Comedian Jerry Lewis died this morning at age 91. I never thought he was very funny, although I do think his care for children with muscular dystrophy was authentic, if not misguided. I recall reports about discrepancies between money pledged and money collected, and then, questions about how much money actually went for the cause for which it was raised. And, I remember reports that the muscular dystrophy community thought that the campaign revolved more around pity than anything else. Remember – it was called “jerry’s Kids.”
Since this is a book blog, in searching through Amazon.com, there are surprisingly few books about him. And, don’t get confused – there are more books about Jerry Lee Lewis, and that is not the same person.
But, there are a few. Here is information about two of them.
More books about Lewis exist about his relationship with Dean Martin, and the two of them made hit films for more than ten years. He wrote one himself, Dean and Me (A Love Story), with James Kaplan (Three Rivers Press, 2006). If you peruse through the different Amazon. com listings, you will find several books about their relationship, and I remember at least one made for television movie focusing upon it. This one is probably the most interesting, however, because it came from Lewis himself. Whether accurate or not, the cover claims it is a New York Times bestseller.
His own autobiography, Jerry Lewis: In Person, was published with Herb Gluck in 1982 (Atheneum). Likely due to his death today, sales of that book have spiked, and tonight stand in the top 100 of two Amazon.com best-selling categories.
Personally, I only had peripheral involvement. In 1975, the Texas DeMolay Association sponsored a year-long campaign to raise funds for his MD telethon. I was in my first year as an adult advisor at the time. We sent the top fund-raiser, Gary Whitley from Grand Prairie Chapter, to the national telecast in Las Vegas to present Lewis the check. I doubt Lewis had ever heard of DeMolay, but accepted the check live on the air with gratitude.
Again, I don’t think he was funny. And, at best, he was a mediocre interviewer and show host. But, obviously, enough people saw him differently to support a very successful career.