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Interview With Jerry Lewis

Aired August 29, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Jerry Lewis.

KING: You know how much he does for kids with muscular dystrophy. He's also fights for his own life. There's never a full moment with this national treasure, here for the hour to take your calls. The very subdued, the one and only Jer. Next.



LEWIS: Yes! Oh I can't wait to hear what I got to say!

KING: So glad to hear how aging has toned him. The one and only, an entertainment original, gearing up for the 38th Annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy -- the MBA Telethon, 21-and-a-half hours Labor Day weekend, August 31 through September 1. He was last here a year ago.

And let's of course immediately get an update on how you're doing.

LEWIS: I'm doing good.

KING: Obviously, still taking the Prednisone (ph).

LEWIS: The Prednisone is coming down slowly but surely, and the coming down is almost as bad as when you get the lung disease. It's really -- it's really a nightmare. They told me it would be a nightmare and it is.

KING: Tell me what it basically -- people who may not have joined us last year -- what it is, what it does and why you gained weight from it.

LEWIS: Prednisone puts weight on you immediately because it's a drug that does that. It is also the only drug known to man that can cure the lung of the disease, which could be pulmonary, it could be fibrosis, it could be pulmonary fibrosis, it could be pneumonia, pulmonary pneumonia. I've got a combination of those things and...

KING: All of them?

LEWIS: No, not all. I'm saving one for, like, the weekend, you know. And...

KING: Is it a steroid?

LEWIS: Yes, it's a steroid that is-- Dr. DeBakey called it the greatest worst drug ever conceived.

KING: Because it works but it does this to you?

LEWIS: Yes. It works on the lung but it destroys your natural beauty. And I put on 62 pounds. And that's very, very tough. Because...

KING: You were the slimmest guy in show business.

LEWIS: Yes, I was.

KING: You were.

LEWIS: I was absolutely Twiggy's clone and the weight is a devastating thing to carry. And it's not great for the lung because you have to sit an awful lot. I can't walk more than 30 steps, so I have to get in a wheelchair to make any real distance moves because the lung won't take it yet. On the demise of the Prednisone, the lung is very, very vulnerable. So you have to be very careful. More careful now than at the beginning.

KING: So you say they're taking you off it. Does that mean you're getting better?

LEWIS: Yes. Absolutely. Thank...


KING: And when will you be off off it?

LEWIS: They started to take me off 10 weeks ago. And it's about an 18-week process to get you off 20 milligram. They take a point a week or something like that.

KING: Has the weight gained through eating or through the drug?

LEWIS: The drug use primarily, but then you don't.

KING: So you don't overeat or you do overeat?

LEWIS: Well, it gives you an appetite.


LEWIS: And I don't overeat but the Prednisone will put weight on if you eat nothing.

KING: All right.

LEWIS: It's just the nature of the drug. KING: Now how does it affect your work on the telethon? Well, a lot of people were concerned for him during last year's telethon because a lot of times you weren't on-screen.


KING: We missed you.

LEWIS: I can't -- I can't commit to all of the time because I can't breathe that well comfortably without the oxygen. I've been on it for 24 hours a day because they need me to supply more air to the lung now that we're taking the medicine off. So it's a double-edged sword and a catch-22.

But it's an interesting thing, Larry. The ham in me that I always tease about and we've talked -- from the day you and I met, we talked about that I got my dad's ham. And I'm that kind of ham. But were it not for the adrenaline of being a ham, I could never have gone on-stage. These last two years I've performed, I've done lectures, I followed you in one particular situation. I lectured on a Friday night, you were there on a Monday night. And I stand there for three hours with no oxygen, no wheelchair, no nothing. I'm standing there lecturing and I talk. And I do everything I do for three hours.

KING: Why do you do it?

LEWIS: I do it because I love it. It's good for me to get in front of an audience.

KING: So it's not -- it doesn't affect your health? It helps your health?

LEWIS: It helps my health. My adrenaline gets me through it.

I've give you an example. The closing night at the Orleans in Vegas, I do two hours and 20 minutes of the most physicality you've seen.

KING: Standing?

LEWIS: Everything from off the piano, into the audience, every prop, every music, every instrument, everything that I do in that two hours 20 minutes and I'm on fire physically. The curtain comes down, and I can't walk from the center stage 75 feet to my dressing room because the adrenaline is down and I'm now crippled. And they have to help me into the dressing room. That's how (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: So the explanation is you weren't sick during those two hours and 20 minutes? The adrenaline took over?

LEWIS: You bet. Oh, yes. I had pain in that dressing room from the lung at the very beginning that was indescribable. I walked onstage and there was no pain.

KING: Is it still a kick to make people laugh?

LEWIS: Oh, of course.

KING: You've been doing it -- how old are you, Jer?

LEWIS: I'll be 78 next March and I've been performing 73 years.

KING: So -- because you started as a kid...

LEWIS: At age 5, yes.

KING: And it's still a kick?

