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1963_10_12--083_SP Search for Jerry Lewis

In contrast to Patti, a solid, uncomplicated hausfrau, Jerry Lewis is a walking Rorschach. Everybody studies the strange blots and intriguing curlicues of Lewis and collies up with a slightly different in- terpretation. His publicity man, Jack Keller, a craggy, crusty, but essentially good-natured man who is widely accepted as the resident Big Brother of the Lewis organization, says, "After 18 years with Lewis, I've sworn off even trying to pre- dict what he's going to do. With Jerry the surer you are, the wronger you are. All I know is that he digs agony. He'd be the happiest s.o.b. in the world if somebody would only crucify him." Carol Saraceno, his secretary, sees him this way: "He's grown up in a jungle. He's fought and struggled to attain what he has, and now he's reached the point where he can live by his own code of love and honor. Sometimes I see him as a child, The Little Fellow, but most of the time I see him as a giant, a saint." To which Patti Lewis, the resident analyst, adds, "He'll never live to be as old as it takes to be half as perfect as he'd like." Jerry, forever burrowing inside himself, says, "The most important thing is to like yourself. I've had a little difficult time of it. and I'm still not where I'm supposed to be. But I'm getting better. Once you like yourself, everything else will work." According to rumors spread by one Sigmund Freud, the insecurities of manhood are traceable to the cradle. Jerry is the son of a show-business couple named Danny and Mona Lewis. His father sang and his mother accompanied him on the piano. Jerry was brought up by his grandmother, whom he adored and who died when he was 11. He was shuttled from aunt to aunt while his parents batted around in the slums of show business. "I was." Jerry says, "a Care-package child." Even now a cold chill settles over the set when his father visits him. Jerry tries to be polite, but a sheet of ice slams down, his conversation turns to grunts, and he is no good for the rest of the day. His mother is never mentioned except in one eerie way. When a show is going bad or when the audience is small, Jerry will become talkative and silly and visibly upset backstage, and just as he leaves the wings to walk back on stage, he will cry out in an agonized child's voice, "Ma! . . ." There is in Jerry Lewis's character an essential conflict of which he is not entirely unaware. Lewis is a man who demands his due. "Even when I was an idiot kid," he says, "I always had a very strong will for what I thought I wanted to do. I could always talk other strong-willed people out of what they were thinking about because I could make my way sound like fun. I got great satisfaction out of being the center of attention. When I was a kid 1 remember saying, 'I'd hate to be one of the two hundred guys in the band. I wanna be the guy out in front wit' de guitar.— And since, with Jerry. the thought is always acted out symbolically, he does love to put a big band on the stage and lead it, loudly and exuberantly. Even with the five-piece band he takes out on tour when he's plugging a picture. Jerry will frequently grab a toy trumpet and blast away so loud that he all but drowns out the musicians behind him. When he is on tour to plug a picture, he travels in regal splendor, flying from city Lewis, who demands autonomy on his monies, cheeks the film clips of "Who's Minding the Store?" For his new ABC-TV show, Lewis bought and refurbished a theater with a million dollars of his own money. "1 like to make my men mistakes," he says. $5


1963_10_12--083_SP Search for Jerry Lewis
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