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Larry King Live

Jerry Lewis Discusses Hosting His 50th Telethon

Aired September 1, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, no introductions needed unless you're on Mars -- Jerry Lewis for the hour, next.


KING: As usual with guests of this type, it's incumbent upon the interviewer to attempt to draw them out and unleash their inner selves. It's very difficult.

Jerry Lewis. The National Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy is on again on Labor Day. It's a worldwide institution. It begins at 9:00 Eastern 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Last year, they raised $53 million. This is Jerry's only appearance in advance of that. It's always great to have him with us. Nice to see you. Good luck with this.

LEWIS: Thank you.

KING: How many years now?

LEWIS: Fifty.

KING: Fifty years.

LEWIS: Fifty years.

KING: first, how are you feeling? Last year, it was questionable. We were touching whether you would do it.

LEWIS: Yes, we were touching whether I was going to breathe. Yes, I'm great, thank you. It took, six, seven months to get over, but it's gone.

KING: What was it?

LEWIS: Meningitis.

KING: Spinal?

LEWIS: No. No. It was viral meningitis that gets up into the meninges, into your brain, and it changes things for you.

KING: And you were in Australia when this happened, right? LEWIS: Yes, and I had to cancel the tour. I had done seven concerts. I had another 12 or 13, I'm not sure, on my end, we had to cancel, and I wound up in the hospital being treated for this terrible disease which they weren't sure what it was when I got there, and they tapped my spine and found that I had meningitis.

KING: What did it feel like? What does meningitis feel like?

LEWIS: Well, you fall down a lot.

KING: The first thing happened was you fell down?

LEWIS: Yes, pretty much. Double vision. You can't hear too well. You have no balance. You are constantly in about 200/160 blood pressure.

KING: What are you thinking it is, by the way, in the middle of your panic? What are you thinking something?

LEWIS: I thought it was having a stroke, I wasn't sure. It didn't feel like anything that I had ever remembered being anything near, and I'm told now that meningitis is a devastating sneaky kind of a thing that can happen to anybody anywhere, has nothing to do with geography, has nothing to do with your health, as it were.

KING: Nothing to do with being in Australia?

LEWIS: Oh, no, it had nothing to do with being in Australia.

KING: And you can get it any age.

LEWIS: Any age, any time, anywhere.

KING: And it can kill you, right?

LEWIS: Oh, yes, viral meningitis and spinal meningitis has been known to kill maybe one out of five patients.

KING: Now the touch and go part -- you weren't able to appear the full 24 hours, were you?

LEWIS: I don't know, Larry, honestly, how many I did, I can't remember.

KING: But you had to rest, right? They made you lie down? You couldn't do the complete telethon you used to do.

LEWIS: I rested after hour one, I rested after hour three, I rested after hour six for eight hours.

KING: What's the treatment?

LEWIS: The treatment is primarily getting your meninges back in place, and they have to be -- that's with drugs, and they have to be careful about how they deal with you, because there's one drug that will elevate the blood pressure, and then you're in stroke country. There's another drug that diminishes the blood pressure, allowing the other drug to go into the meninges. I mean, it is a monster.

KING: We are both members of the zipper club, having had the bypass surgery, you way before I did. Did that have any encumbrance in this disease? Did that have any effect, that fact that you were a heart patient?

LEWIS: No, not at all.

KING: Nor were they connected?

LEWIS: No, they are not connected, and they know that it is a separate. That's why they take the spinal tap. They must be clear that there's nothing else there. It mustn't encumber it. They can then deal with it. I had 12 days in the hospital where the nausea a was so bad I wanted to die. So I'm getting shots for the nausea while getting shots for dizziness, getting shots for the double vision. So finally, I came back, I did the telethon, and then Dr. DeBakey said, young man, you have to come here, because it's been lingering now. I finished the telethon September 5 or whatever, October, November, I'm still falling down. So, Michael called and said, you better come down here.

KING: Houston.

LEWIS: I went to Houston, and all of the 13 wonderful doctors on his service who had been working with me, they decided, let's put him to bed tonight with no medication. And I'm in Houston. I went to bed. Michael ordered no medication. I got up the next morning, like I was before I got sick. I was overly medicated. It went so far. I mean, I had brilliant men here in Los Angeles working with me. Dr. Wishner (ph), Stan Wishner, is a brilliant, brilliant physician. Then I had Dr. King Ingle (ph) here. Then I had the 13 in Houston. I had the six in Australia. I had four or three in Las Vegas. I mean, and they're all going at different places different ways, and Michael just said, let's stop it.

