Oh how we laughed back in the 1940s when Jerry Lewis first appeared in the movie houses with his partner, Dean Martin! It was the funniest slapstick we had seen. We copied him and tried to repeat the jokes to our unimpressed parents; we pulled faces like Jerry; we tried to sing like Dean. It was the fad of the day.
But time moves on. Jerry Lewis is now 87 years old and is being recognized as a “Towering Figure in Cinema” at the current Cannes Film Festival in France. Hell, we recognized him 65 years ago! We walked the mile to the local ‘Bughouse”, paid 5 cents for a ticket and held onto the other 3 cents spending money we had been given for candies. And for our 5 cents we received an hour of pure uninhibited laughter as Jerry and Dean went wild.
Lewis has suffered from a variety of illnesses and addictions related both to aging and a back injury sustained in a fall from a piano in 1965. The accident left him almost paralyzed. In its aftermath Lewis became addicted to a pain killer and finally had a spinal stimulator implanted in his back to reduce the discomfort.
He suffered his first heart attack while filming in 1960. In 1982, Lewis was felled by a serious heart attack. En route home on a flight to San Diego from New York City he endured a minor heart attack in 2006. It was then discovered that he had pneumonia as well as a severely damaged heart. Surgery has allowed him to continue his rebound from earlier lung problems.
In 1999, his Australian tour was cut short when he had to be hospitalized with viral meningitis. He was ill for more than five months. Lewis has had prostate cancer, type 1 diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and a long history of heart disease. In 2012, he was treated and released from a hospital after collapsing from hypoglycemia at a New York Friars’ Club event.
He’s a survivor, all right, but congratulations on your award!