LEWIS: Oh, of course. What would you say to Michael DeBakey? Is it still a kick to save a human being's life? I don't believe it's any different. That's what I get from it. And I see what laughter does for people. Not only people in trouble, but people that don't know they are. And they are really -- they're given a kind of a wonderful lift. True laughter that they couldn't get any other way.

KING: A lot of good things happen to you when you laugh.

LEWIS: Yes. Oh well, you can't hurt when you laugh. You cannot...

KING: That's right.

LEWIS: depressed when you laugh. And you can't grieve when you laugh. Laughter says, "When you're grieving, you look ridiculous smiling when you've just told us you're so sad." It's a wonderful, wonderful thing that happens. And the laughter that people provide, the people in the world today, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal...

KING: Bill Maher, you mentioned him last night.

LEWIS: Bill Maher, brilliant. Steve Martin. Martin Short.

KING: Jim Carrey.

LEWIS: Jim Carrey. Max Alexander. I'm talking about comics that walk out and they bury you with 30 minutes of laughter. I've seen people over the years that I work to that were coming and saying, My son died in Vietnam 11 years ago, and I wasn't able to smile for these last 11 years, and you just did it. You made me laugh. Well, I look at her and I think, my God, what a gift I've got. What God gave me. And that she now believes is a magnificent gift.

KING: That -- I keep looking at -- is that the French Legion?

LEWIS: Legion of Honor, yes.

KING: They love you, huh?

LEWIS: Oh, yes.

KING: The French Legion of Honor, highest award that the country gives. LEWIS: And I just got one from Germany, a large swastika, which I'm very happy -- I'm not going to wear it, of course.

KING: Nice Jewish boy...

LEWIS: You know, unless Arnold makes...

KING: What do you think of that, by the way?

LEWIS: What about it?

KING: Arnold.

LEWIS: What about him?

KING: What about him? What do you think?

LEWIS: What do I think -- you want me to get into politics?

KING: No, I just asked you....

LEWIS: I don't talk politics.


LEWIS: I do comedy already.

KING: All right.

LEWIS: You want to talk politics comedy or politics straight?

KING: I just asked if you had a thought about it.

LEWIS: Here's what I think. If the man is absolutely decided in his mind and his heart that he can do a good job, why not? Show me the charter that says you have to be this to be governor, you have to be that. And what is that crap they're coming up with, that he did lewd things verbally 28 years ago? So did you. And so did I.

KING: Jerry!

LEWIS: And so did everyone else. What does that have to do with his present day competence?

KING: Because everything comes out. That's what happens when you...

LEWIS: Yes, but that's going to happen. They're going to dig up everything because that's the way they play. That's why I say, I won't get into politics. It's almost unfair.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: It's unfair because they don't play fair. They don't play clean. KING: We'll -- when we come back, we'll ask Jerry why he continues with this telethon, what progress has been made, lots of other things and your phone calls as well for one of the comedy greats of all time.

LEWIS: Say that again.

KING: Living legend.

LEWIS: Geez, could you say it twice?

KING: Jerry Lewis.

LEWIS: I love that.

KING: We'll be right back.

LEWIS: Did you hear that, what he said? And...


MATTIE STEPANEK: Jerry, you are one of the wisest people I have ever met, with the comedy of a million comedians, with the wisdom of a billion wise mystics and more. And you know what? I think that between you and I, we have a heck of a life.





KING: When you see yourself looking that slim and trim, does it drive you nuts?

LEWIS: No, it gives me incentive. I'm going to be back there. Have to be.

KING: Why do you keep doing the Telethon? I mean really.

LEWIS: I have nothing to do on Labor Day.

KING: Now why? I'll give you an example. We've got a list here. In addition to pulmonary fibrosis, chronic back pain problems, addicted to Percodan, underwent double-bypass surgery, prostate cancer, diabetes, viral meningitis, nearly died of it in 1999 and pneumonia. Why do you keep doing this, Telethon?

LEWIS: I'm waiting to see if the cuticles will grow longer and longer. Why do I do it? Because I'm that far away of stopping children from dying from diseases known as neuro muscular. How do I stop?

KING: So, you've never said to yourself, I'm having a bad year, I'm not going to do it?

LEWIS: No way. Are you kidding? I'd can go out on a gurney, which wouldn't be polite theatrically, but you'd have to stop me with a shotgun.

KING: How do you know we're this close?

LEWIS: We know where this close. You, watch on Sunday night and listen to Dr. James Chamberlain. A nice young man we gave $100 million for research in genetic engineering. And he tells us that in my lifetime, as long as I get over this dumbness, in my lifetime we're going to see the cure.

Now remember this, Larry, the millions of children and adults suffering with neuromuscular disease, know just about how much I can do for them in their present state. They're not dumb. They're very smart people. What you don't know is that what I do Sunday night is much, much more for Chase, Cannon...

KING: Chance.

LEWIS: Chance, Cannon, and Chia (ph). That's what I'm doing Sunday night. That's what it's about, for the children that are fine. My kids that are suffering in wheelchairs know damn well I can only take this to this extreme. They know what's happening. And they're wonderful about it.

But the children that are fine today are the children that we must protect and be so clear about. They are the ones that are in jeopardy. The child with muscular distrophy is not going to get muscular dystrophy. A healthy child could.

KING: Now, Jillian is here today, she's 14, my granddaughter. She could get MD at 14?

LEWIS: Tomorrow morning.

KING: I thought it happens younger.

LEWIS: No. We've got adults at 38, 40, 50. Mattie's mother has had it for a long time. I've got to talk to you Chia (ph)

KING: Is Mattie coming?

LEWIS: No, he's not doing too well. They're watching him closely. I tried to get an ambulance plane to bring him out so he would be protected, but it was too dangerous. So, he's going to be with people to take care of him.

But I want you to hear something, Chai, Chance, and Cannon, those are three names you selected for your children. You know that. What about Norman, Amy, Ruth. Regular names. Like children have. Where did you come with a Cannon? You made him a street. I'm just curious. Chia, Abdidlda Chia...

KING: Chia (ph) is named directly after her grandmother who was named Chia (ph).

LEWIS: That answers that. Now listen to me.

KING: Chance we met by chance, we name the him Chance.

LEWIS: That's wonderful. Isn't it nice you weren't -- I won't go for that.

KING: Rictor (ph) said if you have another one, name him Torpedo.

LEWIS: They asked me to name my great granddaughter -- this makes sense to me -- I named her Clairvoyant Rumson. I knew I'd get a laugh sooner or later from this son of a gun.

Did you hear about the little kid in the backyard? Digging a hole and he's 6 years old. And the father runs over and he says, honey, what are you doing? He says, my gold fish died! He said, but why are you digging a big hole? He said, it's in the cat.

KING: That's funny. You can tell jokes well.

LEWIS: I do it.

KING: Hey, "Nutty Professor" is coming back.

LEWIS: Yes, we're going to re-release it. At least we're working on it. I had a long talk with Paramount. I'm going to meet with Sherry Lansing next month.

KING: It's a classic.

LEWIS: If you have a film and it's in the 100 best comedies made in the 1900s, you've got to see it again.

KING: Twentieth century, it made the top list.

LEWIS: I was very proud. I just got in, I was 100 on the list.

KING: France it's No. 1 right? "Nutty Professor" ranks way up there.

LEWIS: Germany, Italy, then France.

KING: Were you happy with what Eddie Murphy did with it?

LEWIS: I was the executive producer. I wouldn't of made it without Eddie he was wonderful. I didn't agree with the second version. But he's wonderful. He's brilliant, a brilliant comic.

KING; Are you ever going to return, make a movie again?


KING: Are you going to get so much better that you can... LEWIS: I'm definitely going to do "Wuthering Heights" and play the lead, the female lead. I'm going to do the female lead and just shake up this town.

KING: OK. Let's clear up some things before we talk about the telethon.

LEWIS: What about the sex change? You want to discuss that?

KING: No. What was it with you and Marilyn Monroe?

LEWIS: What was it with you and the sex change?

KING: What?

There was a report you said something about Marilyn. Do you want to clear it newspaper...

LEWIS: Yes, it's okay. There are a couple of people taking shots at my friends. Now Jack Kennedy was probably the best thing that ever happened to my life as a friend. And I got very, very tired of hearing them blacken their names.

Then sure enough, it came up with Bill O'Reilly on his program. And he said, is it true that John Kennedy and Bobby were doing all that stuff with Marilyn Monroe? I said, what stuff? Well, you know, sleeping with him -- I said, listen to me. I'm so tired of people doing this, particularly when someone's not here to defend themselves. I'm going to tell you, they never touched Marilyn. I was in that mix. We were all together. Neither of them ever touched Marilyn. He says to me, how can you be so sure? I said, because I was doing it. And he sat back. Oh, okay. And that stopped him. I didn't believe that was going to be the effect but I was glad that it was. And that's it.

Now the show's over and he says, come on just between you and I, did you do that because of your affection for Jack Kennedy or was it the truth? I said, you'll never know.

KING: And of course we'll never know.

LEWIS: No, never. I've got some pictures of it -- no, never mind.

KING: You did have a close relationship with her?

LEWIS: Yes, she did with all of us. She was like -- she was this wonderful kid that was so brilliantly innocent. She was everything that people thought Marilyn was. A brilliantly innocent child.

KING: How good a comedian was she? How good on film was she?

LEWIS: She would have been wonderful with more experience. But she was getting there. She was so eager so play a part rather than be a sex symbol, that she really worked very hard at learning her craft. And she just died too soon. She had another few years, she would have been -- could have been Roslyn Russell.

KING: Was she a suicide?

LEWIS: Yes, of course.

KING; And you said to me you don't like people commit suicide?