KING: And Lewis can never avoid controversy. There were stories that the bill wasn't paid, you thought the insurance -- so we always like to clear things up here. What happened?

LEWIS: Yes, it wasn't paid. I didn't know it wasn't paid, until the hospital was upset for a couple of months, and then let me know it wasn't paid. The minute I heard that, I threw a lawsuit at my insurance company for defamation of character. I said, what is that? I made a couple of million dollars in Australia and I can't pay $600 dollars of a hotel bill? What is it with you? So, I mean, all of the people in Australia knew better, because when I went back, they all kind of apologized that the hospital took that tact, and I was defending the hospital, I said, they did a beautiful job, they saved my life. We got it paid, but jeez.

KING: You have a new insurance company now.

LEWIS: I have a new insurance company ow, yes. It's called Wendy's.

KING: Why do you think you have always...

LEWIS: ... been controversial?

KING: Yes, why? I mean, you were funny. You always have been funny. You're a legend in American comedy. Why have you always been that border line edge of Jerry?

LEWIS: Oh, you better not work with him?

KING: Yes, what is it?

LEWIS: Well, you know.

KING: No, what is it, really?

LEWIS: Let me tell you that probably 50 percent of the film community plays a game and does their thing because they're prominent and they're making a lot of money, and what they do is they give up a piece of their soul, which I would give up, and for them, their comfortable, and they feel that's fine. It was never fine for me and I wouldn't go there. I told Louella Parsons I thought she was a fat pig, because I thought she was. I had an opinion.

KING: So you don't sell out?

LEWIS: Well, I don't know that it's selling out. I'm sure that I have. I'm sure that I've done things that I wasn't even aware wasn't within the integrity I was meant to live with.

KING: Your great friend Sinatra had the same problem.

LEWIS: Frank was absolutely the same. You see the people that have a point of view, and have an opinion and have some intellect are dangerous in the film community, they're dangerous. You want to know why Barbra Streisand is so difficult? Because she's brilliant. She's a brilliant entertainer, she's a brilliant lady, and she's a wonderful human being, and the community doesn't like it. They don't like it because she pinpoints how short-shrifted they are with qualities.

KING: We're just getting started. Jerry Lewis, 50 years of hosting the telethon. We'll ask how well it's done and how close we are to a cure for muscular dystrophy. We'll get some snapshots you won't believe of his young daughter. What's it like to be a father at an older age? And we're going to have some fun, too. And we'll take your calls.

Jerry Lewis for the hour. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Naughty, naughty, naughty -- teacher!.

LEWIS: Well, no, you shouldn't be upset. Worschevsky (ph), you're breaking my -- Worschevsky you're -- Worschevsky you must realize it. You must realize what you're doing. You don't realize what you're doing Worschevsky really. Worschevsky, you don't realize what you're doing.

Well, just don't do something, sit there. That is -- class dismissed! You may go.




JIM CARREY, ACTOR: I love Jerry Lewis, yes. I still like Jerry Lewis. I haven't met him.

KING: You never met Jerry Lewis?

CARREY: I hear he's trouble.

KING: You never met him?

CARREY: I never met him face to face. He said wonderful things about me, and I love Jerry Lewis. I think he did some of the most astounding film clowning of anybody in history.


KING: Nice?

LEWIS: That's very nice. I never saw that.

KING: He's one of those guys that -- the forerunner of Lewis, right? He's a genius.

LEWIS: Jim Carrey is probably the best exponent of moving his body and all of the attributes of anyone who has been in the business for a hundred years. I've never seen anyone with a sense of time for the physical element to work, as opposed to a great monologist, like Benny, who had a different time.

KING: Now you were both physical and verbal, right?


KING: Were you always that way as a kid?

LEWIS: Oh, yes, absolutely.

KING: So you always did the fall as well as the shtick?

LEWIS: And as well as the sound.

KING: You sang.

LEWIS: A lot of comics think visual works alone. Well, visual doesn't work alone. Visual works with a track. It works with the sound effect. It works with the track of the individual doing that, and it heightens it. Go a movie without sound. Go a movie without music. Go to a movie without all of these elements I'm talking about, they must be a part of the fabric.

KING: How did you find that person, that guy, that kid?

LEWIS: I had it right from school. I had him in the sixth, seventh grade.

KING: He was an extension of you? What was he? For example, you were a really good-looking guy, and people didn't know it, because with the hair sticking up? But how did you find him?

