And once again, Lewis got his wish--and a few dollars more. A total of $50.5 million was pledged during the 21 1/2 hours of the 32nd annual Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon held this holiday weekend, surpassing the $49.1 million gathered last year. (Funny, but to the best of our knowledge, Lewis always seems to somehow raise $1 million or so more than the previous year.)
Lewis, MDA national chairman, opened the fundraiser with a dedication to Princess Diana, who had died the previous day. He recalled the several times they had met, due to their mutual campaigning on behalf of sick children.
Although weekend television viewers were probably most intently focused on news coverage of the car crash that killed the Princess, her beau Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur, an estimated 75 million across the country also took time to watch part of the MDA telethon.
Of course, the yearly telethon followed the traditional format of musical numbers and comedy sketches interspersed with pleas for pledges. Celebrities (and we're using that word loosely) appearing on the show included Tony Danza, singer Charo, talk-show host Jerry Springer and comic Elayne Boosler.
There were performances from the hit stage musicals Ragtime and Riverdance. And, for the first time, there was a segment featuring Jerry Lewis look-alikes paying tribute to the host's comedic style. Lewis took the roasting in stride, noting that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
The MDA funds research into the genetic disease and provides care and summer-camp vacations to the suffering children, who have come to be known as "Jerry's Kids."
Lewis, who had taken a month away from starring in the stage musical Damn Yankees in England to work on production of the telethon, thanked the American people for setting "a new standard in expressing love and caring."