Friday, April 12, 2024

Labor Day “Telethon” No Longer Live– Most of the Acts Were Already Taped


EXCLUSIVE: The Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon used to be 21 hours of live entertainment and drama. No more. The 2013 MDA Show of Strength is now whittled down to two hours on ABC. Most of the performances have already been taped.

According to a website organizing the faux game-show like audience from this past July 30-August 2nd: “The show will be taped at CBS Studios in Hollywood, CA. Featuring HUGE musical performances, the concerts will also feature introductions by celebrity guests. Think MTV’s ‘Hope For Haiti’ … and you can watch it LIVE!!.”

The acts involved included Backstreet Boys, Ryan Seacrest, Lee Ann Womack, Kenny Loggins, Darius (Hootie) Rucker, and Matthew Morrison from “Glee.” I’ve never heard of the others: Jabbwockeez, Jessica Sanchez, Chris Mann, etc. They’re all nice people, but not exactly Frank, Sammy, Dino or the countless megawatt stars Jerry Lewis used to attract to the show when it was in Vegas.

MDA’s glory days with  Lewis are long in the past. In 2011, as I’ve reported before, MDA claimed around $60 million in pledges. But when the dust settled, according to the Form 990 they filed with the IRS, the group was only to bring in half that amount– $30 million.

Last year, 2012, MDA claimed $58 million in pledges. They’ve never released a Form 990 for 2012 so we don’t know what they actually took in. According to an MDA accountant, the filing for 2012 only happened last week. It won’t hit GuideStar possibly for two more months. I’ve called and emailed MDA’s Roxan Olivas several times. She simply doesn’t respond.

But MDA without Jerry Lewis — which began in 2010–is a calamity. The 21 hour telethon that focused national attention on Muscular Dystrophy and related diseases is a thing of the past. The show was reduced to six hours, then three, and now it’s an ABC special. The “Love Network” of local stations is gone. All the local connection to MDA has been cancelled after decades. (In New York that means no Julius La Rosa, Julie Budd, or call ins from hotel owners in the Catskills.)

How much did MDA actually collect in 2012? How depressing will the ABC show be? Stay tuned…


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
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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