LEWIS: I found him through pain. And the pain was that I couldn't buy milk like the other kids in school at recess time.

KING: Why?

LEWIS: I couldn't afford it. Couldn't find a cookie and a milk, and you're sitting among 35 kids all having their milk and cookies, and you'd see one little girl that couldn't, one little boy that couldn't, and I couldn't. And the pain of that was such that I built my own little escape from that, and the way I escaped was with that wild noise. I wouldn't drink milk in this place if they said it's gold! And I passed that moment of pain through humor and making the kids laugh. The kids didn't know that I didn't have it. They only knew I was loud, and I -- at that point, we're in that recess mode, and they're figuring, well, he's able to go here and do what he wants now.

I used the same premise getting through school, because I couldn't afford the clothes to wear, my dad and mom were working burlesque. They were just about making what is was necessary enough to live. And Danny was a brilliant performer. And in burlesque, in the years I'm talking about, I think my dad was getting $35 a week. His costs to live were 15. That's food, hotel and laundry, and sent my mom 20. and we lived that way for four or five years.

KING: You're also criticized for that character of making fun of people. Wasn't that kind of borderline, too? Did you ever hear that, you know, that that character...

LEWIS: There was one newspaper man that used the word "spastic"?

KING: That's it. Who was that?

LEWIS: I don't really know who he was, but he was a hack and didn't know what he was talking about, and then there was an infectious development of a lot of our hacks that don't do their job, they read something in that paper and they pick it up, and it started to mount.

KING: You were making fun of a...

LEWIS: Making fun of a handicapped individual.

So one night, I was doing an NBC special for Oldsmobile. I had taken it up to here, and I said, folks, I'm going to do one of those serious wrap-ups to a program, I hope you'll bear with me and I'll hope you'll indulge me. I want you to know what I do. I do things that children do. I am always playing the 9-year-old, who's finding out that his hands do a variety of things, and his legs work funny and his back is part of this wonderful energy that he has. I'm doing children. How could I then be the national chairman for an organization that helps children that are handicapped and in trouble? Does it make any sense? Are you saying to me that I am a comic Jim Nabors, who does a comic sound hand and then sings like Luccini? I mean, what is it with you people? And then I show them physically what I do as a child with an imaginary mirror. Then I got all kinds of editorials of bravo, we didn't know, et cetera, et cetera.

But it sticks like a leech to the skin.

KING: You're still 9, right?

LEWIS: Oh, yes, I will cut your tie some night with a scissor.

KING: By the way, this tie I wear in your honor. It's a Save the Children Tie, and it's called "Dads." And it's children -- a child's drawing of fathers. This is in your honor.

LEWIS: And you're a mush.

KING: And you're a good guy.


And we'll be back with more of Jerry Lewis, your phone calls, too. Don't go away.


KING: Jerry Lewis will be 75 years old. He's been entertaining people on stages how long?

LEWIS: 68 years.

KING: 68 years. He's a child of show business. We'll talk about the telethon upcoming and lots other things, and we'll include your phone calls. But like yours truly, although I don't get personal, because he's the guest. Jerry is a father late. He had six grown boys, been married very happily, Samantha. And you have a little about daughter named?

LEWIS: Danielle (ph).

KING: She has how old now?

LEWIS: Eight. Came to me when I was 66.

KING: Same -- there she is.

LEWIS: Oh god almighty.

KING: Now, let's see Danielle on a horse. LEWIS: Watch the way she sits. Well, that's her outfit when she rides. But you want to see a child that sits a horse that hadn't been on it two weeks before this photograph.

KING: You're proud of her?

LEWIS: What?

KING: OK. What's it like?

LEWIS: Well, it likes this.

KING: A daughter. Never had a daughter.

LEWIS: No, never had a daughter. But it's like this. I feel a self-esteem in that she's mine that I can't even expound on.

She is the air in my lungs. I am so smitten and so in love that I don't understand how I'm about going get through it.

KING: Yeah, I know the feeling.

LEWIS: I mean, it takes -- I hope it happens to every father. But I think it happens to a father who is older who gets some degree of wisdom, because when we are younger, you know, we just go for the shot and that's it. But the wisdom that you have -- and when she puts her arms around my neck: I love you daddy -- or if, when she looks at me, and I do something silly, and that glow of laughter comes upon her face, I think to myself: I've had 68 years. I have played to two- billion people all over the world.

They have laughed at my nonsense, and some have not. But when she laughs, I have finally gotten the commendation and the pride and the total satisfaction of my whole career, when she laughs at something I do.

