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Interview With Jerry Lewis

Aired August 30, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Comic legend Jerry Lewis. He's survived viral meningitis, cancer, heart bypass, addiction and, thanks to cutting-edge science, free of pain for the first time in more than 35 years.
My man Jerry Lewis, a new man and an old pal for the hour with your calls.


Jerry Lewis is now going to -- what are you going to? Take off your...

JERRY LEWIS, PAIN FREE FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1965: I'm going to put it where it should be.

KING: You're going to take off the mic off there, off the jacket, put it on the shirt.

LEWIS: We don't need a wind screen on that God-damn mic. We're going to change that to that, and then we click it here, and we're as good as new. And that's for later.

KING: And why don't you need a wind screen?

LEWIS: Because there's no wind in here.

KING: OK, but some people pop Ps.

LEWIS: You do pop Ps. I nerve liked you for that.

You know, they once asked me, what is it about Larry that you hate? He pops his Ps.

KING: There's something first -- let's do something together.

Let's congratulate baseball: no strike.

LEWIS: Thank God.

KING: Thank heaven. There is a God.

LEWIS: Yes. I took my daughter, Danny, to her first ball game last Thursday night at the stadium in San Diego to see the Padres. So I'm telling my friends, she's going to have her first night of baseball.

And they said, oh, God, you're sure? I said, why? Well, what if it's a pitching duel, and what if it's one of those kind -- I said, hey, I promised I'm taking her, that's it.

We're sitting there in the third inning, the Padres score 14 runs, OK. Two grand slams, a couple of in the park homers, singles, doubles, and it just goes on. And they're battling the Mariners. They won 18-2. And she had the best time.

Why are all those men changing there -- meaning pitcher six, pitcher seven.

KING: Now Jerry, it's obvious, so let's go deal right with it.

Why do you look the way you do? Anyone turning this on now -- look at his arms, folks.

LEWIS: This is Prednisone. And it's all over my body. And what it does is it attacks the skin, and it puts weight on. I put on 52 pounds.

KING: It's a pill for what?

LEWIS: No, it's for...

KING: Is it a pill?

LEWIS: It's a shot and it's a pill, but I have been on pills for the last year-and-a-half.

KING: Now what is it for?

LEWIS: Well, if you have pulmonary fibrosis, it could be fatal. It's a very dangerous disease. Your lungs go bad and breathing becomes a problem.

And then after I was diagnosed with it, I had a lung collapse. So now they put me on 60 milligrams of Prednisone because it's the only drug that will heal the lungs, OK.

So Dr. Debakey (ph) says to me, you know that we're giving you the greatest worst drug ever invented? The side effects are devastating, but it's the only thing that's going to get you back.

And I said, Michael, I'll do whatever you have to do. I just have to get back.

Now, two months ago -- four weeks ago I had a pulmonary test and the doctor said, you're doing great. I said, good, then I can get off the Prednisone and lose weight and get back to my -- no, no, no, you've got six more months.

I said, six more months? It's been 17 months.

He said, Jerry, did Sam tell you -- my wife -- did Sam tell you we called in February and told you to get your affairs in order?

I said, what?

He said, yes, did she tell you that?

I said, no.

He said, how does the six months sound now?

I said, great, I'll do 24 weeks in a heartbeat.

KING: Why the marks on the body?

LEWIS: Because Prednisone does that. It just -- it disfigures you a little bit. There's little bumps that you get. These are all parts of the side effects.

KING: But it works?

LEWIS: God, yes. I'm here. I'm breathing.

KING: When you look in the mirror, what do you say?

LEWIS: I say I'm Orson Welles or Burl Ives or Marlon Brando.

I mean, I hate the way it looks, but I can't stop living. I have to do what I have to do.

KING: Like you're going to do Sunday night.

LEWIS: You got to kill me to stop me. There's no way I could stop.

And, you know, those in my staff, in my company, they say, are you sure you want to be seen that way?

And I say, I have to be seen that way. I committed to do this until I die, until I get it done, and I didn't say anything about any change in consequence. I didn't say anything about, well if -- you know.

KING: Now last year, if memory serves me right, you worked a little less on the telethon, right?

LEWIS: Oh yes. I couldn't do a whole -- I was on oxygen most of the time.

KING: What will you be able to do this year?

LEWIS: I'm going to be able to do the top of the show. I'll do five or six hours, and then I've got to rest for eight, and then I'll do the balance.

KING: When did this all start? This whole Jerry Lewis and sickness.

I remember when you smoked and you had the bypass surgery, then I...


KING: ... you were in Australia.

LEWIS: You've got to keep your name in the public's eye.

KING: Boy, you figured out a way to do it.

LEWIS: Yes, I just get sick every 30 minutes.

KING: When did the health and Jerry Lewis become...

LEWIS: In the year 1999 in Australia, I contracted viral meningitis, and they think that may have cued this. They're not sure. But when your lung goes bad, it could be anybody doing anything. It's a very, very dangerous thing because it's such a sensitive organ.

KING: When you hear "meningitis," you think of spinal meningitis, right?

LEWIS: Yes, but I had viral meningitis, which is equally as bad, but not it's not as fatal as spinal is.

And the whole -- I think that when you get sick, I think it nurtures another illness. I have a feeling that one illness begets another. That's all I have to figure it is. I mean, for the last two-and-a-half years I'm doing nothing but fixing.

KING: You were healthy most of your adult life, right?

LEWIS: Oh God, yes.

KING: Until the heart surgery.

LEWIS: Until the heart surgery I had absolutely no marks on me. But since the heart surgery my body looks like a map to Wilksbury (ph), I mean, with all the incisions and the cuts.

KING: How many years is this now for the telethon?

LEWIS: This is 52 for me, 37 coast-to-coast, 57 since I built the organization.

KING: I saw the first one in New York.

LEWIS: Did you?

KING: Barry Gray (ph).

LEWIS: Yes, right. We talked about it. Right. It was wonderful.

KING: And you'd never tell, never tell -- it bugs me. It really does, and I love you...

LEWIS: It does.

KING: Why you never tell, why muscular dystrophy, when you could have picked 100 diseases.

LEWIS: Why don't you ask me why I never tell?

KING: Well, that's what I'm asking you.

LEWIS: What are you asking?

KING: Why do you never tell?

LEWIS: Nobody's business.

Let me put it to you this way. It's very personal. It isn't something I want anyone to know, and it's probably the only secret I've ever had in my life. A secret from my wife and from my children.

KING: They do not know?

LEWIS: No, they do not. I've got children 57 years old that don't know.

KING: Was this a decision you made the first night you went on? I will fight this -- do what it takes to fight this, but I will not tell about it?

LEWIS: I never, ever said that, no. No. I said, I will fight this to the death because I must, never, ever indicating the why of it. And I've always said, as long as I'm doing it, that's the important thing.

The reason -- if I told you the reason, you'd hear it and you'd say bravo or otherwise, and it goes away.

It doesn't -- I don't want to give that up.

KING: Is it going to take extensive stem cell research to lick M.D.?

LEWIS: No. What's going to lick it is DNA genetic engineering. And we're getting very close, very close.

I mean, we're doing trials, Larry, $5 million on a child. We're doing 20 this year. $100 million in research. And the child is...

KING: With the drugs?

LEWIS: They're going to give us -- yes, of course. They're going to give us the answer in my lifetime. They're now telling me I'm going to see the cure in my lifetime. My lifetime. I'm 76, you better hurry.

KING: They're going to name the cure after you.

LEWIS: I hope so. Just have the cure. KING: By the way, I'll say it right now, it will be my honor to be on the telethon this Sunday. And I'll be on in the first hour. And it will be my honor to introduce you to a young man who is dying to meet you. We taped him the other day, we're going to play it Monday night. I'm going to bring him on stage to meet you, and then we're going to stand there.

And I want to show you a little clip of him from the interview that will air this Monday night. He was on with us once before; this is his second appearance. You will see it Monday night.

I want Jerry and the rest to little 12-year-old Mattie Stepanek.



KING: You think someday you'll be cured?

MATTIE STEPANEK, MDA NATIONAL GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: You know what? A cure is possible if we never give up the hope. And true, it may not be in my lifetime or your lifetime or anybody's lifetime that's right now. But if we give up the hope and we stop raising money and we stop thinking we're going to have a cure, we won't.


LEWIS: Right after that, two, three, four.

KING: Mattie Stepanek, what a kid. You know he worships you. You're finally going to meet him.

LEWIS: Did you ever see a kid write like that? The books are wonderful.

KING: And the mother and the three kids, the dad.

LEWIS: It's a great group.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Jerry Lewis. We'll be including your phone calls.

By the way, on Monday, start watching CNN and you're going to see the announcement. We're going to have a special guest on Tuesday night. We can't announce it until Monday morning, but you'll hear all about it starting -- we can't announce it until Monday morning, you'll hear all about it then. The guest will be on on Tuesday night.

We'll be right back with Jerry Lewis.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Mattie, we have another big fan who would like to say hello to you, a guy by the name -- you may have heard of this guy -- a guy by the name of Jerry Lewis.

Say hello to Jerry.

STEPANEK: Hello Jerry Lewis.

LEWIS: Hello, Mattie, my friend.

STEPANEK: It's an honor talking to you. I mean, I've always wanted to meet you. You are such a hero for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and I'm just so ecstatic.

LEWIS: Thank you Mattie.




LEWIS: We're going to do a show for you now. Twenty hours coast to coast. You know that?


LEWIS: OK. Now let's see if we can get the people out there to love you, too, all right?


LEWIS: Holly Schmidt (ph) is 9 years old.


LEWIS: Matthew Brown (ph), the national poster child of 1977.

(singing): Wait till you feel the warmth of her glance.


LEWIS: Isn't she cute.

KING: Jerry's kids.

LEWIS: That was Rocky with the little hands. He loved to imitate me. It was so cute.

KING: The telethon starts this Sunday night. It will go for 21.5 hours. Please check your stations for time it's on. And we'll be on during the first hour with Mattie Stepanek and with my friend, Jerry Lewis.

Back to Prednisone. What does it do?

LEWIS: It makes this particular organ better.

KING: OK. It's a lung -- right? LEWIS: Yes. But you've got to know this, Larry, that Prednisone is probably the most generic drug for a variety of maladies. For example, I did the film in Canada. Remember I did the "Fight for Life?" I played the doctor -- I played...

KING: True story.

LEWIS: The true story of Bernard Cannet (ph) who had a daughter that had 100 grand mal seizures a day. And he went to Europe with his friend who was a priest, because he heard there was a drug there. Not knowing what it was, the priest, and he smuggled the drug back to this country, all in the priest's luggage. And at the customs, the doctor said, you're not going to open a priest's bag? I mean, come on, a priest. And they let him go through.

They brought the drug in. They applied it to the child. And in four days, she was free of seizures, all seizures, and it was Prednisone. NIH heard about it, FDA approved it. That was how Prednisone got to this country.

KING: What a story!

LEWIS: Yeah. Yeah.

KING: Jerry was telling us during the break, when he got this disease, his waste was 33. Now it's...

LEWIS: Forty-nine. My neck collar size was 15, and now it's 20 1/2. So all of these clothes I've had made -- I made a load of clothes for fat outfits, right? So I called Dom DeLuise and said, you're going to get all this stuff after the telethon.

KING: Have you had all new clothes made?

LEWIS: Oh, God, yes. Oh, God.

KING: Now, you were always, always so skinny.

LEWIS: Yeah. I was 127 pounds until I was 60.

KING: I mean, you were a rail.

LEWIS: Yeah.

KING: What does it feel like?

LEWIS: It feels like terrible.

KING: But no pain?

LEWIS: Oh, no pain.

KING: Now, let's get to that. You've had pain for a long time, long time before...

LEWIS: Thirty-seven years of pain every day of my life. KING: From?

LEWIS: Now, wait a minute. From pratfalls.

KING: There you are skinny.

LEWIS: Yeah, from pratfalls all through my life. All of the times we have been friends, if you go back all of these years, there was pain under every meeting we had, always.

KING: I didn't know about all that.

LEWIS: Thirty-seven telethons, there was pain under it all.

KING: Caused by pratfalls?

LEWIS: Pratfalls. Until I finally busted my spine bad enough that the pain got so severe I couldn't see. And I flew to Tokyo to meet with Dr. Chew (ph), who is one of the great neurosurgeons in the world, and he said, you're going to have to live with this. I went to Stockholm to see Dr. Ericsson (ph) who said you're going to have to live with this. I'm carrying charts and X-rays and MRIs, going all over the damn world to try to get some answers. Forget it. You have to learn to live with it.

So I learned to live with it. It was every single day. Now, when the Prednisone started, Prednisone has a way of going to where you hurt yourself. In other words, if you bang your hand at some time, didn't necessarily break it, but if you hurt it internally, Prednisone will go to that spot, and just inflames it a little bit.

Well, the Prednisone went to my spine, good, and the pain got so bad that I didn't think I was going to make it. I had a gun ready, I had a car ready, walk in front of a bus ready, and you get to that point where you cannot see. Your focus is gone, and you can't move your body from the couch to the TV set; the pain is so severe.

So I called my friend, who had been giving me shots over the years for my pain, Dr. Joe Shapini (ph). Tells me about Dr. Ben Venger (ph), a brilliant surgeon in Las Vegas who can do something for me that might help. What? He said if you do this stimulator that's made by Medtronic, who's the inventor of the pacemaker. I said, what do they do? We put an appliance on your spine outside your skin...

KING: Outside the skin?

LEWIS: Outside the skin. Put two needles in through the spinal cord, two little needles, and if in that four days you get any relief at all, you can then have it done permanently. We had the four days. Make a long story short, I was without pain for four days for the first time in 37 years. I said, let's do it!

KING: And doing it meant?

LEWIS: Doing it meant a 3.5-hour surgery. I flew to Houston. Dr. Debakey (ph) saw that it was done right. And unfortunately, there was a little accident during the surgery, because I'm dramatic, I can't do anything easy. And I tried to have a cold sore, but meanwhile I'm into surgery. And something went awry. Came back to Vegas, and two weeks later Dr. Venger (ph) saved my life by redoing the implant. Now...

KING: So what's that inside you now, right?

LEWIS: Yeah.

KING: With the needles? Or you don't need the needles?

LEWIS: Put your hand there. Put your hand there. That's the battery pack under my skin. And two electrodes come from that, and they've taken bone out of the spine to get the electrodes in it. And now I...

KING: That's with you all the time?

LEWIS: Oh, yeah, forever. I raise the stimulation.

KING: What is that you're holding?

LEWIS: That's the remote.

KING: Like a remote television?

LEWIS: Yeah. And I'm the only one with a red one in the world. Medtronic had it made specially for me and gave it to me two weeks ago.

KING: Synergy easy.

LEWIS: Yeah.


LEWIS: Now, I raise it to the volume until the pain is gone. I lower it because sometimes it's a little strong. I turn it on here, I turn it off there, and it also opens my garage, which is wonderful.

KING: How long do you have to do that? How many times do you do this a day?

LEWIS: There is nothing fixed. I can go a whole day with keeping it at a level, and I'm pain free. I turn it off, and I get about 15 minutes of residual without it on, and I'm pain free.

So hear this. If I found the cure for dystrophy tomorrow, I would do a telethon in four weeks for acute pain that in this country is a bigger problem than cancer, heart, sickle cell, anemia, name it. It is -- it's hitting 70 million Americans.

KING: Who are in pain every day?

LEWIS: Every day, acute pain. So whenever I do this and I get this relief, I'm very happy, but I think the Jew in me comes out and I have guilt that these poor people don't know about it.

KING: How expensive is it?

LEWIS: Very expensive. But if we sell a lot of them -- I said to them when I was in Minneapolis, if we could move this and really get it out there with people, the price will come down, they will become affordable. It will be a miracle of the world.

KING: Insurance won't pay?

LEWIS: I really don't know anything about that. I only know that it's there.

KING: Jerry Lewis is our guest. The telethon starts Sunday night. We'll take a lot of phone calls starting -- not in the next segment, but the segment after that. You'll get a chance to talk with a living legend.


LEWIS: An icon.

KING: An icon. He's not the manager. He's the manager. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm doing now. We'll be right back with more of Jerry Lewis. Don't go away.


LEWIS: ...I'm halfway, but it's not chronological. As I write it...

KING: You can't publish a 4,000 page book.

LEWIS: No. It will be a volume one and two, probably be 600 pages per. Because if I give them a 4,000 manuscript, it will break down to 600 pages per for volumes one and two, but it is incredible!

KING: How do you explain your incredible, incredible popularity in France?

LEWIS: They have very good taste.

KING: No, I mean, you're a signature hero in France.

LEWIS: But they are not first. France is not first. Now, our demographics of fan mail -- how else do you know? And for every letter we receive, that's the equivalent of 876 people that would have written you. Most of the mail we get is Australia, Japan, Spain, Italy, France. France is like fifth. Germany, the Netherlands.

KING: Because France gave you that legion medal thing? And your films widely appreciated there?

LEWIS: Oh, God, yes, because I speak the international language.

KING: Do you think you've been shortchanged filmwise in this country?

LEWIS: No. Oh, God, no. I've had the greatest respect for my work in this country by Americans. Critics have no brains.

KING: So you don't feel any -- that America let you down in some way?

LEWIS: Never. And people think I'm against critics because they are negative to my work. That's not what bothers me. What bothers me is they didn't see the work. I have seen critics print stuff about stuff I cut out of the film before we ran it. So don't tell me about critics. It used to be a guy that did radio. Then the editor says, well, we're into television now. Boom, you're a television critic.

Come on. We're in a business where people have spent their lives learning and honing their craft, and some guy looks at it, if he sees it, and because the guy is raucous, caustic, or loud like me, it displeases him that I'm doing funny stuff and he reads it differently. And they have done it to different people for years, and it's not important. It's not important. You know what's funny? They never paid to get in in the first place. OK.

KING: You're 76. You have seen a lot of friends die.


KING: Frank.

LEWIS: Frank, Sammy, Dean, yes. I can't tell you how many more in the business.

KING: Frank, of course, in one of the historic moments, I think we have it, in the history of television. You hadn't seen Dean in how long?

LEWIS: Twenty years. We hadn't spoken in 20 years.

KING: And it's the telethon.


KING: You want to run that now? And Frank is the guest, right? And he -- watch this, folks.

LEWIS: Best kept secret in the history of the world.



FRANK SINATRA, SINGER: All right. Break it up, break it up. What is this?


