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Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon begins at South Point


Heather Cory

Mike Southworth edits segments for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon before its broadcast from the South Point.

Updated Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008 | 12:25 p.m.

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Che Alvarado sets up lights for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which will be broadcast from South Point on Sunday.

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Lee Miller, producer of Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, stands in front of the telethon scheduling board that has the breakdown of every minute of the show.

Where to watch

Watch the telethon on KNTV Channel 13, starting at 6 p.m. Sunday. The show will also be broadcast live on

On entering the temporary on-site offices of the production staff of "Jerry Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon," you can't help but notice the huge red board that depicts the game plan for every minute of every hour of the upcoming Labor Day weekend production.

With the telethon in its 43rd year, producers have had plenty of experience preparing for the show and have learned a few tricks to make things go smoothly.

While they didn't start filling in the time slots until July, preparations for the telethon began in November, only a month after everything from the previous year's show at the South Point hotel-casino in Las Vegas had been packed and put away.

Getting an early start goes a long way when it comes to scheduling and preparing for the patient profiles, medical conferences, sponsor presentations, and 75-plus entertainment acts that fill the telethon's almost full day's worth of airtime.

As the telethon's veteran producer Lee Miller said, "It's like 20 one-hour shows back to back and live."

While the typical hourlong program will spend an entire season producing around 22 hours of entertainment, the telethon packs almost that much into two days.

This year the telethon to raise money for the MDA will broadcast locally live on KTNV Channel 13 from the South Point starting at 6 p.m. Sunday. A total of 180 different stations across the country will carry it as it runs until Monday afternoon.

Last year's total topped records at $63.8 million.

A patriotic dance number set partially to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" will herald in Lewis' famed variety show's beginning. Celine Dion, Kid Rock, Tracy Lawrence and Pat Monahan from Train are among participating entertainers.

Miller said the two lead people in charge of lining up the entertainment begin their job in May.

They start with a list of 500 possible entertainers and work their way through confirmations and rejections to a lineup of about 75 acts, he said.

The set crew has six days to get the stage ready for TV, as its job must be completed by Wednesday.

Miller said that deadline is a matter of keeping the show financially viable. Giving the entire stage crew the Thursday before the show off keeps people from going into "an overtime rate that would be mind boggling."

This year for the first time, the MDA has incorporated an online auction into its telethon fundraising efforts.

The auction, at, closes Thursday.

Ashley Livingston is a reporter for the Home News. She can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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