KING: When she sees her father work, what is her reaction?

LEWIS: She is very interested in what I do. And then, she will ask me about why the silly as opposed to nice, and how I juggle those two things. And she says: At the end of the show, daddy, you sing a lovely song to the children, it's wonderful. But when you're very silly earlier, I get nervous, because maybe they made think you're crazy.

And I say: Well, I am crazy, darling. And she's kind of shy. She doesn't like if I introduce her. But now since she's met Britney Spears, she's starting to move forward a little bit. Daddy, what telethon you think I could perform? I said: Well, you're not ready this year, kid, I'll tell you that.

KING: Would you mind if she were a performer?

LEWIS: I would encourage her to the death -- absolutely.

KING: And why not? LEWIS: Well, you know, the postman that says to his son: I don't want you to do that is because the postman never had a good time doing it. He doesn't want his child to be burdened with that job. But when the father says: I want you to do what I've done, because if you can get the joy that I've gotten out it, what more would I want for my child?

KING: Now, you still do crazy things. You were telling us during the break, you walked out Neiman Marcus the other day, a lady walked in, and you sang to her.

LEWIS: Yeah, she just noticed me. And in this mob of people, she just looked, and you know when someone knows who you are. And I just looked at her and I sang:

(singing): No, never in spring time, summer, winter, or fall.

And then I kissed her and I walked away. All of those people were hysterical. And she did a little look like: I knew he was nuts. It was wonderful. It's wonderful.

KING: We will be back with more of Jerry Lewis. And we'll talk about MD right after this.


LEWIS: You know that we are going to do a show for you now: 20 hours, coast-to-coast? You know that?


LEWIS: OK. Now, let's see if we can get the people out there to love you, too.




LEWIS: Holly Schmidt (ph) is 9 years old.




LEWIS: Matthew Brown (ph), the national poster child of 1977.




RAY CHARLES, MUSICIAN (singing): Take me on home! Let's go on home! Let's go on home!

LEWIS (singing): Ah! Ah!

Ray Charles!


KING: Everybody in the world appeared in that telethon.

You were smoking then, Jerry.

LEWIS: Yes, it looks ridiculous.

KING: Four packs a day.

LEWIS: Four or five packs a day, yes.

KING: You never stopped.

All right, MD...


KING: We hear it every year. And every year, you tell us we are closer and closer. It's been -- this will be the 50th year. How close?

LEWIS: Well, first of all, I never referred to it as MD, because I think it's too important to abbreviate. I always say muscular dystrophy. And I will correct people -- whether they are friends or they're strangers -- that I think it's worth giving it that. You know that I have never said television -- I have never said TV in an interview, on the air, or all of the years that I've worked. I always say television. What takes so long?

Why can't you give this miracle its due and pronounce its name? Oh, yeah, did you see TV last night? It just kills me. TV? You want to talk about 1924, when the Russians and the English were fighting to build the cathode tube? Give it its right. Call it television.

KING: It's muscular dystrophy.

LEWIS: Right. OK.

KING: And?

LEWIS: We have raised to date, I'm happy to announce, $1.7 billion. In that time, we have been able to identify genes that are going to give us the cure. We are so involved now in the research dollars going to DNA and genetic engineering that they are telling me, in my lifetime, I'm going to see the cure. It's marvelous.

I can tell you where we were 45 years ago when a dystrophic was diagnosed with duchenne or any number of the 40 dystrophies. And we knew that he had a year. My kids today have 20 years. I mean, that's a tremendous, tremendous -- an unbelievable growth that we've had in that period of time.

KING: What is going to -- the key is this DNA and the stem cells?

LEWIS: Well, the stem cells and DNA is very, very important. But we also have to remember that this disease has been on the Earth for thousands of years in a variety of guises -- always named something else. It could have been Yellow Plague, it could have been small pox, it could have been Black Plague.

So we are really dealing with it over a matter of many thousands of years. And I only created the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1949. We were only in it 51 years. In 51 years, we've been able to make the kind of growth, because of the American people that are there with me. That's incredible.

I mean, this goes far -- this goes back to 1586, when da Vinci found that there was muscle destruction and deterioration because of some reason. And he even talked about what we went through with getting somebody plasma florisis (ph) -- which flushes out the bad blood, flushes in new blood -- he discussed it in 1500-something.

So we were at it a very short amount of time.

KING: You had no idea it would get this big, did you?

LEWIS: No, I never thought it would get this big. I only wanted to bring the attention of the country that there a couple-of-million people that need us --- and a couple million. When you recognize that life in an individual -- our cameraman, our young lady here -- that's a life.