KING: Frank Sinatra. LEWIS: I prayed to God that moment that He would give me one thing to say. I prayed on his whole walk toward me, what am I going to say? And when he put his arm around me and then pulled away, I said, You working? Thank God it came. The laugh was there. And we went on.

KING: Look how good he looked.

LEWIS: Oh, he looked so wonderful.

KING: What's it been like to have all these people passing on?

LEWIS: Well, it's interesting, Larry. I told...

KING: You didn't go to Dean's funeral?

LEWIS: Yes, I did.

KING: You did?

LEWIS: Yes, it was very hard. I had four years of grieving that was rough. The minute I started the book, I was OK. And he was in the room with me every day that I've written. So I can't wait to get to it. I feel -- I feel him in the room with me. It's not Shirley MacLaine schtick. I'm talking about actually feeling him.

KING: I guess I thought you didn't go -- there was a wake or something that you didn't go to because you thought it would draw too much attention, right?

LEWIS: No, I just -- I went to the memorial service. That was all that was necessary.

KING: Berle was a close friend.

LEWIS: Yes, of course. Oh, my God.

KING: Frank?

LEWIS: Oh, so many. But you know, there are so many people in this country that are dying that we don't necessarily know who they are. There is no difference. And others grieve for them, I'm sure. But what it does say to me in the autumn of my life, what it says to me is you've got to have a wonderful day every day that you're here, because the moments of our lives are so painfully few, when you think about it.

There is no time for stress and nonsense and negativity. I don't want to hear about a lady that doesn't like that lady. I have no time for that.

KING: I just thought of something, I don't even know the answer.

LEWIS: What?

KING: Berle didn't get it. Were you ever given a Kennedy Center honor?


KING: There's a mistake.

LEWIS: Oh, well. I'm still around.

KING: Put the word in, folks.

KING: Next year, Lewis. We'll be back. We'll take your phone calls. The telethon is Sunday night. Monday night Mattie Stepanek will be with us on our Labor Day night. We taped it a couple of days ago, and Tuesday a very special guest. We can't let you know until Monday, but you'll start seeing and hearing all about it Monday morning on CNN. We'll be right back with your calls for Jerry. Don't go away.


KING: "Family Jewels," they want to remake it?

LEWIS: Yeah, I just sold it to Paramount. And I talked to Tom Hanks and we're talking about if I direct it maybe -- if he doesn't have a conflict, it would be wonderful. So we were just talking.

KING: And you were just telling the boys and the crew how you like Jim Carrey.

LEWIS: Oh, yes.

KING: Never met him?

LEWIS: No, I've never met him. And I've watched his work. And I mean, there was a point about seven or eight years ago when I tried to bill "The Bellboy" as a new feature in television. And the idea had...

KING: A movie that he shot in Florida.

LEWIS: Yeah, related to film, and it was a wonderful technical idea. And I had seen Jim Carrey on "Living Color." I said, God, he's good. My God, he's funny. So we never, ever connected then. But then I watched his growth a few years later. I said it a thousand times, he's the best physical comedian to come down the road in 100 years. I mean, brilliant.

KING: Let's go to calls to Jerry Lewis. The telethon -- this would be number what?

LEWIS: And you know why I know how good he is? Because I'm so jealous.

KING: Beverly Hills, California, hello.

DANIELLE LEWIS, JERRY LEWIS' DAUGHTER: Hi, this is Danielle Lewis. LEWIS: Danielle?

KING: Danielle Lewis, the daughter of Jerry Lewis, called in on a regular line, no special phone?


LEWIS: Oh, my darling. Hi, baby.


LEWIS: How's my sweet girl?


LEWIS: Where are you, darling?

DANIELLE LEWIS: I'm at the hotel.

KING: Sounds so old.

LEWIS: How did -- did you just call me without -- did someone -- did auntie Claude (ph) -- did grandma Claude (ph) set this up?


LEWIS: You did?


LEWIS: How did you know what number to call, honey?

DANIELLE LEWIS: It said it on the screen.

LEWIS: It said it on the screen?


LEWIS: She made a normal call. Oh, I'm so proud of you, baby.

KING: Hey, Danielle?


KING: What do you make of how your daddy looks?

DANIELLE LEWIS: I don't know.

LEWIS: Well, what...

KING: I mean, he's so different than when you're used to him. Is it funny to you -- or is it -- how do you feel about when you look at him?

DANIELLE LEWIS: It's not funny. It's just sad. Sometimes.

LEWIS: Yes, but we have so much love, baby.

DANIELLE LEWIS: Daddy, I just wanted to say I love you and I'm happy for what you're doing for the kids, and I'm proud.

LEWIS: Oh, thank you, Danielle.


LEWIS: Yeah, baby?

DANIELLE LEWIS: We have one more thing to say.

LEWIS: What?

DANIELLE LEWIS: Candy and I have something to say. One, two, three -- we love you. Bye.

LEWIS: Goodbye, my darlings. See you later.

KING: Goodbye.

You're nuts about that kid? I mean, you've been nuts since the day she was born.

LEWIS: God almighty. I've never known such a love affair. Oh, God.

KING: She'll be happier when the Prednisone goes away, as long as you're well.

LEWIS: You know, I haven't heard her mention this, what you asked her. It threw her a little bit, because she hasn't discussed it. But she thinks it's sad. And that's the first I've heard anything.

KING: That's what anyone would say, because they love you. They don't know that it's helping you so much.

LEWIS: Right, right.

KING: You'd much rather look this way than there be no Prednisone?

LEWIS: Of course. She understands. She's a bright 10-year-old.

KING: For more information on this technical thing...

LEWIS: Medtronic.

KING: Medtronic. Any neurologist knows about it. Cardiologist.

LEWIS: Any good doctor that's dealing in your best interest will let you know about Medtronic and where it is and how to get to it.

KING: Cleveland, Ohio, hello. CALLER: Hi, Larry, thanks. And Jerry, I want to thank you because you're such an inspiration to so many people. But my question for you is, I know having had been on a 60 milligram a day Prednisone experience, I want to make sure that your physician has talked to you about how he's going to wean you off the Prednisone and how you will be able to return to normal once you are off that Prednisone.

LEWIS: Yes, ma'am. I have been told -- I have been made aware of the fact that there is a very, very, very careful, slow process.

KING: So you don't just stop?

LEWIS: You can't cold turkey, no. It takes a few months, I think. They take you down to 15, 10, five.

KING: How long did it take you, ma'am?

CALLER: It took me about three months, and I wanted to tell you, hang in there. It is a grueling experience. Believe me, you will go through many, many withdrawals and different pains, but hang in there, wait it out, and you'll be able to get back to normal. These spots in your arms will go away. The weight will drop away. It just takes time. And please, don't get impatient. Hang in there.

LEWIS: I will. And I thank you so much for your sensitivity, and I appreciate it.

KING: They love you, Jerry. Napierville, Illinois. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, and hi, Jerry.

LEWIS: Hi, dear. Hi.

CALLER: I love both of you. And Jerry, I wanted to ask, how is your family doing through this?

LEWIS: My family?


LEWIS: They're strong as Gibraltar. They are supportive. I call Sam, my wife, I call her Mrs. Rexall (ph). Some days it's Wallgreens, but she gives me 24 pills a day. I take 15 in the morning, nine at night. Being a diabetic, she gives me my insulin shots.

KING: You have type I diabetes?

LEWIS: Yeah. Oh, God, yes. The only thing I haven't had in my life is a cold sore. I'd love to have one of those, you know. Or maybe a splinter. Dr. Debakey (ph) said one day, he said, you are such -- you are so class-conscious that you have to have open heart, prostate cancer. We have to go into your spinal column, do intensive surgery, when I've had people come into my office with a sty, and they were fairly happy with that. And he would tease me about, can't you do an easy one? KING: By the way, when you get like this, do you become medically whacko in that you -- you know everything, you become like a doctor? Danny Kaye was that way.

LEWIS: Yes, of course. But I mean, I've had my medical growing up in the last 52 years. I've lived with medicine, and with the neuromuscular research, people all over this world constantly. So you're going to learn...

KING: It's a part of you, all of it?

LEWIS: Oh, God, yes. Fifty-two weeks a year, 365 days a year.

KING: We'll be back with more of Jerry Lewis. The telethon, the 52nd, right, annual one?

LEWIS: Thirty-seventh, coast to coast.

KING: National.

LEWIS: Yeah.

KING: Is Sunday night and all day Monday, the annual Labor Day telethon.

LEWIS: And on Monday afternoon, I'll tell you who his guest is going to be. They will have found out by then.

KING: By then they will. You can tell them Monday morning.


KING: We'll be back with more of Jerry Lewis. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be no practicing on my time here. What are you, crazy? The man's got...


LEWIS: If there's any of you folks out in television that have a phone, if you could call the studio and tell my lighting director that the damn lights are a pain in the tuchus.

You don't scare me!

MR. T., ACTOR: What you say?




LEWIS: I was fooling. I was fooling. It was just a joke. It was a gag. It was just a joke. I work alone! I work alone!


KING: All that, and you were in pain doing that, right?

LEWIS: Oh, God, yes. Oh, sure.

KING: To Sarasota, Florida, with Jerry Lewis. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.


CALLER: I've been going to tell you that you became my best friend when I was in Germany five years ago.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: You're very welcome. Mr. Lewis, it's such an honor. I'm glad that you at last got help and you're pain free. And make no mistake about it, you're handsome as ever and you are a hero.

