The 46th edition of the annual MDA Labor Day Telethon wasted no time in offering a tribute to its longtime host, Jerry Lewis, and potentially diffusing any backlash or disappointment with his absence.
A dance performance opened the MDA Labor Day Telethon 2011 and then, Jerry Lewis‘ replacements — Nigel Lythgoe, Jann Carl, Alison Sweeney and Nancy O’Dell — took the stage and immediately took turns talking about the comedian’s five-decade commitment to raising money for a cure.
The 46th edition of the annual MDA Labor Day Telethon wasted no time in offering a tribute to its longtime host, Jerry Lewis
Huge images of Jerry Lewis at various stages of his career served as a backdrop on stage as the 2011 MDA Telethon hosts talked.
Last May, Jerry Lewis, who had hosted the telethon since 1966, announced he was retiring as MDA chairman and that this year’s Labor Day weekend telethon would be his last. But the MDA subsequently — and rather tersely and unceremoniously — said Lewis would not host this year’s show.
The new MDA Telethon hosts talked alluded to how Jerry Lewis had “retired.”
Jerry Lewis’ publicist Candi Cazau declined to comment to the AP when told of the comments to start Sunday night’s program.
Muscular Dystrophy Association spokesman, Jim Brown refused to say anything elaborate on the hosts’ words, but said the telethon would include at least one more nod to Jerry Lewis.
Nancy O’Dell talked about how MDA was there for her and her family while her mother was dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease).
“And, boy, did Jerry’s closing song, <<You’ll Never Walk Alone>>, hit home the year that my mom passed away,” she said.
Nigel Lythgoe talked about how Jerry Lewis was irreplaceable.
“What you have done for this organization and its families is something close to a miracle,” he said. “And I know that we all want to carry on your legacy. We’re going to try and, with a humble heart, and occasionally a good laugh — because you taught us, above all, that laughter can cure almost anything — I trust we will continue to be successful.”
Now that’s not happening, according to R. Rodney Howell, the chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s board. Mr. Howell also said in a statement that Jerry Lewis had been “released” from his position as national chairman of the association, but did not explain why. Representatives for Jerry Lewis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Muscular Dystrophy Association said,
“Jerry Lewis is a world-class humanitarian and we’re forever grateful to him for his more than half century of generous service to MDA. We will not be replacing him as MDA national chairman, and he will not be appearing on the Telethon.”
MDA did not say who would replace Jerry Lewis as the host of the 24 hour event.
This announcement came a few weeks before the telethon, which Jerry Lewis has hosted since 1966. This May Jerry Lewis said he was retiring from the show, a television staple, but he had planned to appear on it this year. But while Jerry Lewis fans won’t be able to see him on this year’s telethon, the Encore cable channel announced today that on October 22 it would offer the premiere of “an original documentary” about him.
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The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s decision might be partly because of comments Jerry Lewis made last weekend at the TCAs. When asked what his role would be with the telethon, he answered:
“I didn’t mean to sound rude. But you have to assume the question you asked was motivated by something, and it had to be a little emotion. And I have to tell you the truth. September the 5th, the day after that program, I will have an international press conference with press from Reuters and London and China and Taiwan and all over the world, and I will have plenty to say about what I think isimportant. And that’s the future, not the past. Okay.”
It seems he will show us what really happened the day after the Telethon that no one will be watching.