Do we go through the every day and just dream and wish and think and do and eat and sleep, and not recognize what we are?

KING: When you watch some clips that we'll see -- a telethon of 30 years ago and you're talking to a little boy -- that boy is gone now.

LEWIS: Oh, sure.

KING: You've lost a lot -- all these kids are gone.

LEWIS: I've lost a lot of them. But I've maintained a lot of them, too. And the beautiful part about them is when they get the disease, their mind becomes open, free, clear. And then children try to make you feel better because of their plight.

KING: We will be back with more of Jerry Lewis' 50th year of hosting the telethon. It is Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern.

For 24 hours?


KING: We'll be right back. We'll include phone calls. Lots of other things to talk about.

Don't go away.


ED MCMAHON, TALK SHOW PERSONALITY: Can you hear the thunder?

LEWIS: Yeah, what are you doing?

MCMAHON: Want to see the lightning?

LEWIS: Yeah, let me see. Let me see.

MCMAHON: Look at this.

LEWIS: Holy geez. Oh! Oh! Oh! Holy crap! Oh yeah, that's a dollar more.




FRANK SINATRA, MUSICIAN: I have a friend who loves what you do every year, and who just wanted to come out. Would you would send my friend out, please? Where is he? Will you send him out here? Come here.


All right. All right. Break it up! Break it up! What is this here? Break it up.


I think it's about time, don't you?




KING: Frank did that, right?

LEWIS: Yes. He put it together.

KING: What was that like? You hadn't seen or talked in...

LEWIS: We hadn't talked in 20 years, or seen one another. And Frank...

KING: You had no idea?

LEWIS: I was the only one that had no idea. That's why it was so -- it was so disarming, because every one of my crew and staff, some 700 people, knew. Now you figure, no one's going, in that amount of people, are going to keep their mouths shut, but they did. Frank said here's what we're doing, and they paid attention. And he got it on. And he brought him out on that stage.

Now, you've got to remember something. There's something very noble about the fact that Dean came on my turf not knowing what I might do in any way to humiliate him or otherwise. Well, he knows me well enough. He knew that could never happen. So he was kind of comfortable about coming.

But I wrote him a love letter the next day about the courage that it took and how wonderful it and how happy I was we got together again.

KING: How smart of Frank.

LEWIS: And Frank...

KING: Was smart to do that.

LEWIS: Oh, god, he was incredible, man, incredible. He did that kind of stuff; nobody ever knew.

KING: And when you look at that, both of them are gone, how does it make you feel?

LEWIS: Makes me feel that they screwed me.


KING: Shouldn't have left.

LEWIS: No, absolutely not, because there was so much more in them, so much more to give, and so much more to do. Except with Dean...

KING: He lost it when his child died, didn't he?

LEWIS: I had to bless God for taking him, because...

KING: He had stopped wanting to live.

LEWIS: ... he lost his life when Deano was killed. And I cannot acknowledge, although I am the national chairman of an organization that brings me death all the time, I still can't -- I can't get my mind to understand how do you lose a child. How do you go on breathing, living or brushing your teeth or driving a car. When my Danny (ph) gets a splinter and I go to heat up the pliers, the tweezers and I start to take it out, if she goes the slightest, "Oh, Daddy," oh, Jesus Christ, I'm going to go to ICU. I can't handle that "Oh, Daddy."

Or "Daddy, could you please help me?" "What, sweetheart." "I have this booboo here." Oh, Christ, I'm ready to call DeBakey and fly her to Houston. You know, I'm a maniac. KING: So the loss of a child -- and so Dean never was the same.

LEWIS: No, he was never the same. I talked to him the night of the funeral, and I heard it in his voice, I heard him say to me, it's over. And I knew it.

KING: You signed a 20-year deal with the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Vegas.


KING: All right. That means you will perform until you are...

LEWIS: 94.

KING: 94.

LEWIS: 94. But there's a very important, very important clause in the contract...

KING: Which says?

LEWIS: ... that testifies, if I perform at 94, I can work with a walker.


KING: How did this deal come about?

LEWIS: Michael Garn (ph), who's one of the nicest people in the world, who runs a great organization -- he's just building a new place, Sun Coast. But what he's done with Orleans and Barbary Coast and Santa Fe, and everything he touches, he works for the people in the community. He loves his people in his town.

KING: Vegas.

LEWIS: And he does everything to give them pleasure.

