Jerry Lewis' MDA telethon status gets nutty
It's becoming a story right out of a Jerry Lewis routine.
The comedian, who was unceremoniously relieved of his duties as host of the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon two weeks ago, seemed poised to reclaim those host duties, at least according to a Sunday gossip column in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The column, written by longtime city reporter Norm Clarke, said that "Comedy king Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association have made peace," going on to say that "[I]n a stunning reversal, Lewis was reinstated Saturday to the MDA Labor Day Telethon he has hosted since 1966," attributing the information to "a source close to Lewis."
But late Sunday Clarke sent a tweet that appeared to recant the story ."A source told Vegas Confidential that Lewis had been 'reinstated,' " Clarke wrote. "The source clarified that today, saying he meant reconciled."
Clarke's muddled retraction comes after a period of denial and confusion.
Reached just before noon, Lewis spokeswoman Nancy Kane told Show Tracker she had not heard anything of the news and would reach out to her client to confirm; she has since been unavailable. A second Lewis spokeswoman, Candi Cazau, then told Reuters that the report was untrue. "Him being reinstated as the host of the MDA telethon is not accurate," she said. Clarke would later also tweet a denial from an unnamed Lewis publicist.
Meanwhile, multiple calls to an MDA spokesman went unreturned, in what amounted to a strange turn for an organization that had allegedly made peace with the performer.
Clarke's report came after the 85-year-old Lewis turned out to receive an award at the Nevada Broadcasters Association gala in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Lewis himself made no reference to the MDA controversy in accepting the honor.
As remote as it seems, a reinstatement or even reconciliation would've saved face for the organization, which came under withering criticism from the comedy community this month when it severed ties with Lewis and reversed an earlier decision to make this Labor Day weekend telethon his last. That news suggested Lewis would leave the telethon he hosted for 45 years quietly, but the developments on Sunday ensured that at least the exit would not happen with some noise and maybe even a few pratfalls.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jerry Lewis at TCA '11. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters