September 5, 2011

"The End of the Jerry Lewis Telethon—It's About Time."

Says history prof Jon Wiener:
Every year it was the same. Jerry did his telethon shtick, parading little kids in wheelchairs across the Las Vegas stage, making maudlin appeals for cash, alternatively mugging and weeping, and generally claiming to be a friend to the doomed.

The pitch was always for “Jerry’s kids.” But two-thirds of the clients of the Muscular Dystrophy Association were adults, and they didn’t like being referred to as “Jerry’s kids.”
Time passed. The "kids" kept growing up. And Jerry got more and more outmoded.
For me, the worst moment of the telethon came in 1972 when John and Yoko appeared. They played some good music—“Imagine,” and a reggae version of “Give Peace a Chance.” But they were there for a political reason: President Nixon had been trying to deport them for almost a year, and they were desperate to say in the USA. So to prove they were deserving of residency, they stopped hanging out with Jerry Rubin and instead embraced Jerry Lewis. That’s why Lennon told the telethon audience “Jerry is one of our favorite comedians.”
Nixon! Still railing about Nixon over there in The Nation, where this article is published.

Elsewhere, in the same old lefty journal there's another Labor Day piece, "Top Ten Labor Day Songs," and there's John Lennon again, holding down the 2 position with "Working Class Hero." John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon. I wonder how he'd feel if he could know how closely American lefties would cuddle him 30 years after his death.

"Working Class Hero" is not one of the labor songs sung by the Solidarity Singers who do their singalongs every weekday at the Wisconsin Capitol. And it's not surprising. The unions that were fought for in the Great Wisconsin Protests of 2011 were public employee unions, especially teachers unions. Picture the teacher-folk singing these lyrics:
They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years,
Then they expect you to pick a career,
When you can't really function you're so full of fear,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
There's really nothing in that song stoking enthusiasm for labor unions. There's nothing about working. It's about a disabling fear of work. And it's not the boss who tortures and scares you in those first 20 years. It's the parents and the teachers.

69 comments:

Scott said...

Jerry Lewis. The General Francisco Franco of telethons.

Scott said...

My grandfather, John Leslie Isaacson, organized the Burnett County, Wisconsin Highway Department as the first AFSCME local in the state.

He was one tough old Norwegian cuss. I loved him. May he rest in peace.

Mike K said...

Jerry Lewis got interested in muscular dystrophy after he was criticized for imitating victims in his routine. His mugging and flopping around was a cruel simulation of the MD victims' motions.

Bart said...

I cannot believe that you did not mention that Les Aspin nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

blake said...

Hey, have they ever, you know, actually cured anyone? Of anything?

That's always struck me about the March of Dimes folks. They parade this cute little girl out--well, this was the '40s, she's quite old now--with the crutches and so on, and they collect millions and millions year after year.

But they never fix anyone. Not even the little girl with the crutches.

At what point can we say they've moved from the curing business to the collecting money business?

YoungHegelian said...

"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you're not gonna make it with anyone anyhow"

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20075519-10391698.html

Coketown said...

At work, we used to sell the little Muscular Dystrophy clovers, and the cashier who sold the most would win a Muscular Dys-Trophy, worth a paid day off and some other prizes. I think telethons are relics of a time when a whole lot of people had no other choice than to watch the same few channels, so it was a sort-of captive audience. Today, solicitations at the cash register are a far more lucrative source of revenue.

mesquito said...

Nixon! Still railing about Nixon over there in The Nation, where this article is published.

He resisted the Alger Hiss tie-in.

Progress.

Coketown said...

Oh, and I was the only one who called it the Muscular Dys-Trophy. Everyone else thought the name was deficient in taste.

edutcher said...

Of course the creeps at The Nation hate Jerry Lewis. He's a guy who really did care, unlike the tolerant, compassionate Left.

I remember when the telethons were East Coast only (mid-50s) and they really did go wall-to-wall for 4 days or so.

blake said...

Hey, have they ever, you know, actually cured anyone? Of anything?

That's always struck me about the March of Dimes folks. They parade this cute little girl out--well, this was the '40s, she's quite old now--with the crutches and so on, and they collect millions and millions year after year.

But they never fix anyone. Not even the little girl with the crutches.

At what point can we say they've moved from the curing business to the collecting money business?


Seen anybody with polio lately?

Carol_Herman said...

Remember the March of Dimes?

FDR began that one. And, it was a billion dollar charity who did NOT give a dime to either Salk or Sabin.

But you got the pictures of kids in leg braces.

Muscular dystrophy grew out of that. The charity was looking for something that couldn't get cured. And make fun of Jerry Lewis all you want ... (He also did the Miss America pagent, I think. Unless that was some guy named Bert Parks.)