Well, when I played the first engagement for Michael, he said, "You know, the local people here are so thrilled that somebody that lives among them wants to come and perform for them." I said, "Michael, let's arrange it that they have it the rest of their life." Well, he took this thought and put it together in a contract and offered it to me. He said, "Can we do this?" I said, "If the numbers are right, you got me."

KING: You get a cut of all "The Nutty Professor" things.

LEWIS: You bet.

KING: It's your baby. Your executive producer of the...

LEWIS: I am.

KING: What do you make of what he's done with it? LEWIS: I think he's -- he's brilliant. Eddie Murphy is one of the most brilliant comedians we have in the world. And when he takes his notion and rolls it into a wonderful softball and bowls it at you, he's incredible.

KING: Let's take some calls for Jerry Lewis. St. Louis, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Jerry, when I was 7 years old, I heard you do your thing about one hand, two ducks.


CALLER: For some reason or other, I only heard that once or twice and I still remember it to this day. Where did you first hear that? And could you do it for us tonight?

LEWIS: Well, I first heard it at NBC when I was substituting for Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon decided he was going to teach me the announcer's test. The announcer's test is given to anyone in radio or television who wants to be specifically announcer. And it involves retention, memory, repetition, enunciation. It involves diction. And it involves 10 factors that use every alphabet letter in the alphabet a variety of times.

You want me to do it for you?

KING: Yes, go.


One hen.

One hen; two ducks.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises; six pairs of Don Alversos tweezers.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises; six pairs of Don Alversos tweezers; 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises; six pairs of Don Alversos tweezers; 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array; eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises; six pairs of Don Alversos tweezers; 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array; eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt; nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth.

One hen; two ducks; three squawking geese; four Limerick oysters; five corpulent porpoises; six pairs of Don Alversos tweezers; 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array; eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt; nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity toward procrastination and sloth; 10 lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who hall stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.


KING: We'll be back. Following these words.


SINATRA (singing): The sun comes shining through.

MARTIN (singing): But when you're crying...

SINATRA (singing): What happens then, baby?

MARTIN (singing): Bring on the rain.

SINATRA (singing): Stop your sighing. Be happy again.

MARTIN & SINATRA (singing): Because when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you.


LEWIS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.




MARTIN: Go like this.


LEWIS: Maybe I didn't hear you correctly. What is that?


MARTIN: Keep doing it. Repeat it. Go ahead.


(singing): There's a song in the air but the fair senorita really doesn't care for that song in the air. So I'll sing to the mule if you're sure she won't think that I'm just a fool, serenading a mule.


KING: Why did you not talk for 20 years?

LEWIS: I think we didn't talk because we were angry at one another for allowing the split to happen.

KING: At each, at each other.


KING: You blamed him, he blamed you?

LEWIS: No, I blamed me, and he blamed me.

KING: So you were wrong?

LEWIS: No, I was right.

KING: You mean you were right to break it up?

LEWIS: Because it was necessary to give him some air.

KING: He got bigger.

LEWIS: Of course. You see my love of what I wrote was nothing more creative or productive of something you create and then watch it unveil in front of you. What I write -- what I wrote was slapstick.

The title -- I'm sorry. Leo Rosten (ph) wrote it in "Life" magazine. I had written a singer -- a handsome singer and a monkey, sex and slapstick. And I knew I had lightning in a bottle once we started to do it.

KING: Yes, you did.

LEWIS: When he had hit the nine-year mark, and we were starting to get outside factions telling him he didn't need me, telling me I didn't need him, which I mean I saw them coming 4 1/2 years before, they had no bearing on it. What had a bearing on it was that I knew that he was sucking hind tit for 10 years: Jerry this, Jerry that, Jerry's the writer, he created the act, Jerry's the businessman, Jerry makes the deals, Dean plays golf. It's unfair because...

KING: He could also sing and he was very fun

LEWIS: You bet. And if I didn't do it all, Dean would have done it. It's that simple, and would have been very qualified. Bet he needed to get out on his own. And I was -- I was hamstrung, too. I needed to do other things.

KING: Did you speak to him before he died?

LEWIS: Oh, yes. Oh, god yes.

KING: Because he used to go to this restaurant and sit alone every night.

LEWIS: Yes, I saw him there. We had a drink together.

KING: He would just sit there every night. Order a meal, no one...

LEWIS: Just stare straight ahead.

KING: All that over the death of the boy.

LEWIS: You bet. You bet. Big time. It was like seeing someone die walking, waiting for the final call.