LEWIS: No, I dislike the fact that they haven't got courage. It doesn't take courage to kill yourself. It's cowardice that kills you. It takes a lot of courage to stay in this life and for you to do what you have to do for those three gorgeous children, that's work. It's hard. And it's meaningful. But you can't have any of the meaningful part of your life without putting in some labor.

Now anyone that goes click -- it's over. That's quick and it's done. What is that? Courage? No. That's a coward. Large, large, capital letters. Starting with C.O.W.A.R.D. How do you spell spell coward...


LEWIS: A.C.E. I see, that you see, and I -- oh, I'm sorry. I get so carried away.

KING: Jerry Lewis.

LEWIS: In your presence, I can't tell you, I've never been with a king before. I was with a prince in Newark.

KING: Jerry hosts the 38th annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, 21 1/2 hours on Labor Day. Ed McMahon is back with him.

Are you going to try to work most of it?

LEWIS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: Right back with more. In a little while with your phone calls. Don't go away.



FRANK SINATRA: I have a friend who loves what you do every year and who just wanted to come out -- would you send my friend out, please? Where is he? Let's bring him out here. Come here.

All right, all right, break it up.


KING: One of the great moments in the history of television. Frank Sinatra sets it up to bring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis back together. What a moment.

LEWIS: That was the moment when I thought, as I saw him coming towards me, I said, dear God, if you've ever been kind to me, please give me something to say. And then after Frank broke from the clinch, I looked at him and I said, "are you working?" And it brought the house down. It loosened him up. It loosened me up.

KING: You're writing a book about all this?

LEWIS: Oh, yes. Oh, God, yes. The whole Martin and Lewis story from day one to the last day. That's all.

KING: Everything that really happened.

LEWIS: Ten years.

KING: There's a lot we don't know, right?

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

KING: What do you make of the -- what is it, your children are doing an act together? They're doing Martin and Lewis?

LEWIS: Oh, they're just doing a weekend in Las Vegas. It's so cute. Ricky and Gary.

KING: They do the Martin and Lewis act?

LEWIS: No, no, no, no, they're both two individual performers. Gary does his show, Ricky does his, and they do one number together. But it's very cute. Very cute.

KING: The death of Bob Hope.

LEWIS: Yeah.

KING: In an interview, Bob Hope said he didn't spend much time, on this show, thinking about death or mortality, but was sad that so many of his contemporaries passed on.

LEWIS: Yeah, of course. We all feel that way. And when he says contemporaries, remember that Bob knew better than most what the laughter did for the heart, what laughter did for the soul. I mean, Hope was the -- he was the epitome of that role, of that art form. The art form of monologue, which is always referred to as standup. And it's never given its true meaning. Monologue is an incredible art...

KING: Timing.

LEWIS: And it's a whole different kind of rhythm and beats and a different kind of energy and a different kind of...

KING: We should explain, you were not a monologist?

LEWIS: Oh, no, no, no, no. I told jokes because I had a lot of fun telling htem.

KING: You were a comic? LEWIS: Yeah, yeah.

KING: Not a comedian? Is there a difference? Comics see things funny, comedians say funny things? Is that -- can you explain it?

LEWIS: I think if you asked Steve Allen, Steve would have one reading on that. You ask Jonathan Winters, he'd have another reading. Robin Williams would have another read, as would Billy Crystal. Max Alexander and I were on my boat last weekend, and we were talking about what is it that we have to maintain so that the audience knows we're coming at them with laughter? And it's a very tough question. What must we maintain? Does that mean when we walk to the theater, we contain -- we maintain the silliness in our body language? Does it mean that we don't become people when we're not there? And when we're there, it's our responsibility and commitment to do nothing but make them laugh? So when you really get into it, it's an incredibly, incredibly complicated situation. It's very complicated.

KING: It sure is. Comedy is a serious business.

LEWIS: You bet.

KING: Appearing on the telethon this year, Celine Dion, Cher, Billy Crystal, the "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken. He's terrific.

LEWIS: I've got problems with Cher.

KING: What's the matter?

LEWIS: Well, you're going to hear it. I saw her the other day and I said, "God, if you take off 20 pounds, you'll look great." She weighs 111.

KING: Kelsey (ph), that's the joke. Rickles is coming.


KING: Oh, that should be brilliant.

LEWIS: Yes, Rickles is coming, and I'm going to Israel to uproot two trees in his name.

KING: Charo is coming.

LEWIS: You bet. Oh, yeah. I'll have the runs for an hour.

KING: Al Jerome (ph). Boy, you're lining them up, huh?

LEWIS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: And you're also going to have -- Mattie can't make it, but you're going to have a lot of -- Gillman (ph) is coming on?

(CROSSTALK) LEWIS: Billy Gillman (ph) will be there. A lot of good people. And I couldn't get the one guy that I wanted so desperately. I wanted to tell you about, George Shearing (ph). George and I were on a plane going to London, we're sitting on the tarmac on a 747 British Air. And he and I -- we were put on a plane early. We got on early.

And George and I are talking about years of friendship. And the captain of this flight was a groupy, George Shearing (ph) wacko. He came over to George and said, "I really would like to genuflect in your presence, you mean so much in my life," and he was very genuine. He said, "can I do anything to make your trip more comfortable?" George said, no, I'm fine, thank you. "Mr. Lewis?" I said, I'm fine. He said, "Mr. Shearing (ph), could I take Alex and just take him for a walk for you?" Alex, the most gorgeous seeing-eye dog you ever saw. And he's been with George for years.

So he takes him out. And George and I are talking. And he says, "when do you think we're going to do?" I said, "well, let me look." I take a look out the window, and they're just beginning to let the passengers on, not through the tube we walk on on the plane, but on the tarmac. The steps were here, and people are coming out the gate. Now, they're walking out, slowly, towards the plane, and then they all see the captain walking around the plane with a seeing-eye dog. And then you saw people going, well, -- maybe we should -- no, look -- and I'm explaining it all to George, who was hysterical.

KING: That's a great story.

LEWIS: Nothing better than the truth.

KING: Jerry Lewis. As we go to break and we'll go to your phone calls right after this, here's Jerry with Dean Martin's daughter Dina (ph), watch.

LEWIS: Oh, I love her.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naughty naughty naughty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, you shouldn't be upset -- what's happening -- you're breaking my -- oh, there goes the Tibia. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you're a -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you must realize -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you must realize what -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you don't realize what you're doing, really. You don't realize what you're doing.

Well, just don't do something, sit there! that is, class dismissed. You may go.


KING: Brilliant.

Jerry, before we get to calls, you wanted to tell me a story.

LEWIS: Yes. When you do a lecture and you prepare to say something, you know? And it comes out a different way, it's always so funny when it happens. But in this case, there was -- I was doing a show at Caesar's, and I'm told by a card sent up to me by a captain that Seals and Croft was in the audience and asked if I would introduce them. And I said, "Ladies and gentlemen a great actor, I know you've heard their work. Please welcome arts and crafts."


LEWIS: and everyone in the audience knew I screwed up. Because it happened. They laughed. And the guys of course waved. And they thought it was so funny. But it's the only time it's ever happened that I remember it came out altogether different. I think they're suing me, I'm not sure.

KING: Jerry Lewis will host the MD Telethon. Who else?

San Diego, hello.


CALLER: Hi, Larry!

LEWIS: Muscular dystrophy.


LEWIS: We don't abbreviate it.

CALLER: I love your show, I watch it every day when I get home.

KING: Thank you. What's your question for Jerry?

CALLER: For Jerry -- Jerry, I love you -- I love you man. And my mom, she just -- I grew up with her, she loves you, tickled to death to watch your shows...

LEWIS: You grew up with your mom?

CALLER: ..the old black and white shows.

KING: What's your question, sir?

CALLER: My question is...

LEWIS: You grew up with you -- you said you grew up...


KING: Let him ask.

LEWIS: What? What? What? KING: He's asking a question.


CALLER: Were you a rest of the rat pack? And what is -- who was the members of the rat pack?

LEWIS: The rat pack was Claire Trevor, Zachary Scott, Troy Donahue, Hilary Duff...

KING: Hilary Duff!

LEWIS: Brad Dexter.

KING: OK, no. You weren't in the rat pack?

LEWIS: No, I wasn't in the rat pack..

KING: With Sinatra. But you were a great friend of Frank's?

LEWIS: I was cheese. I had all of it.

KING: But you weren't in that group?

LEWIS: No. No.

KING: St. Peter -- Dean was?

LEWIS: Oh, of course.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: They have...

KING: St. Petersburg, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hello, Jerry. It's good to see you.

LEWIS: Well, it's nice to see -- or it's nice to talk -- I can't see you, but I can hear you. You sound like a lady woman.

CALLER: You look great.

LEWIS: Thank you. I look like Dom Delouise in "Heat."

CALLER: I have to ask you. What child or adult from your telethon has most affected you and stays on your mind? Could it be Bill Samson (ph)?

LEWIS: Well, Bob Samson (ph) was a very, very meaningful person in my life. I shouldn't say was. Still is.

It's very difficult to select a child or a victim of this insidious disease and say, that one brought me to a measure of emotional distress and so on. It's like you;re asking me which of my children I love best. It's very hard. There is no such thing. You love them all the same.

KING: Mt. Vernon, New York, hello. Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Mt. Vernon, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes. Jerry?


CALLER: I love you.

LEWIS: You do?

CALLER: I saw you last night on "Conan."


CALLER: And I was wanting to ask you, I'm going to have this nuerostimulator implant...

LEWIS: Oh, great.

CALLER: a couple of weeks.

LEWIS: Great.

CALLER: So tell me what you can tell me about it. Give me...

LEWIS: Well, I can tell you very quickly, the neurostimulator is what keeps me alive.

