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1963_10_12--083_SP Search for Jerry Lewis

During his lifetime Jerry has given away six million dollars. to city in a private plane and insisting on the best possible suites in the best hotel for himself and his entire crew. He may arrive in a city in the early morning hours, but that does not mean he is willing to sneak into town, unmarked and unremarked upon. The hotel chef must remain on duty just in case Jerry should walk in hungry (even if he is, he will rarely order anything more than a sandwich). A special California beer must be waiting for him—although he will rarely bother to drink it—plus his own brand of cognac. There also must be a basket of fruit, which he seldom bothers to break open, but which apparently makes him feel wanted. It also warms his heart to find a cadre of loyal fans on hand to greet him, which puts a considerable strain on the ingenuity of the local exploitation men, since not even the most ardent Lewis fan finds it convenient to run out to the airport at four o'clock in the morning. The shrewder exploiteers solve the problem by carrying the welcoming placards to the airport, along with a couple of flash cameras (film is optional), and hiring the incoming shift of airline workers to hold up the placards and send up a rousing cheer. But the moment Jerry becomes involved in personal relations—as opposed to business relations—the man of iron dissolves into a quivering puddle. Where his personal life is concerned, Jerry operates on bared nerves and raw emotion, something that will become evident to the whole nation now that he is talking about himself on his two-hour Saturday-night TV show. Jack Paar earned himself an enviable rep- utation for public neuroticism; but compared to Jerry Lewis, Paar is a warm cup of milk before bed. "My trouble," Jerry says, "is that I have never been able to develop a facade to hide behind. My emotions function on a separate wire. I can stand toe to toe with two oxes and never know I'm hurt until I'm picked up bleeding. But if a guy doesn't say good morning back, I can have a heart attack. I'm more than just a great movie star. I'm also a neurotic, temperamental imbecile." Nevertheless, for those who work on a Jerry Lewis picture, life can be better than 90 days at Acapulco. His crew is always the same, and so are the bit players and extras. He insists that everybody on his set get paid more than union scale, and he spends so much time entertaining them that they're always sure of a few extra days. At the start of a new picture, each of them receives a personal letter of welcome. The women all have flowers waiting for them. The men find a small gift, like a bottle of booze. If anybody's wife or mother—or mother-in-law—goes to the hospital, Jerry sends flowers. Their children get a $25 U.S. Savings Bond every birthday, whether there's a picture in progress or not, and anybody on the set who has a birthday is entitled to a birthday cake and a small party. As Jerry says, life is sweetest for him when he is able to play Robin Hood for his merry men and maids. He once threatened to close down a picture because the studio tried to dock the pay of a boom man who spent the morning in the infirmary. Any of his crew can thrill him by coming to him with a personal problem, One of the most organized men alive, Lewis squeezed in time during an appearance in Washington, D.C., to talk business in a limousine with manager Ernie Glucksman. and if he can solve their problem with money, his whole day is made. Whatever his motives, the hand Lewis holds out to all comers is usually filled with money. According to conservative estimates, he has given away six million dollars. Some of it has gone to advance the careers of people he considers talented and who end up, often as not, resenting him. Some of it has gone to support his private group of incompetents, dreamers and failures, those poor souls he identifies with so closely and protects ferociously. Jerry not only gives them his money, but gives them—being one of the most organized men alive- 25 percent of his time, in order to prove to them, apparently, that they are important to him as people, not as objects of his charity. But the flaw in his makeup is that he is constitutionally incapable of allowing anybody to give him anything back. "He almost wears a sign around his neck," Carol Saraceno says,"No HELP WANTED." "Nobody ever does anything except for selfish reasons," says Jerry. "I understand that. Because someone else is benefiting from what I do doesn't make what I've done less selfish. It doesn't make it as bad, that's all." But from time to time he seems to wonder whether something darker than mere selfishness lies behind those impulses, a fear that came to the surface most strongly during the shooting of The Nutty Professor, a comic rewrite of Jekyll and Hyde. Jerry cast himself as a hopelessly