Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING GOOD ...


My heart sank a couple of days ago when I read Jerry Lewis had a minor heart attack. Though the report stated that Jerry is expected to fully recover, the notice reminded me of how seldom we speak kind words about a person until after they pass away and leave us.

In 1960, pre “Lloyd Thaxton Show,” I was hosting the show “Lloyd Thaxton’s Record Shop” on KCOP-TV in LA. Sometime during the first few months of the show, I got a letter from a fan. Now you have to understand, getting a fan letter at KCOP was somewhat of a rarity. At the time, the station didn’t have what you would call a “huge” viewing audience; especially for a show that went on at 11 in the morning. I was a staff announcer at the time and this show was what you might call a fill-an-hour-a-day TV show. There was no such thing as an “over-night” rating system, so receiving fan mail was worthy of some kind of celebration. A fan letter meant that at least one person was watching.

And, this fan letter was a doozie!

“Dear Lloyd:

It looks like you are never going to write to me, or my wife Patty, so I am writing you. I want you to know how much we enjoy the show. Keep up the good work.

Jerry Lewis

JERRY LEWIS?

Wow!

In 1960, Jerry Lewis was fresh off the highly successful Martin and Lewis comedy team and was at the apex of his own solo career. He was host of “The Jerry Lewis Show” on ABC and was an award winning feature film director. A new kid on the block like me getting a fan letter from Jerry Lewis was about as exciting as it gets. Man! JERRY LEWIS!

He even left a return address. And, I wrote him back. I got real brazen and asked if he would like to be a guest on the “Record Shop.” He immediately wrote back, “Anytime.”

And that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. We really connected because Jerry started his own career doing a record lip-sync act in nightclubs. He would edit several records together and lip-sync female voices and then switch to male voices doing opera and country. It was a very physical act filled with Jerry Lewis prat-falls and body contortions. Very funny stuff. This, he told me, is what drew him to the crazy things that I was doing during my own record routines.

Jerry not only was a guest on my show many times (see picture), he was one of the reasons the show continued to climb in ratings; a ratings success that led to creation of “The Lloyd Thaxton Show.” I will be forever thankful.

Jerry even created a part for me in his movie, “The Patsy.” Many times during the shoot, he would drop into my dressing room for some long show business discussions. I will always appreciate the time he took to teach this new kid how to do good shtick.

About 12 years ago, my wife Barbara worked with Jerry on the movie “Funny Bones.” She never stops talking about how wonderful Jerry was to work with. If you haven’t seen “Funny Bones,” rent a copy and enjoy some great talent at work.

Because of the heart attack, Jerry had to cancel his scheduled return to the Las Vegas stage. I can only hope that he is up and jumping and back to work soon. So he can break a leg.

Stay tuned.

13 Comments:

Blogger Gary said...

I've never met Jerry but I know some who have and said he is a wonderful person. Funny, yes....but also very serious about the business he's in. He's always been one of my favorite comedians and if I could meet him, I would thank him for all the laughs he's given me thru the years. I've really never been entertained more by anybody else....PERIOD.
I've met his son Gary numerous times and every time I see Gary we start talking about music but end up talking about his dad and ALWAYS end up laughing about something Jerry has done during his career, whether it's from a movie, tv show, or personal thing. Somebody once told me that they didn't get along but I can tell you right now that that's not true. Gary loves his dad very much and you can tell just by the way he talks about him.
No doubt in my mind.....two classy people. I wish Jerry the best.
Gary

4:16 PM

 
Anonymous wpatterson3 said...

Mr. Thaxton:

I discovered your show in 1964 at
the ripe old age of 18 while in the
hospital for major orthopedic
surgery. I was never a "typical"
boomer because I was crippled by
a bone infection at the age of 7.
As you can imagine, I was not a fan
of teen dance shows. Your off-the-
wall anti-"American Bandstand"
craziness helped me feel a part of
my generation because it wasn't
about the dancing. It was about
the joy of the freedom defined by
the music, which I enjoyed your
not taking seriously, unlike the
cloying phoniness of Dick Clark.
You never pandered to your
audience like he did. Thank you
for bringing laughter and hope
into my life at a very difficult
time.
On another note, I live in the
small village of McComb, Ohio,
about 45 miles south of Toledo.
I lived in Columbus, Ohio, when
I was a kid. Are you a native of
Toledo? My wife remembers your
Toledo show with great fondness.
I wish you and yours the very best.
Sincerely, Bill

10:26 PM

 
Blogger Gaylel said...

I never met Jerry Lewis and never will, but you know what? when he does that to a fan or even a celebrity, that says something about his heart. And yes, he has a good heart, even in his golden years. I look forward every Labor Day when he does work for his "kids" and as a result, and through techology now, his kids are living longer, better lives.

Indeed, my prayers for him for a speedy recovery and hoping he will get back to his projects he will doing in the near future.

Lloyd, you made some sense this week in your blog. There is a saying in the "people of color" church community which says that "Give them their flowers when they are still living." This rings true because we do whether it is someone like you who been in the business for so long, or the person down the street, people need to appreicate them while they are alive and breathing.