KING: You're a spokesperson for them.

LEWIS: I'm a spokesperson for Metronic, the greatest technical medical company in the world. They're the people that discovered the pacemaker. And we've got two or three million people on the planet today because of that.

KING: What is this?

LEWIS: And this is the pain pacemaker. I've got a battery under my skin. From that battery are two electrodes that go into the spine where they cut bone away to accommodate it. Now I put on the power here. If I have the pain, the stimulator starts. It's tingling, like when your foot falls asleep, you know? And it's that way all day long. I raise the volume. I lower it. I turn it on. I turn it off.

KING: Takes away the pain?

LEWIS: And it's all that wonderful little tingle all day. I've had an erection for seven months, in case you're interested. And it's a wonderful thing.

KING: You're a walking Viagra. LEWIS: Oh, without question.

KING: It takes way the pain.

LEWIS: And it not only takes away the pain, it opens my garage door.

KING: Tucson, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hi. God bless you, Mr. Lewis, and good luck in your battle with health. And thank you for all the years of laughter.

LEWIS: Thank you. I appreciate that, ma'am.

CALLER: My question is, what is your opinion of these cartoons the kids are watching, like "The Simpsons" and Sponge Bob and such?

LEWIS: I think the cartoons that they're children are watching, particularly "The Simpsons," they're OK. I think that the adult audience is making much too much of the danger that they imply. That's not the case. The danger for children today, honey, is the news. Keep them away from news on television and you're going to have very, very fine, natural children. As long as they can see the news and what the networks are doing to the youth of America, you've got big problems, lady.

KING: You're on "The Simpsons" aren't you?


KING: You're doing a voice?

LEWIS: Yes. I do a voice on "The Simpsons." But you let them see "The Simpsons," please. And let that be in lieu of watching general television.

KING: Billings, Montana, hello.

LEWIS: I sure have a way with words, don't I?

CALLER: Hi, Jerry.


CALLER: I was a little girl and I went to the Browns Hotel (ph)...


CALLER: ... and I wanted to know, were you really a bellboy there?

LEWIS: Yes, I was a bus boy, a bellboy, I was a tea girl.

KING: The Browns Hotel in Locksheldrake, New York.

LEWIS: Locksheldrake, New York. Yep.

KING: The mountains.

LEWIS: Oh, the food they made there killed more of my people than Hitler.

KING: Is that where you started?


KING: And they still use you in the ads?

LEWIS: God bless them.

KING: My favorite hotel.

LEWIS: It's not there any longer.

KING: The last time I saw them though...

LEWIS: Not any longer, no.

KING: New Orleans, hello. New Orleans, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Jerry. My name is Mike (ph). I got a question for you. I know that you take Prednisone for your illness that you have.


CALLER: The question I have is I'm 38 years old. I've had both hips replaced from a vascular necrosis, which is caused of a side effect from Prednisone.


CALLER: Have you had any major side effects from Prednisone besides weight gain?

LEWIS: Right.

KING: Any major side effects?

LEWIS: And you're asking if I'm having my major difficulties?

KING: Side effects other than weight gain.

LEWIS: No, weight gain is all I've got. That's all.

KING: Is it true they may make a remake of "The Family Jewels" with Tom Hanks?

LEWIS: Yes. We're talking about it.

KING: That you may direct?

LEWIS: I'm talking about it. KING: Other remakes possible -- "The Errand Boy."

LEWIS: That's being done at Metro.


LEWIS: No, that's Disney. "Bellboy" is at Metro.

KING: "Cinderfella"?

LEWIS: Pandemonium is doing "Patsy." "Cinderfella," Warner Brothers. I can't keep track.

KING: "Who's Minding the store?" They're going to do that too?

LEWIS: Yes. Do that Paramount. Yes.

KING: How many movies do you make?

LEWIS: Sixty. But I only own 17.

KING: Life is good, huh?

LEWIS: Yes, I've got a payment tomorrow, a car. I bought a Toyota.

KING: Why do you live in Las Vegas, by the way?

LEWIS: Because that's where my house is.

Does that make -- did I -- was I out of line?

KING: I meant, why you chose it as a place of residence over, say, Los Angeles.

LEWIS: Well, because in Los Angeles, they didn't have no house.

KING: Oh, they didn't -- they don't have homes there?

LEWIS: My wife called me and said, "Come here, we have a house."

KING: Oh, I see.

LEWIS: I said, "In Vegas?" She said, "Come on." I said, "OK."

KING: How do you like living there?

LEWIS: I hate Las Vegas. We love it. We love the weather. And we've got a wonderful place are. We leave when it gets very hot, go to my boat in San Diego. That's our second home.

KING: I've been on that boat. It's very lovely.

LEWIS: And we have wonderful times together.

KING: It is a little hot in the summer though. LEWIS: Oh, It does get a little hot. Oh, yes. But it's OK. We like the heat. My daughter Danielle, my wife Sam (ph) and I, enjoy everything about Vegas. We just love it.

