April 12, 1995:
GOOD MORNING: “I’m having the time of my life,” Jerry Lewis enthused backstage at Broadway’s Marquis theater after receiving a standing ovation following his 50th performance in “Damn Yankees.” Although perspiration was still pouring down his cheeks he quick-changed to head out into the lobby to autograph posters benefiting Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. His no-stop sked goes on through 1999., he told me. He remains in the show until a month before his Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon, this year emanating from CBS Televisdion City in L.A. He returns to B’way through December, heads out on a national tour for a year, films a movie for WB, then on to London’s boards with “Yankees.” And an anticipated year on stage winding in ’99. “I need a few club dates,” he laughed. On the wall of his dressing room at the Marquis, Lewis has a framed photo of Loews’ State dated, Feb. 15, 1945, with his name on the marquee — 50 feet across the street from the Marquis theater where on Feb.15, 1995 he stepped on stage to start rehearsals of “Damn Yankees.” Also on the dressing room wall is a framed song sheet, “I Wanna Go Where You Go and Do What You Do” written by his father, Danny Lewis, who met Jerry’s mom, Rae, a block away from the Marquis Theater in 1925 where she played piano as Danny plugged the song. There was also a good luck letter from FrankSinatra and a letter from Dean Martin: “Wouldn’t you know you’d play baseball during the strike!”… 2008 update: I phoned Jerry to congratulate him on being awarded the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award — long overdue. “I was stunned,” he said softly, seriously. But quickly added, “I was so excited, I wore my tuxedo for four days!” Jerry’s health is OK, now. But , he admits, “For six years I was very sick (pulmonary fibrosis). They almost rang the bell on me.” He credits wife Sam with pulling him through. His current sked equals that of the younger Jerry Lewis. (He is 82). The night before we spoke (on the phone from his La Vegas home), he said he had played a 85-minute show in Tucson after a 96-minute show the night before. In Australia, he said he received a standing ovation — BEFORE starting his show. “I can’t work to a starting ovation,” he laughed. He has five dates upcoming in January and February in London — plus a stand in French Lick, Ind., he added, proudly. He plays a date in Clearwater, Fla., Feb. 21, the eve of the Oscars. A plane will be standing by to bring him here on time. Howcum Jerry works so hard? “I love it,” he said seriously, then added laughingly, “and it pays a lot of money.” Of course, the one “job where he works the hardest — for money for others — is his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Congrats, Jerry.