Labor Day-telethon protesters gather outside L.A. TV studio


HOLLYWOOD -- Wheelchair-bound protesters blocked celebrities' limousines and crashed through barricades at a Hollywood television studio yesterday where entertainer Jerry Lewis was conducting his annual Labor Day telethon to benefit Muscular Dystrophy.

But police and guards kept two dozen demonstrators from entering the CBS Television City stage from which the 21 1/2 -hour extravaganza was being beamed to 190 television stations across the country.

The show ended without incident as an excited Mr. Lewis displayed a tote board indicating that a record $47.8 million was pledged, up $700,000 over last year.

Demonstrations against the telethon have become commonplace in recent years with handicapped-rights activists complaining that Mr. Lewis' appeals are based on pity and that too little of the donated money actually goes to medical research.

But yesterday's Hollywood protest was noisier than usual. The telethon was moved this year from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to save on production costs.

Sign-carrying protesters accused Muscular Dystrophy Association executives of paying themselves $300,000-a-year salaries while ignoring the needs of patients.

Arriving celebrities were directed to a studio back entrance as telethon officials scrambled to deny the charges. Association spokesman Chris Rosa promised that 84 cents of every dollar raised by the show will go to patient programs and research.

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