Sunday, June 16, 2024

Jerry Lewis’s Labor Day Telethon Long Gone, Muscular Dystrophy Association Continues Yearly Drops in Revenue


It was 2011 when MDA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, committed fundraising suicide. They ousted their standard bearer, Jerry Lewis, and instigated the end of a nearly 50 year tradition of the Labor Day telethon.

Remember the Labor Day telethon? That’s what you’d be watching right now– Ed McMahon live from Las Vegas, everyone from Mitzi Gaynor to the Bay City Rollers showing up, the constant hope that Dean Martin would come and make peace with Jerry, the echoes of the Rat Pack keeping it all afloat.

By 2012, it was all gone. Lewis had been insulted and humiliated, MDA lost its network, the reason we even knew those initials began to disappear.

In 2016, according to their federal tax filing, MDA’s total revenue was down by $6.5 million, from $126.5 million to $120 million. In 2013, total revenue– already in decline– was still at $150 million. That was $7 million less than the prior year, 2012.

Certainly, a lot of families and individuals who are living with muscular dystrophy and associated illnesses must be feeling the financial crunch. They are also seeing a much lower public profile for their cause. For better or worse, Jerry Lewis kept them on the front burner of public consciousness.

You’ll be happy to know, though, that the CEO, Steven Derks, still making $550,000 a year, and that all the other executives are still pulling down six figure salaries.

Jerry Lewis died a year ago, at the age of 91. He was never thanked or apologized to by MDA. Their bad karma is only getting worse.


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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