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First MDA Labor Day Telethon Held Without Jerry Lewis Raises $61.5 Million

Date September 05, 2011
Jerry Lewis It was the end of an era Sunday night as the first Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon was held without comedy legend Jerry Lewis at the helm. The good news is that this year's show raised almost $61.5 million for the MDA, up about $2.6 million from 2010.

However, the absent Lewis was on the minds of many, and Nigel Lythgoe, who co-hosted this...

Jerry Lewis It was the end of an era Sunday night as the first Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon was held without comedy legend Jerry Lewis at the helm. The good news is that this year's show raised almost $61.5 million for the MDA, up about $2.6 million from 2010.

However, the absent Lewis was on the minds of many, and Nigel Lythgoe, who co-hosted this year's telethon with Jann Carl said he was sad that his predecessor didn't participate, but that the MDA needs to move on to ensure the fundraiser continues.

Lythgoe also told the Associated Press that he'd been expecting Lewis to show up, either during the telecast, or to pre-tape his signature song 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'

"I was fully expecting him to turn up at any point and join that six hours -- and I'm sorry he didn't," Lythgoe said. "And hopefully another year he might. I mean, he knows that he is always welcome on the telethon. It's his baby."

According to Lythgoe, an orchestra was ready to accompany Lewis, but he didn't come to the Las Vegas casino where the telethon was filmed.

Lewis hosted the annual telethon for 45 years, during which time he raised an estimated $1.66 billion and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his charity work. He announced back in May that this year would be his last outing as host.

In a statement, the 85-year-old said that "As a labor of love, I've hosted the annual Telethon since 1966, and I'll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' I'll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman -- as I've done since the early 1950s. I'll never desert MDA and my kids."

However, in August Lewis was apparently relieved of his hosting duties altogether. MDA Chairman of the Board of Directors R. Rodney Howell, M.D., said in a statement, "Jerry Lewis is a world-class humanitarian and we're forever grateful to him for his more than half century of generous service to MDA. We will not be replacing him as MDA national chairman, and he will not be appearing on the Telethon."

After the broadcast, Lythgoe told the AP that the telethon "has to continue without [Lewis] and we are going to need a lot of help from everybody to ensure that it does continue. Because Jerry, bless him, is 85 and isn't going to be around forever anyway. And the MDA and this telethon has to continue."

Lewis was frequently mentioned during the telethon, with Lythgoe and his co-hosts referring to him as "retired." And Lythgoe paid tribute at the end of the telethon, saying "We missed you, Jerry."

Lewis's publicist Candi Cazau declined to comment when contacted by the AP, but she had earlier said Lewis never agreed to any appearance on the telethon after Howell issued his August statement.

In a show of solidarity with Lewis, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada said his club will hold a fundraiser on Monday featuring comedians such as Norm Crosby and Dave Chappelle.

Fans can watch the performances and make donations online. Proceeds of the event will be presented to those working toward a cure for muscular dystrophy, and Masada said the event will be held annually on Labor Day until a cure is found.

Read more http://www.aoltv.com/2011/09/05/first-mda-labor-day-telethon-held-without-jerry-lewis-raises-61/

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