What we'll miss about the Jerry Lewis telethon

The tears, often from Lewis himself.

The laughs, many inadvertent.


The gasps, at the faux pas -- some surrounding the show, but some right at the center of it.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association's announcement that Jerry Lewis, 85, will not appear in this year's MDA telethon marks the end of a unique chapter in the union of show biz and charity.

Lewis, 85, said in May that he would appear on this year's show and end it, as always, with his rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone." (In 1959, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II gave the okay for the use of the song, from their show "Carousel," as the official theme of the MDA. Lewis has sung it at the conclusion of each telethon.)

But the MDA confirmed yesterday that Lewis would not perform on the show and would no longer serve as the organization's national chairman.

Kurt Jensen, author of the forthcoming biography, "Rouben Mamoulian: The Art of Gods and Monkeys," sent this blog the following handy time-line. Here's a ten-step guide to the highs and lows of Jerry Lewis' reign at the MDA:

1. 1953: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis host first telethon for muscular dystrophy with a two-hour coast-to-coast broadcast on Thanksgiving eve. Lewis was named national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association the previous year.

2. 1966: Lewis begins MDA Labor Day weekend telethon.

3. 1973: Lewis holds up a child with muscular dystrophy and announces, "God goofed, and it's up to us to correct His mistakes."

4. 1976: First use of the term "Jerry's Kids" to describe victims of muscular dystrophy.

5. 1976: Onstage reunion of Dean Martin and Lewis on the telethon, their first appearance together in 20 years, is arranged by Frank Sinatra.6. 1977: In August, Lewis is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for many humanitarian efforts -- not exclusively the MDA Telethon -- by Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.).

7. 1986: At July news conference, Lewis reacts to pan of his performance at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal by Montreal Gazette writer Lucinda Chodin, who wrote that his performance consisted mostly of "hyperactive, dated slapstick."

"You can't accept one individual's (opinion) particularly if it's female, and, you know, God willing -- I hope for her sake it's not the case -- but when they get a period it's really difficult for them to function as normal human beings."

Women's groups ask for Lewis' ouster as MDA Telethon host.

8. 1986: On split screen, with Lewis in Las Vegas and Sammy Davis Jr. in New York on the telethon's "Love Network," Lewis and Davis enact an Amos 'n' Andy routine.


9. 2007: Lewis refers to the imaginary son of a telethon cameraman as "the illiterate fag."

10. 2009: Lewis receives Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscars specifically for the millions raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.