KING: Birmingham, Alabama, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Jerry. Our favorite classic movie is "The Nutty Professor."

LEWIS: Thank you.

CALLER: How did you come up with the character of Professor Kelp?

LEWIS: Well, I was always in love with that kind of a character, who was terribly vulnerable and free-flowing kind of a human being who just didn't recognize that there were social graces, as it were, and I loved the character, because it was so much of me in it.

KING: Did you think that movie was important when you made it?


KING: You did?

LEWIS: Yes, I did.

KING: So you were close enough to it to say...

LEWIS: Well, every director dreams of doing the one work that's his body of work.

KING: That's it.

LEWIS: People like Billy Wilder and Willy Wyler (ph) that did seven, they're freaks. We are the ones that are bright; we get one good work. It's like when Dean said to me: "Hey, I've been on television and you've been on television. You were on seven times, and I've been stuck with one show."

KING: Ocala, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hello?

KING: Go ahead.

LEWIS: Hello. CALLER: Jerry?


CALLER: Hi. My name's Vicki (ph)...

LEWIS: Vicki.

CALLER: ... and I have had many, many heart attacks.

LEWIS: You had many heart attacks?

CALLER: I've had many heart attacks.

LEWIS: You having one now?

CALLER: I'm about to, since I'm talking to you. I'm almost hysterical.

LEWIS: No, I'm only teasing. I hope you're OK.

CALLER: Oh, I'm OK. I'm OK. Thank you very much.

KING: What's your question, dear?

CALLER: I want to know how you quit smoking.

LEWIS: I quit smoking when I looked down and saw that they opened my chest with a Black & Decker.

KING: Me too. Black & Decker.

LEWIS: I decided I shall never do that again because that's what put me in that operating room.

KING: Don't you regret having ever smoked the first one?

LEWIS: Oh god, I don't know what the hell -- five packs a day. I didn't understand it.

KING: Dean too.

LEWIS: Dean too. But I quit -- see, I had some help. I ate these little seven calorie coffee candies. I'm happy to announce I got lock jaw and diabetes from the damn candy.


KING: We'll be back with more of Jerry Lewis, his 50th year of hosting. The Muscular Dystrophy Telethon is Sunday night, seen everywhere. We'll be right back.


LEWIS: Anybody who's looking at this great show tonight from coast-to-coast, for the gentleman who will donate $100,000 -- really -- to this great cause, I will marry his wife on this stage tonight.





MILTON BERLE, ENTERTAINER: Henny Youngman, I didn't hear from him.


Do I know Henny Youngman, the king of the one-liners? Because the dummy can't remember two.


He's the one that keeps saying, "Take my wife, please." Little did he know everybody did.





RED BUTTONS, ENTERTAINER: Moses who said to the children of Israel: "Wear your galoshes. I never did this trick before."

Never, never, Jerry, did a telethon. Flash Gordon, who said, "No, that's not how I got my name."


And he -- and he never did a telethon.


KING: I would be remiss if I did not ask -- what went on when you criticized women in comedy?

LEWIS: Nothing went on. I didn't do that.

KING: What happened? Well, here's what they -- "I don't think women are funny," you said.

LEWIS: I never said that.

KING: That was a misquote?

LEWIS: Absolutely. Do you want to run the tape?

KING: I don't have the tape.

LEWIS: I have it, and I said, "Some women comedians make me uncomfortable," because a man comedian can do anything he wants and I'm not offended by it. But we're talking about a God-given miracle who produces a child. I have a difficult time seeing her do this on stage.

But you've got to remember something: The press after Aspen got even, because for 50 years I had told them what I thought of them. I made those opinions very clear and open that we talked about earlier. I had a point of view. I would not succumb to their dastardly conduct. But I have friends like Mike Wallace, who is a classy journalist.

All these journalists that I have been working on, who deserved it, said: Well, we'll get him now. And did they get me now. And I had to sit back I couldn't get...

KING: Now, we called you, and I said: Well, come here and tell me what happened. And you didn't.

LEWIS: No, I didn't.

KING: Why not?

LEWIS: Why? Why?

KING: Because...

LEWIS: I knew in my heart what I did was...

KING: No comment is affirmation.

LEWIS: Well -- and sometimes no comment is a very respectful way to go. You know, I always thought that if I ever go and defend my conduct that I believed was proper in the first place, that bastardizes my whole being. You see, all of the ethnic, all of the good will that I believe that I give with my opinions, I uplift people with it.

People want to know somebody has a noble point of view. People want to know that somebody won't give in. I won't.

