WHO IS JERRY LEWIS?
DISCOVER WHO JERRY IS FROM HIS OWN MOUTH
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Birth Name: Joseph Levitch
(He's also listed as Jerome on some early government forms.)
Birthdate: March 16, 1926
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey
Occupations: Comedian, filmmaker, professional fundraiser
Quote: "You got to kill me to stop me."
Claim to Fame: Comedy team of Martin & Lewis, over-the-top comedy performances in dozens of films, legendary Jerry Lewis telethons to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association
Wife: Patti Palmer; married October 3, 1944, divorced September 1980
Wife: SanDee Pitnick; married February 13, 1983
Father: Daniel Levitch (Danny Lewis), vaudeville singer and comedian
Mother: Rae Brodsky, singer and pianist
Son: Ronald Lewis; adopted July 1950 with Patti Palmer
Son: Scott; born February 1956 to Patti Palmer
Son: Christopher Joseph; born October 1957 to Patti Palmer
Son: Anthony; born October 1959 to Patti Palmer
Son: Joseph; born January 1964 to Patti Palmer
Daughter: Danielle Sarah; adopted March 1992 with SanDee Pitnick
Commander in the French Order of Arts and Letters
Inducted into France's Legion of Honor
Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his work with muscular dystrophy
Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Comedy Awards in 1998
The Jerry Lewis Story
1926: During his difficult birth on March 16, doctors give his mother so much ether that he's born asleep. His grandmother rushes him away, baby Joseph eventually wakes up, and everything is fine.
1931: Little Jerry first appears onstage at age five. He accidentally slips and breaks a footlight, then he falls down. He gets a huge laugh.
1939: At age 13, he gets expelled from school after he punches his principal for making an anti-Semitic remark.
1941: At age 15, he perfects a comedy routine in which he lip-synchs to albums played offstage.
1946: He meets a singer named Dean Martin in the Belmont Hotel in Manhattan. At first, they appear on the same bills but not as a team.
An Atlantic City club owner, unhappy with the double bill of a singing Dean Martin and funny Jerry Lewis, asks for more laughs. The two combine their shows, up the yuks, and a legendary team is born.
Lewis put lifts into Dean's shoes so that he would appear more diminutive and youthful when he stood next to the singer.
1949: The film My Friend Irma is the movie debut of Martin & Lewis. Lewis likes Hollywood filmmaking equipment so much that he opens a camera store in Los Angeles.
1951: Lewis begins his annual appeals for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. At this time, the condition is not well-known, and he has never revealed why he chose muscular dystrophy over all other diseases.
In the same year, Martin & Lewis' Sailor Beware is James Dean's film debut.
1952: DC Comics publishes a 40-issue run of The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comic books.
1956: Martin & Lewis make their last joint performance on July 24, 10 years to the day after they first appeared together.
Also, Lewis hosts the Academy Awards ceremony for the first time. He does it again in 1957 and 1959.
1958: Lewis signs a deal with Paramount to make 14 films in seven years for $10 million. Between from 1950-1956, Martin & Lewis are the top box-office draw in Hollywood. A solo Jerry Lewis is the top draw in 1957, 1959 and from 1961-1964.
1960: While writing, directing and starring in The Bellboy, Lewis adds a small television monitor to the camera so he can watch instant playback of his own performances. The invention, called video-assist, revolutionizes how movies are made and earns Lewis a patent.
While making Cinderfella, Lewis rushes up a huge staircase, taxes his heart and lands in the hospital.
1964: Lewis stars in The Disorderly Orderly. A travel agency in the film has a poster that reads "TWA movie-in-flight: Jerry Lewis in The Disorderly Orderly."
1965: Lewis finishes a show at the Sands casino in Las Vegas with a flip off of a piano into splits. He lands hard, cracks his spinal column and suffers temporary paralysis. Doctors prescribe Percodan for the pain, and Lewis is soon addicted to the drug.
1969: Lewis teaches a night class on film at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television. His students include Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
1972: Lewis finances, films and stars in The Day the Clown Cried, a Holocaust movie about a clown tasked with leading children into the gas chambers. Partially because the filmmakers never actually had the rights to the script, the movie is never released. Lewis refuses to discuss the film, which the few who have seen it describe as shockingly bad and wrong in every way.
1976: Frank Sinatra surprises Lewis by bringing Martin onto the stage of the muscular dystrophy telethon. Martin and Lewis have not shared a stage in 20 years.
1978: Lewis makes a visit to his friend, Dr. Michael Debakey. While there, Lewis collapses and starts bleeding. He is rushed into surgery, where doctors find a giant ulcer. The pain of the ulcer went undetected because of Lewis' addiction to the painkillers.
1982: In December, Lewis suffers a massive heart attack and undergoes a bypass.
1984: In January, Lewis receives France's highest cultural honor when he is named a commander in the French Order of Arts and Letters. Two months later, he is inducted into France's Legion of Honor for his charity work.
1987: Lewis secretly attends the funeral of Martin's son, who died in a military plane crash in California. Martin calls him later that night to thank him.
Lewis begins to receive criticism for his longtime work with muscular dystrophy. Critics accuse him of portraying those who have the disease as pitiful and childlike.
1992: Lewis is diagnosed with prostate cancer.
1995: Lewis appears on Broadway as the devil in a revival of Damn Yankees.
That same year, a man named Gary Benson is sentenced to six years in prison for the aggravated stalking of Lewis. Benson dies in prison.
1999: Lewis contracts viral meningitis while in Australia. He cancels concert dates and reduces his onscreen time for the telethon.
2000: Lewis causes a stink when he says that while there are many female comedians whom he respects, the ones who use raw language and material make him uncomfortable because a woman is a "God-given miracle who produces a child." He has no problem with men doing the same material.
2001: Lewis is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs. Prednisone, the steroid he is prescribed to treat the condition, also intensifies the pain from his spinal injury.
Prednisone also causes a dramatic 52-pound weight gain. Despite his appearance, he goes ahead with his telethon as planned.
2002: In April, Lewis has a remote-controlled, battery-powered device implanted near his spine that finally eases his longtime back pain--pain caused by years and years of pratfalls.
The 52nd Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day telecast raises about $58 million. Since the start of the telethon, Lewis and his parade of celebrity entertainers have helped to raise more than $1.8 billion for the charity.
2003: The Simpsons' Professor John Frink (voiced by Hank Azaria) is essentially a replica of Lewis' Julius Kelp character from the original Nutty Professor--in season 14 of the show, Lewis voices Frink's father.