KING: The MDA Telethon is back, the 38th year. Our hope is there's never another one. Right?

LEWIS: I hope so.

KING: We'll be right back with more of your calls for Jerry Lewis, right after this.

LEWIS: Can I make a call? Make a local call?

KING: Call yourself, yes.


DEAN MARTIN, ACTOR: Go like this, click click.

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

MARTIN: Keep doing it. Repeat it, go ahead.




KING: Why are your pants off?

LEWIS: I don't know.

KING: No, why did you take them off?

LEWIS: I wore them for so long. It gets warm. You get, you know. I don't know why.

KING: The muscular dystrophy telethons have raised $1.8 billion.

LEWIS: To date.

KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry and Jerry.


LEWIS: Hi, dear.

CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Jerry, I was wondering, what was your favorite memory of working with Bob Hope? Thank you.

LEWIS: My favorite memory of working with Bob Hope? I couldn't believe his -- I couldn't believe the machine-like mind that he had early on. And we were doing a show with Tallulah Bankhead called "The Big Show" on radio. As a matter of fact, that picture was taken at that show, "The Big Show."

And I stood in the wings and I watched Hope go at it before the show. And it was like a steel trap. I couldn't believe how he fired, and the rhythm of what he did. And then he got older. He lost some of that ability. And then he started reading cards like most performers. But that was my -- I was most impressed with that with Bob.

KING: His delivery.

LEWIS: Yeah.

KING: He had it down.

LEWIS: Oh, he certainly did.

KING: Simpsonville, South Carolina.

CALLER: Hello, Jerry.


CALLER: Oh, you wonderful big man, I'd love to put my arms around you.

LEWIS: I'd like to make a little time with you, honey.

CALLER: I'm ready, you come on.

LEWIS: Where are you from, honey?

CALLER: I'm from South Carolina.

LEWIS: Well, my wife is from North Carolina.

CALLER: It's a wonderful place.

LEWIS: Yes, it certainly is.

CALLER: You come on down here.

LEWIS: And I have a feeling if I were to do with you what you were recommending or suggesting, ha ha, we'd hear more about the Bobbitt story.

CALLER: Well...

KING: What's your question, darling?

LEWIS: Yeah. CALLER: Well, I know you love your daughter Danielle.

LEWIS: Oh, god yes.

CALLER: And I want to know how she's doing. And do you have any pets?

LEWIS: Do I have any pets? Yes, I've had one for 27 years now.

KING: What?

LEWIS: Boa constrictor. And when we got the new car, we had a problem. But that's beside the point. I hope you enjoy your pets.

KING: Do you have dogs or cat or anything? I mean, that was her question. I just thought -- are you a pet man?


KING: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening, Larry and Jerry.


CALLER: This is such a pleasure to talk to you. My question to you, Jerry, is, was there a turning point in your life that made you get involved in muscular dystrophy? And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) book?

KING: That was never told. OK. Are you going to tell it in the book?

LEWIS: No. Oh, no.

KING: OK, not, without telling it, why don't you tell it? You've never told.

LEWIS: It's nobody's business.

KING: What do you mean it's nobody -- it's very interesting that a man would get so involved with a disease, as to devote his life to it, and not tell you why. Frustrating.

LEWIS: This reason is, it isn't of any consequence why. The important thing is that I do it.

KING: Of course that's important. But...

LEWIS: But why would I need...


LEWIS: ... to let anyone know what's very personal in my heart? And the only thing that I think I can say in my 77 and a half years that I've ever kept to myself. I'm terrible about a secret. I'll tell you not to tell them something, and before I leave I'll tell them all what I told you. I'm terrible. This is mine. And I need it to stay that way.

KING: All right. May I ask this?


KING: Do you think about it a lot?

LEWIS: About doing it?

KING: No, about what started this? The thing you won't tell us.


KING: When you're doing the telethon, do you think about it?

LEWIS: Yes, oh, yeah, I see what you mean. Yes. All the time. Anytime I'm related to -- always. And it's constantly with me, and it works as a very, very strong, positive force.

KING: Do you see this cure, when you say it's this close, right around your lifetime et cetera, that would assume within five years?

LEWIS: Let's hope. Maybe less. Maybe less. The genetic engineering, Larry, is so fine and is so -- it is so meticulously on the money that when we gave Chamberlain and the genetic engineers $100 million, they turned that into paydirt. And we have to keep feeding that. I mean, we're doing 20 trials this year at $5 million a trial. I went to the Senate and I asked them to give us $100 million for these trials, because I can't spend $100 million from what I raised on the telethon. That's for patient care, that's for taking care of what we do all the time. I sat in front of the Senate and they heard me. I said, the NIH gave us a budget of $9 million for the disease of muscular dystrophy in 1978. And I went there, and I said, fellows, cost of living, remember? We better go up here, I need $100 million to get these 20 trials done. And I'm going to get it.