Maybe, people have just gotten smart enough?

Heck, I can remember when Dear Abby pointed out that during WW2 the Red Cross was charging our soldiers a dime for a cup of coffee! HELLO! They were collecting money from people who wanted to give charity ... And, then they were charging our soldiers for a cup of coffee!

It's just amazine how charities know how to line up the suckers to take money out of their pockets.

But I feel sorry for Jerry Lewis. He outlived Dean Martin. And, he made "funny walks" part of his joke repertoire, before John Cleese at Monty Python came along.

deborah said...

Politics aside, here's a great version of Working Class Hero:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNCFcDy94xc

Palladian said...

I've always found Jerry Lewis completely revolting, and not revolting in a Jerry Rubin way, although he was revolting in every sense of the word.

"John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" is a much better record than "Imagine".

Cedarford said...

blake said...
Hey, have they ever, you know, actually cured anyone? Of anything?

That's always struck me about the March of Dimes folks....
==========================
We didn't cure people damaged by polio, but just about eradicated the disease. That is the cure.

With genetic defects like muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis - the Cure would be to use eugenics to breed out recessive genes.
Eugenics of course are controversial...but the money spent on pie in the sky "cure" hopes, extending the dying process...might be better spent testing and informing Americans of what diseases they are carriers of. Then strongly encouraging people to select and mate with people that would not help create defective offspring and a family in years of agony and heartbreak if it is avoidable.

We might also cut down on some cancers too, when certain couples with recessive carrier genes mate and doom a significant part of their offspring to always terminal types of cancers.

Of course, it would make it tougher on parents when afflictions are looked at as fruits of their reproductive decisions rather than in more primitive times as "Will of God, blind fate, who could have possibly known??".

David said...

"John Lennon, John Lennon, John Lennon. I wonder how he'd feel if he could know how closely American lefties would cuddle him 30 years after his death."

Lennon was a rebel by nature--he did not have to fake it. He also tried to think for himself. This did not always work, and somehow Yoko was able to mold his brain for quite a time. But he tried. He was not a mindless follower.

"They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules."

That is a first class, concise rant.

themightypuck said...

Well, it also says:

There is room at the top they are telling you still/but first you must learn how to smile when you kill/if you want to live like the folks on hill.

Song is mostly about how shitty it is to be working class which is something Ayn Rand could get behind.

Palladian said...

John Lennon put on and cast off various politics, philosophies, and religions with as much ease as he donned and doffed the walrus costume. I'd assume he'd hate being cuddled, by anyone.

Amartel said...

Did Lennon actually ever hold a job other than being Intellectual Beatle? Like, the kind of job where you have to show up on time to do things you really don't want to do?
Credit, though, for writing about what he did know: school. Apparently quite the fascist fallout shelter for those who can't do, even then.
See also, The Wall, Another Brick In The.
A lot of the British pop musicians from that era thought the working man was a sucker based on watching their parents' post-war struggle; they were from that tradition/class but didn't want to be of it. Never want to be like papa, working for the boss every night and day.
I wonder if Lennon would have gone along with the progressive movement if he had lived. It would have been the easy option given his history. At the same time he was bright enough to see the hypocrisy, and aggressive enough/popluar enough to comment on it once upon a time. Unfortunately, he probably would have caved in order to stay popular.

David said...

Jerry Lewis deserves a little more love than he is getting here. I'm sorry he hung on and had to be pushed out, and he was not always my cup of tea, but he worked at his charity, and was damn funny in his day. Plus he knew enough to give credit to Dean Martin for a large part of his success. Martin was also a good comic.

David said...

Amartel said...
"Did Lennon actually ever hold a job other than being Intellectual Beatle?"

Well, of course not. That was the whole point. It pissed people off then, and seems to piss you off now. Some people are lucky. Lennon was. For a while.

Thomas Gann said...

The folks at the nation better not read this,that Lennon was a fan of Reagan.

http://thebattleofatl.blogspot.com/2011/06/imagine-john-lennon-reagan-republican.html

Palladian said...

And who reads "The Nation", anyway? People who agree with the party line I guess, because it's certainly not read for the quality of the writing. I've never understood the weird desire of political adherents for constant affirmation.

Rockport Conservative said...

I never liked Jerry Lewis, never thought he was funny. I never thought much of slapstick and that is pretty much what comedy was at one time.
As for the March of Dimes. Polio was never cured, we just found a vaccine, and that happened when I was 18. The March of Dimes claimed it would go out of business when a cure was found, I guess a vaccine did not count because they are still out there collecting.

ricpic said...

Goodbye To All That

Lennon wanted out
And who can blame him,
Out from playing lout
His soul forever trimming.

phx said...

I like the Nation's book reviews. But I'm letting my sub lapse and going over to the Atlantic for a while.

Palladian said...

Ahh, Cedarford! "... a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills.

Palladian said...

IT VILL NOT BE DIFFICULT, MEIN FÜHRER!

mesquito said...

And who reads "The Nation", anyway?

Well, it's not the working class, that's for sure.

deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ricpic said...

Well, it's not the working class, that's for sure.

Killing with a light touch. Beautiful.

A. Shmendrik said...

Jerry had the ability to be funny, but only briefly. In Mr. Saturday Night - the epic Billy Crystal fail - there was a moment at the Friar's Club where Jerry wraps his mouth around a cocktail glass and that was funny. But not for more than about 9 seconds, surely not for 24 hours.

Funny Jerry

I still say he wanted to die on the air - literally drop dead during the telethon.

Cedarford said...

Palladian - That was damn funny! Props for remembering the Strangelovian version!

That said, genetic testing can help avoid high financial cost to society and unpeakably high emotional cost to involved families. That justifies it.

It also offers the best hope of eliminating many cancers, birth defects, birth defect diseases. Not some magic "cure drug" or some magic after the fact gene therapies or treatment therapies.

**********
Carole Herman - The March of Dimes did fund a tone of the basic research into the polio virus and cultivating it, understanding its transmission. That led to Salk and Sabin and Mikhail Petrovich Chumakov's great work.
Chumakov?
The March of Dimes backed "Saint Salk" but were insanely opposed to Sabin's 'live vaccine'. That led Chumakov in the Soviet Union to develop, mass produce, and do full clinical trials involving 100 million children in Europe, USSR, Japan. The success of that compelled the US to use the Sabin vaccine over MoD opposition.
It was a great humanitarian propaganda coup for the Soviets - especially when US difficulties mass producing it had Soviet supply going to many of our allies, even a few million doses in 1962 and 63 when the American output was not enough to cover the need for vaccine for the kids.

Robert Cook said...

"The folks at the nation better not read this,that Lennon was a fan of Reagan."

Hmmm...an uncorroborated claim by a former employee that Lennon stated he would, if he could, vote for Reagan because he had soured on Jimmy Carter is hardly evidence that Lennon liked or supported Reagan (though stranger things have been true).

It's pure hearsay 40 years after the fact, and may be completely untrue. Given the years of harrassment Lennon endured under the politically similar Richard Nixon, the claim is difficult to credit. Assuming for sake of argument Lennon said this, the statement conveys no particular regard or support for Reagan so much as a soured disillusion with Carter...you know, kind of like many of the Democrats who voted for Barack Obama and who are now sorely disappointed that he has turned out to be just a less overtly bellicose Bush. (I'm not one of the disillusioned...I caught on early and did not vote for Obama; even still, he's turned out to be far worse than I had expected.)

At most, one might say that Lennon at least once may have expressed his disgust with Carter by wishing he could vote against him.

But then, the dubiousness of the claim aside, why would Reagan's idolators want to claim Lennon as one of their own? After all, he wrote and sang the horrid commie anthem "Imagine".

Paco Wové said...

"
A lot of the British pop musicians from that era thought the working man was a sucker..."


Well, yes:

But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see

mesquito said...

Heh. A throw-away line about John Lennon's possible politics evokes an epic response from Mr. Earnest, which Lennon certainly wasn't.

campy said...

To be fair, the libs only harp on Nixon when there's an election scheduled within 4 years.

Chuck66 said...

You mention this Nixon fixation. The photos and links to videos you posted this spring...I saw 2 or 3 separate comments about Nixon by the lefties. Geesh, 40 years later and they are still bitching.

Irony is that Nixon was a Quaker liberal. Perhjaps they resent him for saving Israel (according to Golda Mier), starting the EPA, and a host of other things.

NYTNewYorker said...

Jerry Lewis raised a ton of money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and I didn't see anybody else doing it, so I'd just as soon leave him alone and say , thanks a lot Jerry.

Rumpletweezer said...

Has there ever been a person who didn't disappoint you at some time? When I was 10 Jerry Lewis was one of the funniest people on the planet. Later, during one of the telethons Scatman Crothers wanted to do something that wasn't scheduled. Jerry said, with a smile, "Do you ever want to work in this town again?" Gave me the creeps because it was clear he wasn't kidding. So Jerry's just like everybody else, only moreso.

Carol_Herman said...

Actually, Israel saved herself.

Nixon was worried IF Israel went under (because of Golda Meir's incompetence), he would be blamed by history?

In Israel, Golda won because Israelis had no choice. They had "Labor." Or what Ben Gurion adopted. Which didn't really last.

It took, however, until 1977 ... for Golda's enemy, Arik Sharon, to mount another party so that Israelis finally had a choice!

Bar Lev. Who did nearly cost Israel it's existence, ended up leaving Israel. And, the IDF. To live in Africa.

Nixon, meanwhile, got taken out by the FBI. Because Mark Felt held a grudge.

Then came Gerald Ford. Picked by Nixon to block Nelson Rockefeller. (Who, as mentioned today by another poster, co-authored the Warren Commission Report) ... Goes and blocks Reagan in 1976. And, Ford loses to Jimmy Carter.

The democraps are no longer worried about peanut farmers from Georgia.

And, the truth, like Karma, eventually comes out in the wash.

I've got no gripes with Jerry Lewis. He was funny! And, then, before Woody Allen went to Paris; the French fell in love with Jerry Lewis.

Comedy makes its rounds. Like Karma.

Amartel said...

Hey, lighten up there David. I'm not the one who's pissed off. Just thinking about the fact that the song "Working Class Hero" doesn't have much to do with working, which makes sense if Lennon didn't have any actual empirical knowledge of the subject matter.

David said...

I don't think this post should pass without noting just how incredibly mean spirited Jon Weiner's little article is.

Weiner loves publicity and gets a lot of it in the lefty echo chamber. He has a nice pedigree--Princeton and a Phd. in history at Harvard. Tenure at UC Irvine, and has a radio show, a web site and a long relationship with The Nation. Teaches recent American history.

He has developed an audience for anything he wants to say, however useless. I suppose he gets some kind of pleasure at demonstrating how superior he is to Jerry Lewis. He certainly is pleased that Lewis has been hurt and diminished by his removal. Not a whisper, of course, about any of the good Lewis has done.

Classic asshole.

mesquito said...

Classic asshole.

A spectre is haunting communism, the spectre of normal people assisting each other on their own initiative, thus obviating the world-historical need for communists.

purplepenquin said...

I also think that "Working Class Hero" is often-times mistakenly added to the various "Labor Day Songs" lists that come out this time of year...but the rest of that list are excellent choices. Thanks for sharing! Too many people think of Labor Day as nothing more than a holiday to celebrate the end of summer, and it is important that we get back to the roots/reasons for this day.

Should also point out that it isn't just the "public sector" workers that were the reasons for the protests earlier in the years. Other unions that contract with state/county/city agencies in the state are very concerned about the ban on negotiating work conditions and safety issues.

mesquito said...

Nashville's Bassoon Community never got over the devastation caused by the death of Tennessee Ernie.

wv: redned

Palladian said...

I told you before, stay away from my door,

Don't give me that brother, brother, brother, brother...

Jose_K said...

the French fell in love with Jerry Lewis.
He was awarded L’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur .
Before woody allen. infact frenchs fell in love with maor than one american:Poe, Josephine Baker. But also with many american icons: Macdonald, Rock,that failed movie with Warren beaty( heaven something..)

Chip S. said...

That article was totally lame, and there's no cure possible.

Jon Wiener is a dick.

G Joubert said...

The left hates private charity. They believe government should be funding and/or doing that work. Ergo, make fun of and belittle Jerry Lewis.

Donn said...

I've always found Jerry Lewis completely revolting, and not revolting in a Jerry Rubin way, although he was revolting in every sense of the word.

Jerry Lewis is revolting and I take that from personal experience. In the late 80's he came into a business I managed looking for a big screen TV. Every other word was F this and F that, and when a kid came up to him for an autograph, he told the kid to get lost because "he didn't sign autographs." I guess he wasn't one of "Jerry's kids!"

Amartel said...

I'll get back to the roots/reasons for Labor Day when Labor does.
Lord Labor McFatass has thoughtfully taken this opportunity to issue absurd threats of "war" against all those who do not bend a knee at the foot of his ergonomically designed throne in his climate controlled work space. So definitely keep on sending your dues and votes to the bottomless pit of neediness and ineptitude that is the Democratic Party. They care.
(About their jobs. Yours, not so much.)

Brian said...

The Nation, Inc. is a wonderful institution. In addition to it's illustrious Stalinist history, it also publishes the 9/11 Truther book "Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden."

Exactly why is it that these malignant freaks are treated any better than Hitler-lovers and Holocaust deniers? (And that includes the filthy-rich heiress Katrina.)

William said...