LEWIS: Thank you so much.

CALLER: Mr. Lewis, my question is, with your less than perfect health all these years, what is the fuel that keeps you driving? What is it that makes you go, that stops you from quitting?

LEWIS: My 9-year-old in me. I have never allowed myself to have a birthday after I was 9.

KING: That's how old you think you are?

LEWIS: I am that. What do you mean I think I am? You know how old you are?

KING: Seventeen.

LEWIS: I'm nine, and when they asked my daughter last year, how old you going to be, Danielle, she said I'll be a year older than my dad, OK? She hears about the importance of nine. I had a meeting today with Sean Hayes, the most wonderful comic who's doing me in the CBS film.

KING: They're doing, right, a CBS film on you and Martin?

LEWIS: Yes. And I hear...

KING: Who is playing Dean?

LEWIS: This wonderful actor, this English actor. They say he is impeccable.

KING: Jeremy Northam.

LEWIS: Yes, Jeremy Northam. And Sean came to the office today. We did a couple of publicity pictures, and he looked at me and said, I can't believe I'm sitting with you. I mean, he was really, really sitting with this, I grew up watching.

So I said, you can have this feeling for the rest of your life if you keep the child in you alive. And I've told that to people in lectures all over the world. If you can keep the child within you alive. And we all have them. And the sad thing is that when we become adults, many people become snobbish about the fact that they've grown into adulthood.


LEWIS: And you leave the child inside die, and you're going to have a half a life, I believe.

KING: Yogi Berra said there is a little boy in me.

LEWIS: You bet. Oh, God, does he know what he's talking about.

KING: Las Vegas for Jerry Lewis. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Jerry, I've loved you since I was 11 years old.

LEWIS: There'll be no soliciting here, Ma'am. Go ahead, honey. Go ahead.

CALLER: Anyway, I wanted to ask you, what -- of all your films that you've made, what is your favorite and why?

LEWIS: My favorite film of all of the ones that I'VE made, "Rebecca." Hello?

KING: You look like Olivier.

LEWIS: My favorite film is "The Nutty Professor," which is my labor of love. It was never a film that came close to the beginning, the middle and the end result being what I felt was the best work I felt I've ever done.

KING: How well -- and then they paid to do it again.

LEWIS: Oh, God, yes. They paid twice to do it again, and they're talking about doing a third. I just sit home and cut coupons.

KING: How well was it received?

LEWIS: Eddie's?

KING: Yours.

LEWIS: Oh, mine was incredible. As a matter of fact, I'm talking to Paramount about rereleasing it, it was so strong.

KING: The critics liked it?

LEWIS: Oh, yes, it was about the only thing they ever liked. KING: How could you not like the...

LEWIS: Well, there were...

KING: It was a brilliant idea brilliantly conceived.

LEWIS: Yes, my idea was to do a great classic in comedy, and it worked.

You know what's interesting, Larry? In the last 18 months, I've sold six of my films for remakes, OK? I sold "Bellboy" to Metro. I sold "Errand Boy" to Disney. I sold "Patsy" to Andrew Wald (ph) and his partners, Bill Mechanic (ph). And the last one I sold was "Family Jewels" to Paramount.

So I'm sitting with Bob Thomas, a marvelous writer with Associated Press. We've been friends for years. He looked at me and he said, what's happening here? Did Hollywood decide that 40 years ago, the stuff you did was OK? I said, they must have figured it was OK. I am getting paid twice of what the budget was when I made it in 1962.

KING: Ah, but they got to find the right people.

LEWIS: Well, we'll do that. We'll do it. I'm the executive.

KING: Did you like Eddie Murphy?

LEWIS: I loved Eddie. I wasn't going to sell it unless we got Eddie.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Jerry Lewis. The telethon starts Sunday night.


ED MCMAHON, ENTERTAINER: I really never noticed the color of your eyes before.

Since you made me the national chairman of the senior citizens committee, I've just got to get my rest.

LEWIS: You're that giant to me all the time.

MCMAHON: Isn't he sweet? Thank you. That's nice.

LEWIS: So many years! Yes!





LEWIS: Maybe I didn't hear you correctly. What is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep doing it. Repeat it. Go ahead.

(singing): There's a song in the air but the fair senorita doesn't really care for that song in the air. So I'll sing to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you're sure she won't think that I'm just a fool, serenading you.


KING: That was brilliant. You heard from Danielle. Here's what she looks like. Show them. Can we get it on there?

All right. Here.

LEWIS: There's my girl.

KING: Danielle and daddy. Here's another one.

LEWIS: Oh, God, I love that. But she won't stay there long.

KING: Why -- you've been taking pictures of me the whole time. Why is that?