We just lost someone in the music business recently by the name of Billy Preston, who has accomplishments a mile wide and was considered a legend. We do not have many people left who influence our lives in the 20th century.

But here is a public service announcement:

Let's appreciate our legends, whether they are involved in the entertainment business or other lines of work while they are still with us, alive and breathing on this earth..

4:06 PM

 
Blogger Lloyd Thaxton said...

To Gary:

I had Gary on my show many tmes. Great guy. I'm sure Jerry appreciates your well wishes.

To wpatterson3:

Thank you for your comments. I lived in Toledo from 2 years old, through College and seven years at WSPD. I guess that might qualify me as a native. If your wife remembers me from my show in Toledo, she has one darn good memory.

4:10 PM

 
Anonymous tonit3 said...

i'am very happy he is going to be fine. jerry, is one of my all time favorites. toni

5:26 AM

 
Blogger THE ROCK RELIC said...

Comedian. Actor. Singer. Writer. Director. Here's a man who harnesses the power of belief -- in himself and in his fellowman (okay ... fellowPERSON, then ...), and creates (not the tense of that verb) something wild and beautiful out of it.
We speak of Jerry as comedian, sight-gagger extraordinaire; but ... PLEASE ... let's never forget the THOUSANDS of children who have been aided by his impassioned cause .. his endless quest to conquer MD.

As a sidebar: It's good to see Gary win HIS battles and return to the stage on occasion.

Thaxton and Lewis ... why NOT?!? It SINGS!!

10:59 AM

 
Blogger THE ROCK RELIC said...

That earlier comment was supposed to say "NOTE the tense of that word ..." meaning Jerry creaTES ...
He HAS "creaTED," but the man is STILL influencing thousands, is STILL fronting the MD cause, is STILL writing, entertaining ... he IS still creaTING!!

11:01 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Lloyd ... or to anybody that might know the answer to this question.

In the Jerry Lewis movie THE ERRAND BOY ... Jerry does a mimic conference bit in the board room, pretending to be the Pres. of the movie studio talking to the other board members.

Ok here comes the question....

What's the name of the music piece, used for that bit?

Later,
Robert V

2:25 PM

 
Blogger Gary said...

To Robert V,
I have no idea but that has got to be one of my favorite scenes Jerry did in ANY movie! I remember seeing that as a kid and laughing my head off and I STILL do when I see it now!
Gotta find out that music score....
Gary

5:17 PM

 
Blogger BiLL Earl said...

My favorite Jerry Lewis bit was when he played a doctor in the "Dr. Kildaire" series.

I'll never forget him walking down the hospital halls in full doctor uniform/suit, between Dr. Kildaire and Dr. Gillespie, with a "goofy teeth bit" in his mouth...he never said a word, but it was a real hoot.

The only thing I DID NOT like Lewis doing is on one of the telethons, he grabbed the phone away from one of the operators on stage, and went into his "kid" routine, saying "Hello, hello, hello..." and THEN SLAMMING THE RECEIVER DOWN on the caller. THAT caller COULD have been offering mucho $$$ bucks to his MS campaign!

Lewis did that for laughs, but I guess I thought that THAT BIT wasn't cool.

I wish he and Martin, after the 1976 "reunion," had actually DONE something together.

BiLL
http://billearl.blogspot.com

7:05 PM

 
Anonymous Teresa said...

Dear Mr. Thaxton:
Any chance that you can forward my best wishes for a speedy recovery and many prayers onto Mr. Lewis?
I tried to leave a message at his website, but it wouldn't post.
My elderly father has muscular dystrophy and is one of "Jerry's Kids". Without the advances Mr. Lewis' telethon has provided, my dad wouldn't be getting around - at all.
Mr. Lewis' work with MDA is legendary. That alone puts him much more than a cut above the rest.
His talent as a loveable "dork", his TV & movie work, etc. are without equal.
He's one of the best of the best, and loved by millions. I hope he can feel all the good vibes going his way.
Teresa

8:02 PM

 
Blogger Cage Free Brown said...

I love "The Patsy"
every now and then, I enjoy bursting into song. nothing crazy, maybe once every few years. "I Left My Heart at the Drive-In Movie" is far and away my favorite song for this sort of thing, much to my kid's dismay.

I also thought "Funnybones" was topnotch!!

12:46 PM

 
Anonymous PHILLIP HOWELL said...

HI LlOYD I JUST LOVED YOUR TV SHOW IN THE 1960s. I WAS A LITTLE KID THEN. BUT I STILL REMEMBER YOUR TV SHOW. SEEING: THE ORIGINAL SUPREMES, MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS, THE MARVELETTES, THE LATE: MARVIN GAYE, STEVIE WONDER etc. I HOPE YOU WILL DO RELEASE A DVD OF YOUR SHOW ONE DAY?!. AND BRING BACK SOME OF THE MUSICAL MEMORIES OF THE PAST?!. BEST OF LUCK WITH YOUR NEW BOOK!. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, AND THANK YOU PHILLIP HOWELL.

5:03 PM

 

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