inept chemistry professor who develops a formula that turns him into a hip, handsome and evil singer—whom he named, curiously enough, Buddy Love. Whatever the critics might think of the picture itself, Jerry's characterization of the chemistry professor is brilliant. The voice seems to come from some loudspeaker deep in the upper thorax, the beaver teeth chomp away as if he has a carrot tucked in his palate, and he chugs along briskly from disaster to disaster, like a nearsighted lamb rushing to his doom. The villainous singer was something else again. Every time he had to shoot a scene as Buddy Love, Jerry locked himself away from everybody and suffered. For the first time in his life a sheet of ice came over him while he was actually performing before the camera. The singer didn't come out evil; he was just dull. "I was frightened at Buddy Love," Jerry says now. "I had to ask myself, 'Am I pretending to be a nice fellow, where I'm actually like this? Beneath it all could it be that I'm really so masochistic— or is it sadistic?—that I want people to be in need of me?" Jerry was so troubled through it all that he not only turned Sherwood Forest into a disaster area but he also upset his wife terribly. He would come home at night, open his veins and bleed his doubt all over the carpet, until she finally had to tell him, "Please, Jerry, don't go down into Fantasyland anymore. You may like it so much down there you'll never come back." It never occurred to Jerry that what was upsetting him was not that he might be uncovering two sides of his own character but that he was, in effect, turning the old Martin-Lewis team into Jekyll-Hyde, with himself as the hero, and crooner Martin as the villain. The comedy team, which had achieved instant success, broke up in July, 1956- 10 years after it was formed—because Martin had come to feel that he was being turned into little more than a stooge. After a long siege of bitterness over what he took to be Martin's desertion, and an exchange of angry words in the press, Jerry came to understand, on the surface at least, that Dean had been forced to break away to preserve his own identity. "It was the best thing for both of us," Lewis can now say. "I never stopped loving Dean. I just stopped liking him for a while." There is a dark thread running through his relationship with the people he loves most. One of the most interesting members of the Lewis entourage is Irving Kaye. They met 22 years ago, when Jerry was a busboy in the Catskills, and Kaye was working as a bellboy. Kaye, a sweetnatured and lovable man, got Lewis his first show business booking and eventually became Jerry's road manager. A few years ago Kaye decided he was getting too old for the road, and Lewis still takes care of him, keeping him on the payroll and giving him a bit part in every picture. "I know in the morning whether to 'talk to him or not," Kaye says. "The other guys don't know, but 1 do. Sometimes he'll holler on me and I'll say, 'Way do you holler on me and not the others,' and he'll say, 'Irving, I know you the longest. I let it out on you." Jerry plays a cut-up Irving Kaye has a pagan ritual he goes through with Jerry—the Ceremony of the Cutting Off of the Clothes. "He'll take the big scissors," Irving says, "and I'm left standing there in the nude. 'You work for a big movie star now,' he'll say. 'You got to dress the part.' For a few moments I'm standing like September Morn," Irving says, crossing his hands in front of himself modestly. "He's got nocchus (pleasure) and I'm thinking, 'Go ahead, laugh,' because I know he's going to call Cy Devore, the clothier, and tell him he's got to send over five suits for Irving right away. I got six suits, $250 each, I've never even worn yet." This is not to suggest that Jerry Lewis has a sadistic streak. But it is clear that Lewis does seem to create situations where he must forgive or be forgiven. Since Dean Martin's exit was not an artificial crisis—created and controlled by Lewis—it was not handled so easily. As a matter of fact, any parting, no matter how trivial, is a trial to Jerry. Although the start of a Jerry Lewis picture is a joyous reunion, and the shooting one long party, he slips away at the end without a word to anybody. Even when he holds mass interviews for the press out of town, he will often excuse himself to go to the men's room, and not come back. During the day he'll call home half a dozen times, to reassure himself, apparently, that his family hasn't been destroyed by fire, flood or plague. On a recent tour, he peppered the pregnant Patti with calls and telegrams. "Send a telegram to mamma," he said one day to his secretary as they were riding along in back of the limousine: "Dear Mamma: We are here in the city of Brotherly Love, but they don't know what love is until they


1963_10_12--083_SP Search for Jerry Lewis
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