bernhard.
Lewis’s efforts to attract media support to keep Benson in jail for his full term were relentless and, at times, apparently reckless. Such held true when Lewis went on the “Larry King Live” TV show and, in an evident moment of macho bravado, pretty much attempted Benson to stalk him when he left jail.
The ramification was that Lewis would shoot Benson if Benson appeared at the front door of Lewis’s 7,700-plus-foot estate near Charleston and Martin L. King boulevards.
However Lewis’s media blitz worked. As a result of public outrage over Benson’s pending release, the parole board did an about-face and bought Benson to serve his full sentence, which concerned an end in early October, 1999.
Benson, however, did not spend a lot of time as a complimentary guy. He was jailed by the FBI in May 2000 in Wyoming after Lewis reportedly received a letter at his neo-colonial Las Vegas home in April. The letter read, “Dear Jerry. Your (sic) Dead.” The letter was signed, “Your buddy, Gary Benson.” Benson passed away in the Clark County Detention Center of natural causes (hardening of the arteries) on Oct. 22, 2001. He was 57. Benson had been scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 12, 2001, on the most recent charges of stalking Lewis.
The Lewis-Benson event played a crucial role in the passage of a 1999 costs before the Nevada Legislature that upped the maximum worsened stalking charge from six to 15 years.
In the end, Lewis’s stalking plight made him a compassionate figure amongst many Las Vegans and his popularity as a local celeb citizen grew.
In April 2000, Lewis was honored locally with a Jerry Lewis Movie Festival at The Orleans, where earlier that year, then-74-year-old Lewis signed a 20-year agreement to frequently perform his stand-up funny act in the Orleans display room.
The movie celebration came complete with Lewis presenting his timeless film “The Errand Boy” and participating in a post-viewing question-and-answer session. Then-Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman hosted a cocktail reception for Lewis.
Later that month, Lewis performed for four nights at The Orleans– his very first Vegas stage appearance considering that 1989, when Lewis appeared on the exact same costs with his long time good friend, the late Sammy Davis Jr.
. The contract required Lewis to appear at the Orleans Display room 5 times a year, performing 4 nights during each of the engagements for a total of 20 shows.
Among Lewis’s November 2013 shows at The Orleans was videotaped for the PBS special “An Evening with Jerry Lewis: Live from Las Vegas.”
Although Lewis and Martin bitterly separated so long back– in 1956– and reportedly did not even talk to one another for about Twenty Years, the two stayed permanently connected mostly because of their Las Vegas connections.
In 1976, while Frank Sinatra was making a surprise appearance on the MDA telethon, then emanating from Las Vegas, he significantly reestablished fellow surprise visitor Martin to host Lewis to a standing ovation from the studio audience.
After having both gone their separate methods, Martin and Lewis had long, successful solo careers in Las Vegas, on stages all over the world and in movies. During that time, they each chose not to talk about the break up or on the possibility of getting back together for a reunion show or trip.
After their short 1976 MDA public get-together, the two were known to have actually shared a stage simply one more time. It was at a 1989 show that Martin headlined at the MGM Grand, now Bally’s, during his last series of Las Vegas performances prior to retiring. Lewis wheeled out a huge cake to celebrate Martin’s 72nd birthday.
Though they never did do a reunion program, Lewis and Martin did reconcile in 1987 after Martin’s 35-year-old boy Dean Paul Martin was eliminated while piloting his National Guard jet that crashed into the San Bernardino Mountains.
Lewis later said that in spite of his efforts to bring Martin from the doldrums of an apparently unlimited grieving period, Martin ostensibly had actually lost his desire for life. He stopped carrying out entirely and died Christmas Day 1995 at age 78.
Lewis, star and director of such hit movies as “The Nutty Teacher,” began his longtime association with MDA in 1951 with the goal being to look for a treatment for different neuromuscular diseases. The yearly Labor Day MDA Telethons that Lewis hosted over the next six years raised in the neighborhood of $2.6 billion.
The telethons, which each year were aired over about 200 stations nationwide, were headquartered in Las Vegas from the early 1970s until the show was returned to Los Angeles in 1996.
As an outcome of the occasion’s Las Vegas connection, a number of MDA telethon traditions started in Las Vegas, amongst them the venerable Firemens’ Boot Drive, which became a nationwide happening involving firefighters standing on busy street corners asking for passer-bys to put cash donations into their big boots.
