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Jerry Lewis Turns 90

Jerry Lewis at his home in Las Vegas in February.
Christopher DeVargas/Greenspun Media Group.

Jerry Lewis at his home in Las Vegas in February.

Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis turns 90 Wednesday.

The star of stage and screen has called the Las Vegas Valley home for a number of years. 

John Katsilometes, columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly magazine spent time with Lewis recently for an article about the icon

Though Lewis admits to Katsilometes that he "can't walk well," is blind and can't hear, he says he's still "very sharp."  


On Buddy Love from the “Nutty Professor”:

I felt like in watching the “Nutty Professor” that there was a lot of not only Dean Martin but also Jerry Lewis also in that character in his quick responses, flippant, the daggers that Buddy Love would deliver. There was some Jerry in there.

On Dean Martin:

Dean was the guy who played golf all day long and Jerry was working on either the script or the set or the stage show and Dean would kind of blow in and say ‘Where are we?’ And he was very intuitively and instinctively brilliant.

On controversial things that Lewis has said:

In my experience with Jerry, he will be very fast responding in his opinions. What he says at the moment may not really be what he wants to say 30 minutes later or 30 days later. I’ve learned this over the years to give him fair hearing. Make sure if he says something like that you really say, “Is that really your message? Or is that just something you’re saying as a fast response that you happen to be in a mood about right now?”

On what young people should know about him:

Probably the most important component of his legacy is how much he inspired what we see today. Those comedic actors that came after owe a lot to Jerry Lewis.

The art of clowning that we see today in Cirque Du Soleil productions a lot of it is owed to Jerry Lewis and his physical comedy. I think that is the chief thing.

On Lewis facing the inevitable:

I had understood that he hadn’t been too open with the people around him about what it meant to turn 90. For him to be able to reflect and accept that there is really not much more for him to achieve and for him to embrace where he is at in his life and get as much out of day-to-day existence as he possible can now. I think that’s what I took from him.  

On the physical pain he has suffered for a long time:

His disposition a lot of that is owed because he’s been in so much physical pain for so long. I don’t think people can appreciate how much pain management this man has had to endure and face for a very long time. And that’s a large part of how he can be sometimes. He can just be very impatient.

On whether he is still performing:

There is some filmmaking going on in his life right now. There is some stage performance. He appeared in Florida in January. He was talking about setting up some dates in April, May and June, externally that haven’t been locked in yet.

His presentation is him in a director’s chair kind of talking over him in old clips from TV, film and the telethon and describing what was happening there, some old home movies and interacting with the audience that way.

On why he got involved with muscular dystrophy and the MDA Telethon:

He has said this, ‘I will go anywhere with you but there.” It’s locked up. The reason why should never override the execution of his career in the MDA. That’s the big thing.

Katsilometes attended the  13th Annual Nevada Entertainer/Art Hall of Fame celebration Tuesday, which honored vocalist Marlena Shaw, architect Hugh Taylor, and magician Johnny Thompson. 

It's an event sponsored by the UNLV College of Fine Arts. 

John Katsilometes, Columnist for the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly magazine.



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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.