Home Celebrity Jerry Lewis Flashback: “Dean Martin Was the Least Appreciated Performer in Show...

I’ve rescued this story from the rubble of my four months with Forbes.com. It appeared this past March 2012.

Jerry Lewis turned 86 yesterday and got quite a nice birthday party from the Friars Club. Richard Belzer interviewed him last night at the 92nd St. Y, Lewis did a lengthy and hilarious Q&A with the audience, and then Paul Shaffer played “Happy Birthday” to him on the piano with an audience singalong. Veteran comic and actor Jerry Stiller came and sat third row center and even asked a question: “Did you and Dean rehearse your act?”– and he seriously wanted an answer. Jerry joked a lot of his answers, and got lots of applause  from an audience that included Robert Klein, David Steinberg, and writer-actor Robert Smigel (“Triumph the Comic Insult Dog”). The audience was full of showbiz people including producer Bonnie Timmermann, Rita Cosby, and director-producer Antonio Campos.

Lewis was brilliant, revelatory, and emotional–especially with a former MDA kid, now adult, who lives with Cerebral Palsy. When one audience member asked about Jerry getting fired from the MDA telethon, the comic was philosophical. (I’ll have more on that on Monday.) On the subject of former partner Dean Martin, Lewis said: “Dean Martin was without question the least appreciated performer in show business…For ten years my partner read reviews where his name wasn’t mentioned. And he dealt with it with such dignity and class…I called him Paul, his real name…I said, we have a magical combination. He said, I’m ok, Jerry. He was a great gentle man about it.”

PS Belzer put together a stunning film of birthday greeting clips from everyone connected to “Law and Order” as well as Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Joe Piscopo, who was in the audience and also does a very cool Lewis imitation.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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