Manny P. here…
The Muscular Dystrophy Association is pulling the plug on its annual Labor Day telethon, a television tradition for decades that has slowly disappeared from view since the sudden departure of Jerry Lewis in his role as host following the 2010 show. From over 21 hours in Lewis’ final year, the show had been reduced to two hours the last two years on ABC. His abrupt exit, announced by the MDA a full month before the 2011 telethon, was never fully explained.
His history with the charity goes back nearly to its beginning: the MDA was started in 1950, and a year later, Lewis and his comic partner Dean Martin mentioned the charity on their NBC show. The two comics hosted a 1956 telethon before breaking up. Lewis began hosting it regularly in 1966, starting on a single television station in New York.
The annual telethon was a relic from a different age, a tuxedoed Lewis oozing show biz schmaltz and hosting stars from Frank Sinatra to Jennifer Lopez over 45 years, pushing through his exhaustion to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone as a tote board rang up millions of dollars in donations. Jerry’s roster through the years were a who’s who of entertainment, including a post-Beatles John Lennon, Michael Jackson singing with and without his brothers, Liberace, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Celine Dion. Former Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon filled the same role with Lewis on Labor Day for many years. In 1976, Sinatra engineered a reunion of Lewis with Martin, his estranged former partner.
With years of telethon tapes, the MDA has the equivalent of years of show biz gold in its vaults. They have been discussing with Lewis ways to release some of this archived material. With television time costly, the MDA’s fundraising efforts will move primarily online.
And so it goes…
Two kings of R&B are in the news.
Former lead vocalist for The Drifters, Ben E. King has died. His biggest hits included Dance With Me, There Goes My Baby, Save the Last Dance for Me, This Magic Moment, I Count the Tears (with The Drifters), Spanish Harlem, I (Who Have Nothing), Don’t Play That Song, and Stand By Me. The latter tune was featured as the title track of a Stephen King-adapted movie that starred Richard Dreyfuss and River Phoenix.
Ben E. King was 76.
BEN E. KING B.B. KING
B.B. King has announced he is receiving hospice care. The 89-year old Blues legend has been in declining health. His rendition of The Thrill is Gone is considered an anthem. He appeared in a fabulous little comedy as himself, Heart and Souls, a film that showcased the talents of Robert Downey Jr., Charles Grodin, Elisabeth Shue, Alfre Woodard, Kyra Sedgwick, and David Paymer.
Let’s wish Blues Boy King the very best…
Until next time> “never forget”