Saturday, July 30, 2011


So Jerry Lewis was at some TV critic's confab or other, there to promote a cable TV documentary about his career, and, as usually happens when he makes a public appearance, he took the opportunity to reveal his essential Jerry Lewis-ness, his uncanny ability to deliver a few observations that are undeniably cogent and wise, but mixed with a noxious egotism and a profound inability to understand when too much is way more than enough.

He railed against reality TV: "The medium is busy knocking its brand out to display the fat lady at 375 pounds who in two months is gonna be 240.  Who gives a shit?"

He railed against the movie industry, technology and pretty much anything that popped into his mind: "The industry has destroyed themselves.  It's no longer relevant because it puts all its product on a stupid phone.  You're going to put Lawrence Of Arabia on that goddamned stupid sonofabitch?  [Social media] are wonderful technical advances, but once people see how much its cluttering up their life, they'll figure it out for themselves.  We're not going to have human beings in twenty years.  People won't be talking to other human beings."

All well and good, and pretty much dead-on (although, hey Jerry, why do you have to work blue?), but the problem is, who the hell is Jerry Fucking Lewis to complain about people not talking to other human beings?  This guy's whole life has been spent holding grudges against people who dared to contradict him, or told him something he didn't want to hear, or simply asked him a question.  (My favorite part of the DVD commentary tracks of Lewis' Paramount titles were his muttered passive-aggressive asides about journeyman cinematographer Wallace Kelley, who shot most of Lewis' films.  I gather Kelley once may have made the mistake of actually taking credit for a lighting effect or something, thus giving the impression that they weren't personally crafted by The Total Filmmaker himself.)

As happened, for instance, at this very same event, when someone asked him about his self-announced plans to retire after this year's Muscular Dystrophy telethon.  "Who told you that?  I never read it.  Anything you read, read it twice."

Lest you think Jerry was just being coy, making with the funny and the ha-ha, when another reporter asked him what his exact role would be on this year's telethon, he responded, "It is none of your business."

Geez, Jerry.  "I didn't mean to sound rude, but on September 5th, the day after that program, I will have an international press conference, and I will have plenty to say about what I think is important, and that is the future, not the past."

Now see, this is where this almost gets poignant, or would if it weren't kind of creepy, like a Krusty The Clown remake of Sunset Boulevard.  Here's Jerry Lewis at 85, faced with the prospect that his annual 24-hour telethon, once a beloved national institution, has been cut down to six hours, a sure sign that the world has moved on, but he can't quite deal with reality.  No, he'll hold an "international press conference" to clarify his role in this thing that nobody cares about.  Clearly, in Lewis' mind, the world still revolves around him.  He's still as big as ever, it's the telethon that got small.