The entertainment industry lost a true comedic icon earlier this week with the passing of Jerry Lewis at the age of 91. More than just a talent, his name became synonymous with philanthropy, as his telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) wrote the book on fundraising via star power and touched the lives of countless individuals.
Jerry Lewis ascended to fame with his partner, singer Dean Martin. “Martin and Lewis” started off as a radio program, but their tremendous success propelled them into the film business, eventually resulting in 17 feature films. However, creative differences led to an infamously acrimonious split in 1956. Both Dean and Jerry experienced phenomenal success as individual entertainers, with Dean being a lead dog in the Rat Pack and Jerry continuing to innovate comedy with such defining films as The Nutty Professor and The Bellboy, but the divide dogged them for many years.
In 1976, fellow New Jersey native Frank Sinatra joined Jerry Lewis on stage for the MDA Labor Day Telethon. After announcing a significant financial donation, Sinatra mentioned he had a bit of a surprise for Lewis: