Labor Day’s official definition in the United States is “A Federal holiday held the first Monday in September to honor working members of society”. For many, in addition to being a day off from their own manual labor, it’s also synonymous with being the last Monday before kids go back to school.
But this year though, between the football games and the picnics, the Labor Day holiday will feel a bit empty and out-of-place. For the first time since it began the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon will not be hosted by the man whose been the mainstay of its existence since 1966.
Jerry Lewis, one of the very last surviving members of the golden age of comedy and someone who has spent the last 45 consecutive Labor Day weekends raising more than 2 1/2 billion dollars to fight this debilitating disease, has been told by producers of the telethon that his services will no longer be required. In addition, the telethon has also decided to drop the “Jerry Lewis” from the title and go simply with “MDA Labor Day Telethon”.
Now some of us see Jerry as the sidekick to Dean Martin back in the day. Others remember him as the original Nutty Professor before Eddie Murphy took that mantle. But like him or hate him, here is a man who devoted half of his life to raising awareness and money to help end human suffering. To simply brush him to the side without public recognition of his services is reprehensible.
Lewis himself, like every one of us will someday, has been sidelined over the years with heart and other health related concerns. It seems hypocritical of the MDA to remove the one person who has hosted the telethon and raised funds for the fight against disease simply because he himself is battling it.
Critics will say Jerry is old and his time has long since passed. Well, I’m of the opinion that longevity and commitment should be rewarded.
Obviously, you simply can not have someone hosting a show who has mental lapses or some other mental or physical ailment. But surely, there must have been some place for Jerry Lewis in his own telethon.
Alas, 2011 will mark the first time Jerry Lewis will no longer be a part of the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. I sincerely hope the MDA has another successful year so that we can end the suffering of millions of people. But I’m still a bit sad that I won’t get to hear him sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
How ironic it appears that’s exactly the way the MDA has left him.
Article first published as Jerry Lewis And The End Of An Era on Technorati.