Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011 | 11:12 a.m.
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Legendary actor, comedian and philanthropist Jerry Lewis will be “missing” -- and missed -- at tonight’s traditional MDA Labor Day Telethon at South Point. Not only is it airing a day earlier than normal -- so not on Labor Day -- but the 21-hour-plus show has been cut and condensed to just 6 hours of primetime viewing.
Las Vegas headliners Celine Dion and Penn & Teller kick off the crucial first hour. The Muscular Dystrophy Association is promising a big show -- even without Jerry -- and expecting big donations. Six more artists yesterday expressed a common theme of the 46th Annual MDA Labor Day Telethon: Tune in because you don’t want to miss a minute or a moment.
Aired by more than 150 TV stations and streamed worldwide at MDA.org, the show features some of the biggest names in show business and is expected to have a viewing audience in the tens of millions from 6 p.m. to midnight.
“The MDA Telethon is such a huge part of America’s Labor Day activities and has been for so many years,” said Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott. Jordin Sparks added, “In my family, giving back has always been instilled in my brother and I. I am honored to be a part and ask my wonderful fans to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.”
“Act after act, this year’s telethon is jam-packed with top talent,” said telethon producer Lee Miller. “The new format will offer a rich assortment of Billboard chart toppers, exceptional production numbers and three young American bands who beat out 7,800 others in the IHeartRadio ‘Get Discovered’ talent search. In my 20 years of producing this landmark program, we’ve never had so much star power compressed into just 6 hours.”
Other stars appearing include Boyz II Men, Jabbawockeez, Darius Rucker, Richie Sambora, Tommy Emmanuel and Jon Secada, who said: “I’ll be performing a new and very special song for the first time.”
Martina McBride added: “As a mom with three wonderful daughters, I am so grateful for our many blessings. Being part of the telethon is important to me because every mother and every child deserve to share the brightest possible futures. Happily, thanks to generous public support, MDA is making real progress in the fight against Muscular Dystrophy.”
Billy Ray Cyrus, who is performing his new single, said, “Americans always dig a little deeper for friends and neighbors in need. Let’s rock the house together this Sunday night to make a difference in the fight against muscle diseases.”
Abbey Umali, the 12-year-old dynamo who serves as MDA national goodwill ambassador, arrived here to help motivate the production executives working around the clock to finalize the set and myriad show logistics for yesterday’s rehearsals and today’s show.
“I’m excited for everyone to hear and see the special duet version of ‘Come Back Song’ featuring Abbey,” Darius said. “She has musical talents well beyond her years, and I’m just happy to help so many deserving kids like her.”
It’s not uncommon for stars to be added right up to show time. Here’s the lineup as of last night: Max Adler; Brandon Barash; Joy Behar; Boyz II Men; Brokedown Cadillac (“Get Discovered”); Reggie Bush; Jann Carl; Greyson Chance; Clark County Children’s Choir; Nadia Comaneci; Billy Ray Cyrus; Celine Dion; Come Fly Away; Bart Conner; Tommy Emmanuel; Nick Florez; Michael Feinstein; Whoopi Goldberg; Elisabeth Hasselbeck; Dwight Howard; Il Volo; Jabbawockeez; Randy Jackson; Jay Johnson; Lady Antebellum; Jennifer Lopez; Nigel Lythgoe; Martina McBride; Maureen McGovern; Dan Nainan; Nancy O’Dell; One Step Away (“Get Discovered”); Shawn Parr; Penn & Teller; Port Chuck; Smokey Robinson; Rootdown (“Get Discovered”); Darius Rucker; Richie Sambora; Jon Secada; Sherri Shepherd; Jordin Sparks; Alison Sweeney; Steven Tyler; Universal Cheerleaders; Voca People; Barbara Walters; Kurt Warner; Jimmy Webb; and Ace Young.
There’s still no explanation from Jerry or MDA officials as to why they parted ways unceremoniously after his more than 50 years of service to the organization, for which he raised more than $2 billion. Maybe we’ll learn why this month when Jerry might talk about the tangled situation after the telethon.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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