Jerry Lewis mugs behind his famous director’s chair at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, as he is admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia, the highest civilian honor awarded by that country. Lewis was recognized for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation of Australia.
Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 | 4:45 p.m.
There was once a time when the entire country was tuned in to Jerry Lewis on Labor Day Weekend, but on Friday afternoon it was a handful of dignitaries who joined Lewis at Reynolds Hall in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
The audience might have been small in numbers, but it was enormous in Lewis’ heart and hugely significant in one of his favorite countries, Australia. Lewis was honored as a Member of the Order of Australia, the highest award bestowed on a civilian by that country.
A beaming and, at times, mugging Lewis received a gold medal, a lapel pin and a high volume of praise from the Australian officials who made the trip to honor Lewis for his work in fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. Lewis has toured that country and raised several millions of dollars for MDF. The Aussie charity is not formally linked to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, with whom Lewis raised more than $2 billion in a 45-year philanthropic partnership.
The Lewis-MDA relationship fractured after the 2010 MDA Labor Day Telethon at South Point, when, over a course of months, it became evident that Lewis was being cut loose from the annual telethon and organization. What’s left of what was long a 21 1/2-hour entertainment odyssey is this year’s MDA “Show of Strength” variety show, which airs for two hours beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC (KTNV Channel 13 in Las Vegas).
As has been the case in each MDA Labor Day telecast since Lewis’ final telethon in 2010, Lewis is not taking part in the fundraising telecast. It is a safe bet that he has not even watched a moment of the telethon since walking offstage for the final time at South Point.
As this year’s show takes shape, with Mirage headliner Terry Fator the leading representative from Las Vegas, a two-hour documentary of Lewis helming the show in 1989 has surfaced. This footage, culled from a report by the then-syndicated celebrity show “A Current Affair” about that year’s telethon, was posted on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The bootleg doc shows Lewis, in top form, backstage at Cashman Center rehearsing, joking, chiding, kissing babies and stretching duct tape across zippered tap shoes to protect his expensive tuxedos.
Lewis is shown informally, wearing shorts and T-shirts from a variety of NFL teams, and there is a classic moment of Frank Sinatra bantering with Lewis via satellite from the telethon’s outpost in Atlantic City, then rehearsing “Mack the Knife” as Lewis watches.
The footage is shot in black and white, all the way, with Lewis at the center.
Reached today at his Las Vegas home, Lewis said he had not seen any of the footage since it was shot 25 years ago. He has a clip now, sent in email, and this might be the first time, ever, that Jerry Lewis spends Labor Day at home watching the MDA Telethon.
Smith Center for the Performing Arts The Smith Center for the Performing Arts offers a blend of performances by resident companies and touring attractions. The 5-acre cultural campus features three performance spaces, which includes a main performance area with more than 2,000 seats. This downtown cultural center of Las Vegas looks to educate, entertain and excite community members.
To provide and preserve a high-quality performing arts center that is embraced by the community and recognized as a vital force by supporting artistic excellence, education and inspiration for all.
To entertain, educate, enrich and inspire the southern Nevada community.
Thanks to the generous support of our dedicated founders, members, donors and community partners, The Smith Center continues to provide a wide variety of services for Southern Nevada residents, including access to world-class performances, inspirational Education and Outreach programs for students and teachers, and a unique space to host events, meetings and special occasions. Celebrating our fifth season, we depend upon public support to fulfill our mission and serve as the Heart of the Arts® for many years to come.
With ticket sales covering just 75 percent of our operating budget for each season, the remaining 25 percent comes from the community we serve. Philanthropic support at all levels helps provide programming that entertains, educates, enriches and inspires. By giving to The Smith Center, you play a vital role in providing an important resource for our community.
There are many opportunities to volunteer and play a direct role with your community’s performing arts complex. Volunteers engage with staff and patrons to enhance experiences at The Smith Center, and can serve in various capacities including tour guide/docent, usher, security team member or community ambassador. As important members of The Smith Center team, volunteers help us remain financially sustainable and provide numerous services for the community. Please show your support for The Smith Center’s mission by gifting your time and unique skills.
Members’ annual support provides crucial resources for The Smith Center’s artistic programming, education opportunities and cultural enrichment each year. There are a variety of giving options and levels, and Members receive exclusive benefits and behind-the-scenes opportunities based on their level of support. To learn more, please visit www.thesmithcenter.com/support-us/members.
The Encore Society recognizes those generous donors who have included The Smith Center as a part of their estate plan. Corporate Sponsorship is available to companies to underwrite all, or part, of a program, performance or event.
Fanfare! is The Smith Center’s young progressional networking organization, open to anyone with an interest in the performing arts who is between the ages of 21-40. And our Show Dedication allows for the celebration of an individual or special occasion with unique recognition opportunities during a specific performance.
The Smith Center provides world-class performing arts and outreach and education throughout the Southern Nevada region.
The organization originally formed in 1996 as the Las Vegas Performing Arts Center.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Myron G. Martin President and CEO Donald D. Snyder Chairman Dr. Keith Boman Vice Chairman Mark Tratos Secretary Michael Yackira Treasurer David Dunn Alan M. Feldman Richard Haddrill Fred Hipwell Nancy Houssels Todd-Avery Lenahan Scott MacTaggart Jerry Nadal John Nelson Richard Plaster Rory Reid Kim Sinatra Roger P. Thomas
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