March 12, 1997

Taking notes on nutty professor

Toronto Sun
THE VERY JERRY: In all seriousness as a comedian, Jerry Lewis held court yesterday at the King Edward Hotel. He was trying for happy-face nice, promoting his appearance in Damn Yankees, opening tonight at the Hummingbird Centre.
But he still managed to reveal his serious clown decked out in his trademark Argyle V-neck sweater straight off the sale rack of a Beverly Hills golf pro shop.
His favorite target was Howard Stern, who apparently isn't funny, and Jerry Lewis wannabe Jim Carrey, who apparently is.
And don't pick on over-paid ball players, he also suggested, in many more words.
Meanwhile, what did he think of Eddie Murphy's Nutty Professor remake? Lewis thinks he is very rich thanks to an executive producer title which earned him "financial pleasure."
Besides that, Lewis used his 67 years in showbiz to define terms.
"Theatre is life," said Lewis. "Film is art. Television is furniture." Radio wasn't included, but I'm betting it's bed linen.
Other than that, he didn't do one "Hey, lady." Although he did stick a water glass in his mouth, proving that you just can't teach that Jerry Lewis kind of comedy thing.
March 11, 1997

Jerry Lewis having a devil of a time

The devil in Lewis helped him conquer broadway with Damn Yankees


By JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun
The "delicate delinquent" Jerry Lewis turns 71 Sunday, though he says he stopped counting at nine. He's looked death in the eye and is having the time of his life. But let him tell you that.
"I'm having the time of my life!" he barks. "How many times do I have to tell you that?"
Star of the touring Broadway musical Damn Yankees, and the very embodiment of showbiz, Jerry Lewis is on the phone from a Detroit-area hotel, not apparently having the time of his life. Although, maybe he is. I've seen his eye gleam when he gives the press the backhand.
Once before when I asked him a question, the answer made headlines all over North America. It was 12 years ago. Jerry had played a Just For Laughs Festival gala in Montreal, and was holding a next-day press conference. I'd grabbed two French papers and one English, and scanned the reviews. The French called him a genius, the English review was a pan. So I asked about the reviews.
Instead of praising the French, he slagged the female reviewer from the Gazette, blaming the review on her period. Being a slow news day, the wires ran with it.
"But the thing is you remember that," says Jerry, when I remind him of it. "I don't walk through life tiptoeing. I regret nothing. I only regret things I did not do."
Like what? "Going to the moon. That's about it."
The play is Damn Yankees, a 1955 musical about a baseball team that sells its soul to the Devil. It starts five nights at the Hummingbird Centre tomorrow, and Jerry plays the Devil. "But this is a mischievous Devil. I've been playing the part for 65 years, kid. It comes easy."
You dance a lot in this. Was it hard to get in shape?
"Why would it be? I've sung and danced through my whole career."
But maybe your legs aren't as young as they used to be.
"Your legs are as young as you make 'em pal."
Well, it's great that you're so robust -- considering there was a time when your health was a concern.
"I'm having the best time of my life. I don't believe in retirement. If you retire your brains go, your body goes, you sit on the couch and you roll over and you die."
In fact, you did die. You had an out of body experience.
"Yup, I've got five lives left..."
Five? Well, I remember the heart thing...
"The heart thing? THE HEART THING? You are insensitive. Heart failure is no joke. They opened up my chest with a Black & Decker! That's not a thing."
I decide not to ask about his prostate surgery.
The past is somewhere Jerry won't go in a half-hour phone interview. He will say that he and his old partner Dean Martin "had great closure" before his recent death. "It was wonderful, we had the best relationship in his last year that we ever had." Even when they weren't speaking, he says, "We loved one another more than any two men ever loved one another in their lives -- period."
Better to talk about now. His second wife SanDee and his five-year-old daughter Danielle have been with him at every whistle stop. Do they enjoy it? "If they didn't, we wouldn't be doing it. Las Vegas is home. I haven't seen it in two years, but we love it. I'll see it again when we shut the show down for the MDA Telethon."
His greatest accomplishment? "My daughter." Which is not to slight what he's done for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. "It's a huge thing, a billion, six hundred million worth of huge -- total over 48 years."
Is it bittersweet that you've done so much and yet there's still no cure?
"No. The research is incredible. It says there'll be a cure for this insidious disease. I hope to live to see it."
Meanwhile, his Damn Yankees contract runs through 1999. With it, he conquered Broadway -- one of his lifelong goals. So I ask why, when it finished its Broadway run, he didn't move on to other things. He says he's got at least three worthy movie projects on the shelf, for example.
"Why? Because I'm having the time of my life! I keep thinking you're not hearing me."
Well, thanks for the time. I know you're a busy man. And I sense you really are having the time of your life.
"Heh heh! Where did you ever get that idea?"