KING: They didn't give it to you yet?

LEWIS: It's close.

KING: Orillia, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Yes, two questions, quick. Jerry, will you ever record or sing? Because you have a great voice. And two, do you have a successor when all is said and done?

LEWIS: A successor for what? You mean when I croak?

CALLER: Well, when you retire.

KING: You'll never retire, will you?

LEWIS: I'm never going to retire. I think when they put me in the box, everything is going to be quiet and you're going to hear way down the -- no. There's no quitting.

KING: Are you ever going to record again?

LEWIS: Yeah, of course. I just recorded two singles on Nonprofit Records. It's just an incredible side.

KING: Nonprofit Records?

LEWIS: Yes, Nonprofit Records.

KING: What songs did you do there?

LEWIS: They didn't let me do anything, because it costs everything to print. So they just have them playing.

KING: There's nothing on it?

LEWIS: No. And it's quicker that way. You don't have to stay in the house.

KING: You put the CD in the machine...

LEWIS: Yeah, and that's it.

KING: Nothing plays?

LEWIS: No, it turns, but at least it keeps your attention. You know?

KING: You had -- what was your enormous hit?

LEWIS: "Rock A Bye Baby."

KING: Rock a bye ya with a dixie melody. Great arrangement.

LEWIS: A fellow did it long before I did.


LEWIS: Yes, he wasn't bad either.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Jer after this. Don't go away.

LEWIS: I hope so.


LEWIS: To devil with them. We'll go without clearance. Engine one. Two. Engine three.




JIM CARREY, COMEDIAN: I loved Jerry Lewis. I still like Jerry Lewis.

KING: He was...

CARREY: I haven't met him.

KING: You've never met Jerry?

CARREY: Oh, I hear he's trouble.

KING: You never met him?

CARREY: Never met him face to face. He's said wonderful things about me. I love Jerry Lewis. I think he did some of the most astounding filmic clowning of anybody in history.


KING: Have you met since?

LEWIS: We haven't but Jim called me at home last month. And it was such a delightful thing for him to do to find out how I was doing. And we met on the phone. We haven't met yet.

KING: He's a genius.

LEWIS: Oh, God. He's brilliant.

KING: Houston, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Jerry. Just wanted to tell you, thank you for everything that you do for mankind, number one.

LEWIS: Thank you.

CALLER: And number two, my question is, what if any relationship with Dean Martin did you have after your reunion on the telethon?

LEWIS: It was wonderful. We had time together until the very end. All through those years.

KING: Rockford, Illinois. Hello.

Rockford, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Hi, Jerry.

LEWIS: Rockford, Illinois. Bill Richmond's hometown.

CALLER: Yes. I was wondering, out of all the wonderful movies that you did, what's your favorite?

LEWIS: My favorite movie that I did? "Life Boat."

KING: Come on. You weren't in "Life Boat."

LEWIS: I wasn't? KING: No, that was Hitchcock. That was...

LEWIS: Oh, you're right. You're right. I thought I saw a picture of myself in a boat.


LEWIS: But you still want to know my favorite movie?

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: "Nutty Professor" is my love. Is a labor of love. Nothing I ever liked compares.

KING: Lonard, Kansas. Hello

CALLER: Hi Jerry.


CALLER: How are you?

LEWIS: I'm not bad. I've had an rash here since I came in. But they got some calamine lotion here, Eddie.

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: I've been in love with Jerry for 51 years.

LEWIS: 51 years you've been in love with me? You want to hear about some lonely nights?

CALLER: OK, come on. I want to know if you're going to sing that beautiful song at the end of the telethon this year.

LEWIS: Yes, I do it every year, darling, 53 times. The kids want that. That's theirs, it's very special.

KING: So, you get prepped up, you get to the studio, how much before the show goes on?

LEWIS: Well, I'm there in the morning. I do tech from 8:00 to 12:00.

KING: That's when you work on all the cameras?

LEWIS: Yes. And then from 12:00 on we do a read, and we do a last minute who's in and out, a lot of things happen that you have to watch for and have to have protection and backups. We lose people because of traffic or a plane didn't arrive. We lost Maureen last week because she had the blackout in New York.

KING: It's for the cure.

LEWIS: Thanks, Larry. I love to come here. You've got such a nice crew that I've never seen. KING: Jerry Lewis, thanks for joining us. I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Good night, Jerry.

LEWIS: Agnes Moorehead hits him after the show in the dressing room.

KING: Good night Jerry!

LEWIS: Good night Larry. I never liked that name.





KING: Tomorrow night we're going to repeat a great interview with Johnny Cash. Sunday night, the cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond." And Monday night, Labor Day night, Richard Chamberlain.

We thank Jerry Lewis for tonight and we turn it over to "NEWSNIGHT". Aaron Brown is off tonight. Guess who's hosting. One of my favorite broadcasters, Andrea Koppel is with us. So nice to say that, Andrea. Andrea Koppel.


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