Each year the boot drive was one of MDA’s most significant money makers and a grateful Lewis, in turn, ended up being a fan and supporter for firefighters in Southern Nevada and nationwide.
Lewis started serving as MDA national chairman in 1952, a post he would hold for numerous years. He fondly called children afflicted with MD “my kids” and, as an outcome, the phrase “Jerry’s Children” ended up being household words.
An aging Lewis stopped doing the telethons in 2011 and, 4 years later, MDA decided to discontinue the annual star-studded Labor Day occasion.
Although many Lewis fans felt that Jerry’s heart needed to have actually been made of pure gold based on his charitable deeds, Lewis also had an abrasive character and a significantly inflated ego that lots of critics found neither charming nor endearing.
Lewis’s frequently rude and condescending attitude was popular among members of the Las Vegas press, along with the nationwide and international news media.
” Lewis’s greatest achievement is the creation of Jerry Lewis,” wrote Frank Krutnik, author of the book “Inventing Jerry Lewis” (Smithsonian Institution Press). “His character is so caught up in his public profile that … you perhaps can’t identify him.
” It’s challenging for Lewis to step aside. He is the scientist and the monster.”
Some of Lewis’s harshest critics presumed as to go to Lewis’s newly-released films with the sole intention of panning them in their columns or rave versus Lewis when he made misconstrued, outspoken and inexpedient public statements.
Nowhere was that more evident than in February 2000 when Lewis stunned an audience at the U.S. Funny Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., by saying he did not like female comics.
A few days later, Lewis, while back in his more familiar Vegas environments, provided a press release with a “modest apology” to stop the mad actions he had gotten. Lewis confessed that there were a couple of female comedians he liked, including Whoopi Goldberg and Phyllis Diller.
As Lewis reached his mid-80s and his health seriously faltered, Jerry’s abrasive side likewise mellowed and he ended up being a more loveable, grandfatherly figure in the home entertainment world and an inspiration to numerous generations of comedians.
Lewis dealt with a number of major health issues throughout the last 50 years of his life: a 1966 back injury throughout a stopped working slapstick routine that almost incapacitated him; double bypass heart surgery in 1982; cardiovascular disease in 1983 and 2006; blurred vision and other symptoms at the 1985 telethon that restricted his on-air time; prostate cancer; diabetes; and lung fibrosis, which was treated with Prednisone prior to the 2002 telethon, leading to the monstrous swelling of his facial features.
In 1999, at age 73, Lewis was hospitalized during an efficiency in Australia. His second cardiovascular disease– accompanied by a bout of pneumonia– took place on June 11, 2006, while Lewis was on a Las Vegas-homebound commercial airline flight following a New york city City efficiency.
Lewis got many significant awards for his charitable deeds and contributions to the entertainment world: a 1977 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for his MDA work; the French Legion of Honor in both 1984 and 2006; the 1985 U.S. Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service; the 2005 Governor’s Award from the Academy of Television Arts & & Sciences for his telethons; and a special 2009 Academy Award for humanitarian work.
Lewis likewise has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Popularity, honoring him as a comedian, actor, movie producer, writer and director.
In a March 2016 Las Vegas Sun interview on the eve of his 90th birthday, Lewis mused, “It is a hell of a huge number– it’s a beast.”
” I believe it has assisted that I am so curious about exactly what has been taking place to me, which I have enjoyed viewing the modifications through my life,” Lewis stated. … “I am intrigued by everything, and that keeps my brain working.”
As for remorses, Lewis apparently had simply one– that his time was nearly over.
” That hurts, he stated. “It hurts to state that. It hurts to believe, ‘I’m not visiting my friends, my household, for a lot longer.’ I am approaching the adventure of being 90. I will having fun, however I do not have any misgivings about it. The only unfavorable part is it’s nearly over.”
Lewis is made it through by his second wife, previous airline company hostess and Las Vegas dancer SanDee (previously Pitnick) and a child, Danielle Lewis.
Lewis had six boys from his first marital relationship to former Big Band vocalist Patti Palmer, including pop star Gary Lewis, who with the rock ‘n’ roll group The Playboys, in 1965 tape-recorded the United States No. 1 tune, “This Diamond Ring.” Lewis’s other living kids are Ronald, Scott, Christopher and Anthony. Lewis was preceded in death by his kid, Joseph, who died in 2009 from a drug overdose at age 45.
Ed Koch is a former long time Las Vegas Sun reporter