June 19, 1996

Jerry's not ready to retire

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jerry Lewis, who calls retirement a social problem, says his life is better than ever at 70.
 "If I wake up in the morning, I'm a hit. If I can open my eyes, I'm a smash," he said Tuesday before the opening of "Damn Yankees" at the Murat Theatre.
 Lewis, who plays the devil in the Broadway hit, turned 70 on March 16.
 He admitted that while he may be getting older, he's not ready to retire from show business.
 "Retire? Retire?" he asked. "I would never retire. I think one of our social ills is retiring. I am a stickler about not retiring."
 Lewis said he credits his genes -- and his spirit -- for his youthfulness. Every hair on his head is its natural color and the veteran comedian said he doesn't nip and tuck.
 "The spirit ... if you nurture it, you can do anything you want," said Lewis, who began performing at age 5.

June 18, 1996

Lewis urges caution

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jerry Lewis says he's delighted when people compare Jim Carrey to him.
 But the Canadian comic should be careful when it comes to off-camera antics, he advises.
 "He's the best visual comic to come down the pike in 100 years. He's brilliant," Lewis said while visiting the city on tour with Damn Yankees.
 "I just hope that he stays on the right track and doesn't cruise Sunset Boulevard with Brad Pitt and those guys. Be smart and get a room. I had a great time when I was his age, but I didn't get caught."
 Carrey's new movie The Cable Guy debuted at No. 1 at the box office last week, grossing an estimated $20.2 million.

March 20, 1996

Jerry Lewis: Still crazy after all these years

By Robert Macy
The Associated Press

 On a summer evening 30-odd years ago, Jerry Lewis sat on a stool in the middle of the huge stage at Kansas City's outdoor Starlight Theatre, a heavy downpour soaking his tuxedo, lightning crackling around him.
 "If you're crazy enough to stick around, I'm crazy enough to do my thing," he told a soaked audience as band members fled for cover from the intense thunderstorm.
 "Crazy" has been the operative word throughout a 65-year career in which Lewis has been dubbed a witless genius and heir to the Charlie Chaplin mantle.
 With his manic pratfalls, elastic face, goofy grins and a nasal twang that preceded Fran Drescher by decades, he's become a comedic icon and spiritual godfather to an entire generation of new comics.
 Just turned 70, he shows no signs of slowing down as he crisscrosses the continent with a road tour of the Broadway show Damn Yankees.
 Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, N.J., to show business parents, he was five years old when he sang Brother Can You Spare A Dime in his debut at a hotel on New York's Borscht Belt.
 He credits his father, Danny Lewis, a longtime vaudeville performer who also played burlesque and the Borscht Belt, as his comedic inspiration.
 "Anything you ever saw me do, my father did -- only better," Lewis said in an interview last year. "He moulded me. My father was absolutely the most versatile man I've ever seen.
 "He danced as good as Astaire, he played instruments, he did mime, he conducted the orchestra. He was my hero."
 By the time Lewis was 15, he had perfected his comic routine, miming and mouthing lyrics of classical and popular songs. He quit high school after two years and his career sputtered until he teamed with a young singer named Dean Martin in July 1946.
 The two became the hottest act in show business, both on stage and in the movies. He was hailed as "a new mad comedian" in their first film, My Friend Irma, in 1949.
 He played a petulant, zany goofball in films such as At War with the Army, The Caddy, and That's My Boy.
 All told, Martin and Lewis sandwiched 16 moneymaking films, a booming nightclub career and a tough TV schedule into a 10-year professional marriage.
 Going solo, Lewis recorded albums and starred in films such as The Sad Sack, The Nutty Professor and King of Comedy, producing and directing many of them.
 Once a fixture on the Las Vegas stage, he last performed there in 1989 with his longtime friend, the late Sammy Davis Jr.
 Lewis, however, continues to make Las Vegas his home with his second wife, SanDee, and three-year-old daughter, Danielle. He has five sons by his first marriage.
 It appears fatherhood suits Lewis the second time around.
 "Danny is my centre," Lewis said of his daughter. "She's part of my second lifetime. And boy, does she have a sense of humor."
 His reference to a second lifetime is hardly idle.
 Lewis had double bypass heart surgery in December 1982. Doctors determined one heart artery was 85 per cent blocked, the other 95 per cent.
 "There was no blood getting to the brain," Lewis said months after the lifesaving surgery, "but then I've been accused of no blood getting to the brain since I was five."

January 29, 1996

Lewis mourns Martin

  NASHVILLE (AP) -- Jerry Lewis says he was devastated by former partner Dean Martin's death, and he's just starting to get over it.
  "Dean was my brother, my hero. I worshiped him," said Lewis, who's on tour with the theatre production of Damn Yankees.
  He said he fought off the grief by focusing on his family.
  "I had to snap out of it and acknowledge my young daughter's need for my time and energy," Lewis said.
  The actor-comedian blamed his breakup with Martin on "outside forces ... third parties."