Monday, February 23, 2009

Finally! Jerry Lewis Gets His Due at the Oscars!

Okay, I admit it. I finally broke down and watched the Oscar telecast for the first time in ten years after swearing I would never watch it again. (Why? Because they didn't have DeForest Kelley listed in their MEMORIUM section the year he died. They wrote back to say it was because their "sister organization" the Emmys had acknowledged his passing, but that never satisfied me because he was the only STAR TREK star to get his star for his MOTION PICTURE body of work, not for TV.) Anyway, that's all water under the bridge, and I really wanted to see how Heath Ledger, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire would do, so I watched the show.

The best line of the whole evening (in my opinion): "I had a choice between hate and love, I chose love -- and I'm here!" AR Rahman

What a great line for a time such as this!

I was deliriously happy to see Jerry Lewis get the Gene Hersholt Award last night. It was a surprise to me that he was getting an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because they almost never honor comedians and comedies; they're usually into meatier fare.

Jerry Lewis was the second love of my life, following Roy Rogers. I devoured everything he was in -- movies, mags, TV shows, comic books -- from the time I was eight or nine until I was fifteen or sixteen (when STAR TREK and DeForest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy took over). Because of Jerry, I even became Junior Chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association in my home town of Cle Elum. I wrote articles about MD in the local paper and placed MDA canisters in all the stores, then collected them just before MDA Telethon time and sent them in.

While I lived in Hollywood I met a number of people who knew and worked with Jerry Lewis. I learned he was generous to a fault when someone needed help, and an absolute perfectionist as a producer/director. (But then, when your name and image are all over a product, I expect that gives you a "complex" that it better be damned good!) I've worked with other perfectionists and usually got along with them very well, because I understood them and honored what they were trying to do. (I'm a bit of a perfectionist myself.)

I was just so happy to see him finally receive an honor that he has deserved for so long. Every time I see Jim Carrey mugging, I can't help but think he's ALMOST as good as Jerry was. It takes an eternal kid to pull of what those two do -- an eternal kid with a big heart and a lovely mind.

I even saw Jerry live in Vegas one night. Asked him for a hug from my seat (not far from the stage) and he recoiled in feigned horror, grabbing near his crotch and saying, "You want a hug?! That's how I got this rash!"

I was horrified then... and embarrassed... 'cause I was just 30 or so and shy to begin with. Looking back on it now, WHAT A HOOT!

When I was ten or eleven, my family went to Hollywood and Disneyland and I begged Dad to drive us past Jerry's 33-room Bel Air home on St Cloud Road (was it 227 St Cloud Road? I think that was the address.) When we got to it, Dad pretended he was going to drive right in, and I shrieked, "NO! NO! NO!!!!" embarrassed as all get out, just certain that Jerry would come out and I'd be "busted" in his driveway!

Jerry, if you happen to see this by some stretch of the imagination, know that I am among the happiest people alive tonight because you were honored by the Academy. It has been far too long in coming.

P.S. to other Jerry Lewis fans, young and old: I don't know if you can still find it, but Richard Gehman wrote a book, THAT KID: THE STORY OF JERRY LEWIS. I read it as a kid and loved it. If you can still find a copy, it's well worth the read, although I understand Jerry himself is coming out with a marathon book on his life at some point if he can manage to live long enough to finish it! It's quite the tome, from what I hear. It might take two people to lift it!

God bless you, Jerry, for all the entertainment you have given us and for the billions of dollars you have raised to fight Muscular Dystrophy over the decades.

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