KING: So you are only criticizing women when they do unwomanly things. You weren't criticizing Whoopi Goldberg or...

LEWIS: No, you want to talk about -- you want to talk about Lucille Ball, Whoopi Goldberg, you talk about -- I got...

KING: Martha Ray, Phyllis Diller.

LEWIS: I got Phyllis Diller on the telethon this year. I mean, there's nobody better in the business than Phyllis. And anyone that would have made that statement should have been destroyed. I said very clearly -- and it is on the tape in the Martin Short interview -- some comedians that are females make me uncomfortable. Why? Because I'm mid-Victorian, old-fashioned. And I just think -- I still open doors for ladies. I still move a seat under for a lady. And my wife gets the kind of glorious attention that a lady is entitled to. OK?

KING: By the way, I mentioned it's 50 years of telethons. It's 50 years as national chairman, right?

LEWIS: Correct.

KING: You -- this is your 50th year as national chair of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

LEWIS: Right.

KING: The telethon is Sunday night.

Back with our remaining moments with Jerry Lewis after this.


LEWIS: I'm ready to kick ass. The devil with them. I'll go without clearing. Engine one. Two. Engine three! Ha, ha, ha!



KING: You'll see him Sunday night. He's healthy enough. He's going to be on all the way right?


KING: No time off in this one.

LEWIS: Well, a little.

KING: Millington, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Jerry.

LEWIS: Yes, ma'am.

CALLER: I was watching television this afternoon and caught one of your classic on American Movie Channel -- had my two-year-old grandson with me. He was laughing hysterically at you.

KING: The "Delinquent" movie, right?

CALLER: He was glued to the TV.

LEWIS: Was it "Delegate Delinquent."

KING: Yes, it was "Delegate Delinquent."

CALLER: Yes, it was. And he was laughing hysterically. (CROSSTALK)

KING: What's your question. It's funny.

CALLER: My question is...

LEWIS: Your two-year-old was watching it along side of Larry King, who was watching it. What's your question, honey?

CALLER: When are you going to make another movie for us? We love you.

LEWIS: Well, thank you. I'm in the preparation of releasing three films in the next year-and-a-half: two remakes of films that I made and a film called "Truffles," which I will direct. And I'm hopefully going to get one of the great artists like -- well, my favorite in the world of course -- Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Kevin Klein, the kind of wonderful character actor and wonderful comedian that can play this exciting script. And I'm very happy about that.

KING: You made a great black-and-white comedy once called "The Bellhop."

LEWIS: "The Bellboy."

KING: Shot -- "The Bellboy" -- in Miami Beach.

LEWIS: "Bellboy," right.

KING: Pahrump -- last call -- Pahrump, Nevada.

LEWIS: Yeah, that's next to Las Vegas.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Jerry.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: Hello, Pahrump.

CALLER: Hi, I just wanted to thank Jerry Lewis. My son had died of muscular dystrophy. And I want to thank him for all the help and work he has put into this so long.

KING: How old was your boy, ma'am?

CALLER: He died when he was 38.

KING: He lived to 38.

CALLER: They didn't expect him to live until he was 13 or 15.

LEWIS: What did he have, honey? CALLER: Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

LEWIS: Oh, well he had the cancer of all the dystrophies.

CALLER: I know he did.

LEWIS: Yeah, well, I'll tell you what. If he had a good life up to the time he went, you should feel kind of good about that, while at the same time, you should remember that the results of what happened to him are very often used by us in research today. And they go a long way in helping children who are in that trouble now.

KING: But if he was supposed to die at 13 and lived to 38 -- bought him a lot of years, there.

LEWIS: Well, that is part of what we were able to do in research, of course.

KING: And you are convinced, before you depart this planet.,.

LEWIS: Oh, yeah.

KING: ... you will see a cure.

LEWIS: Oh, without question. I know it. I feel it. I go after it with a kind of passion, because I know it is there for me to just touch.

KING: Say good tonight, Jerry.

LEWIS: Good night, Larry.

KING: Night, Jerry.

LEWIS: Good night, Larry.

KING: Good night, Jerry.

LEWIS: You are one of my favorite Kings. The King Sisters were nothing.

KING: Tomorrow night, we will repeat our interview with the ageless Art Linkletter -- makes Jerry Lewis look like a teenager. And Monday night, Leeza Gibbons will be with us.

Thanks very much for joining us. For the whole crew here, for Jerry Lewis -- the telethon is Sunday -- good night.


LEWIS: Thank you. Good night.




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