Childhood memory: Jerry ostensibly takes the chewing gum out of his mouth and sticks it to a piece of scenery . Belts out a song. Then he takes the chewing gum off the scenery and puts it back in his mouth. Throwaway line: "It's still got lots of flavor." Seen at a certain age, Jerry was not just funny, but memorably funny.....Here is one of the reasons why I yearn for the existence of God. It would be nice if there were an omniscient being of benign intent who kept an accurate score. I would dearly love to know, using omniscient accounting methods, who was the better man: Jerry Lewis or John Lennon.

ironrailsironweights said...

As for the March of Dimes. Polio was never cured, we just found a vaccine, and that happened when I was 18. The March of Dimes claimed it would go out of business when a cure was found, I guess a vaccine did not count because they are still out there collecting.

The March of Dimes now focuses on birth defects.

For an interesting tidbit about Jerry Lewis, go to Wikipedia and look up The Day the Clown Cried.

Peter

Tim said...

"Too many people think of Labor Day as nothing more than a holiday to celebrate the end of summer, and it is important that we get back to the roots/reasons for this day."

Hmmm. No, not really. No more so than May Day.

Honor labor?

Absolutely.

Honor Labor?

Uh, fuck no.

Fred4Pres said...

There was something sort of familar about Jerry Lewis. Like the old great uncle who you did not particularly know well but liked to see once a year at some family function.

Still, it sounds like MDA treated Jerry like shit. Lewis was a volunteer and he raised two billion dollars for MDA. Maudaline to be sure, but that is some serious cash.

Fred4Pres said...

And Lewis was from Newark, New Jersey.

Fred4Pres said...

My wife and kids grabbed copies of Woody Guthrie songs made to mock Scott Walker when we were at the capitol in Madison. The protests were pathetic.

For all the anti Walker rhetoric, I noticed an absense of pro Obama stickers outside of Madison (with the exception of the parking lot outside of Taliesin). I think there are more pro Walker fans in Wisconsin than the left would like to believe.

garage mahal said...

You don't live around Mad do you Fred?

bagoh20 said...

So just remember that if you ever think of working real hard to help crippled children for decades, it still won't prevent some people from dumping whatever they think they got on you. Nice culture we have here.

John said...

Back in the day I like dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Of course I was about 8-10 years old then.

I haven't thought Lewis funny since about 1960.

I never got the point of the 3 stooges, either.

John Henry

Paddy O said...

My mom was one of those March of Dimes girls on crutches. She got polio when she was 3, in 1948. No cure, of course.

And it strikes back. Late in life the parts of the body that compensated for the damage done by the virus start wearing out, causing massive fatigue and basically a whole new set of chronic symptoms. Post-polio syndrome.

Anyhow, there's a lot to do before one gets to a cure, if they ever do. These are real people being affected, with real dreams, and hopes and goals. They're not lab mice. A lot of these organizations, like March of Dimes, helped, and still help, to fill in a whole lot of gaps, like paying for family to stay near hospitals, and a myriad of other associated realities of life that get ignored when we're only thinking of a disease in terms of clinical science.

They're often the difference between misery and moving forward for families caught in the grasp of one of these terrible diseases.

Paddy O said...

I liked Jerry Lewis movies when I was young too. For some reason, Cinderfella sticks out to me, a few great scenes in that one.

My mom tells the story of the time she and her friends visited one of the studios for a birthday celebration. They ate in the commissary, and in walks Jerry Lewis, who proceeded to play around and make everyone laugh.

No doubt he had a lot of the showman's arrogance about him, but he did a lot of good work when others of his generation really lived for themselves. And, no doubt, as he got older he had his own issues with pain and disease, so I wonder how much of the Lewis is a jerk! reactions come from seeing him when he really was in bad shape, but, like Kennedy, didn't want the world to know his physical problems.

Gordon said...

Carol,
A bit of research into the history of the American Red Cross would inform you that the War Dept. required the Red Cross to charge for the coffee and doughnuts. ARC didn't want to, as they have never charged for their services.

Chip S. said...

Carol don't do research.

Carol calls her own tune. Follows her mews.

Free jazz! NO CHARGE.

KABOOM!

Kapeach?

EconProf said...

My brother died of muscular dystrophy when he was 14. I was never fond of Jerry Lewis the actor, but as a person he will always be a hero to me.

gerry said...

"They hurt you at home and they hit you at school,
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool,
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules."


Lennon was a rich, drugged, and whiny fop who helped mislead a lot of people into pain and darkness.

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Ellison said...

The MDA is not a very good charity. It spends too much on fundraising and administration.

The American Red Cross, for the sake of comparison of relatively large charities, is a relatively good one, operating much more efficiently. More bang for your charity buck.

(Don't confuse the ARC with the ICRC, mind you.)