He was once one of the most well-known celebrities in the world. Jerry Lewis – actor, singer, writer, producer, comedian, telethon-host has died at age 91.
Born on March 16, 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, he was born Joseph or possibly Jerome Levitch – depending upon which documents you read. But there’s no question that the name Jerry Lewis belonged to a legend of a man.
The boy who seemed to have been born an entertainer, was putting on shows for his classmates as early as anyone can remember. By age 16, the kid they called Joey dropped out of school to pursue his dream of performing on stage.
A 4F label prevented him for going into the military, so the talented and newly-monikered Jerry Lewis kept the show going at home. He also met Patty Palmer. The two married on July 31st, 1945. They would go on to have six sons together.
Around that same time, Lewis met a suave, handsome singer/actor named Dean Martin. The rest, as they say, is history. The two would become a powerhouse performance team staring on stage and screen. Unfortunately, the duo had a widely publicized falling out and parted ways after ten years working together.
More difficulty came when Lewis developed an addiction to the pain killer Percodan, a battle he faced for 8 years which accounted for his absence from show business. Sadness continued when Lewis and his wife Patty divorced in 1980.
One of Lewis’greatest accomplishments was his work in fundraising and hosting a telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It is estimated that during his over 40-year involvement, he raised more than $2 billion for research.
Ever the fighter, Jerry Lewis returned to the big screen in films such as Scorcese’s The King of Comedy in 1982 and the small screen in Wiseguy in 1988-1989.
In 1995 he appeared in a Broadway revival of Damn Yankees and even starred in a world tour of the show.
Jerry’s health had taken a downward slope facing prostate cancer, 2 heart attacks, and pulmonary fibrosis. But the perseverant performer got treatment and continued to star in one-man shows as late as 2016.