LEWIS: Because I love you, Larry. I like you as much as Audie Murphy, I swear to God. I don't know. I'm just talking.

KING: Are you a photography bug?

LEWIS: Any good director is. Did you know that some of the greatest work that David Lean did was with a Reflex camera? Did you know that Fred Zinnemann never ever made a film until he shot 60 or 70 rolls giving himself format, frame, composition? Here, go to the set, and that's an education. Most people don't really learn their craft.

KING: Nyack, New York, hello.

CALLER: Jerry, even though you don't know it, you owe me a tooth.

LEWIS: I owe you a what?

CALLER: A tooth.

KING: Why?

LEWIS: What happened?

CALLER: I was like 5 or 6 years old, my grandparents took me to see one of your movies, and I laughed so hard that I cracked my tooth in the seat in front of me.

LEWIS: Well, I know a lady in Cleveland that's gone to a proctologist twice because of the same problem. So I don't know what to do about that.

CALLER: Question to you. Did anybody make you laugh as hard as you made me laugh?

LEWIS: Yes, yes, Stan Laurel made me laugh that hard. And so did Mr. Chaplin. I mean, I laughed as a kid. I kicked my feet, and then the days that I met them were just glorious.

KING: Crooksville, Ohio. Hello.

CALLER: You and I are both 5 years old.

LEWIS: Are you 5?

CALLER: I'm about 5, and sometimes I'm 2.

LEWIS: Well, that's OK.

CALLER: OK. So if you want, you can come and play with me.

LEWIS: Yeah, you want to play doctor?

CALLER: No, I play nurse.

LEWIS: Oh, OK, I'll see you down the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) road.

KING: What's the question, dear?

CALLER: I did that already. I asked who made him laugh as hard as he made me.

KING: I thought you were gone. Crooksville, Ohio.


LEWIS: Why do you -- you drink vodka all through the show?

KING: All through the show. I dropped Milton by mistake. OK, well, last call, number six, I don't know who you are. Where are you calling from?

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Where are you calling from, sir?

CALLER: Crooksville, Ohio.

KING: So you're Crooksville!

CALLER: Yes, sir.

KING: They told me seven, you were on six.

LEWIS: Crooksville! I was there four weeks one night.

KING: Go, Crooksville, go!

CALLER: Yes, sir. First off, I would like to tell you how much I love your films. LEWIS: Thank you.

CALLER: And we love you and I passed that legacy on to my children. How do you remain so consistently funny over the last five decades?

LEWIS: I don't know that that's the case but...

KING: You've never lost that, though, right?

LEWIS: I think that -- huh?

KING: You never lost -- it's because you're 9.

LEWIS: Yes, I'm 9. I'll be that way all the rest of my life. I guess that's what it is. You know, my joy of being funny or giving other people pleasure, I've never ever really understood -- is it really selfless or selfish? You think you're doing this wonderful, selfless thing giving other people joy, when the joy is never near anywhere what you get. Never.

KING: What was it like the first day you didn't have pain?

LEWIS: It was absolutely -- it was euphoria. I became very verbal, very, very energetic, moved quickly. Did things. My daughter ran from the driveway coming home from school into my arms for the first time in a year and a half. I was able to hold her in my arms, carry her around.

What did that feel like?

KING: Are you sorry you did all the pratfall?

LEWIS: No, I would do it again, because the joy it gave people and the magic of that idiocy, I would never change that.

KING: Did that come naturally, or can you teach that?

LEWIS: Oh, you can teach it. If a guy is good and physical, you can teach him. But you can't teach him the desire to do it. That's something else. When it's in your bones, Larry, to make somebody laugh, you can't teach someone that hasn't got it in their bones to do it and do it well.

KING: My friend, I will see you Sunday night. I will be there for the first hour. I'm looking forward to it, and I will be there with little Matthew Stepanek.

LEWIS: Look at this, you've got to look at this. You've got to look to two powerhouse women of the world. There is the two women that are keeping me alive, thank God. Everyone should have that, and I'm sure many do.

KING: Thank God for you, Jerry.

LEWIS: Thank you, sweetheart. KING: Jerry Lewis. The telethon is Sunday night and all day Monday. We'll come back and tell you about what's coming up over the weekend and early next week. Don't go away.


LEWIS (singing): You'll never walk alone. Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you'll never walk alone. You'll never walk alone. Good night. Thank you.



KING: We prayed for it. It happened. Baseball's here. And still with us!

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND, we'll repeat our interview with Charles Spencer, the sister (sic) of the late Princess Di. On Sunday night, a repeat of the interview with Matthew Perry. Mattie Stepanek returns on Monday night, and a special guest Tuesday night. You'll learn all about it Monday on CNN.

Anderson Cooper is still sitting in for the missing. Anderson, I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend.




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