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A generation misses out on Jerry Lewis

By From page A2 | March 23, 2014

She didn’t know who Jerry Lewis was.

She didn’t know who Jerry Lewis was.

Jerry Lewis! The great . . . uh . . . umm . . . well . . . how exactly do you describe Jerry Lewis?

The telethon host? Dean Martin’s old partner? Star of slapstick movies?

And then it hit me: Should she know Jerry Lewis? After all, what has he done in the past 20 years that would grab the attention of anyone under 50?

Jerry Lewis is a generational star. If you’re over a certain age (maybe 45), you know all about him. If you’re younger, you don’t.

The whole process began when a co-worker (I’ll call her “Adrienne”) saw a photo I have on my cubicle wall of Lewis.

“Who is that?”

“Jerry Lewis.”

“Who’s that?”

I tried to explain, but she didn’t flinch.

That’s when I realized that I’d become a former editor of mine (I’ll call him “Bill James”), who was a generation ahead of me.

I recall sitting in meetings where we discussed what news stories should appear in the next day’s edition. Often, there would be a celebrity death that would bring a reaction from “Bill.”

“Oh, Osby McGillicutty died,” he said. “What a shame. He was still young.”

“He was 83! And who was he?” someone would ask.

“Osby McGillicutty? You don’t know him? He played Floyd Doolittle in ‘Circle the Wagons’ when I was a kid. We watched it every Sunday, right after Ed Sullivan.”

We’d all sit and scoff. Bill’s celebrities were old.

Now the roles have reversed.

Every day, the Daily Republic publishes an item called “Today in history,” with major events that have occurred on that date and a list of celebrity birthdays.

I only know the old people. Let’s look at the list for March 23, for instance.

Roger Bannister is 85. He predates me, but he ran the first 4-minute mile! Roger Bannister!

Craig Breedlove is 77. “Adrienne” should know him. He’s the legendary drag racer (the Beach Boys wrote a song about him!) who lives in Rio Vista part-time.

Ric Ocasek is 65 and Chaka Kahn is 61. Yeah, but they can still rock, I bet. Remember the video for “You Don’t Think,” where Ocasek was an insect? You don’t? Well it was cool 30 years ago!

Then I pass the barrier and look at the younger stars celebrating birthdays: Actress Nicholle Tom, country singer Paul Martin, rock musician John Humphrey.

Who? What? When?

Nobody knows any of them – and do you know who would make fun of them for being young? Comedian Marty Allen, who turns 92. I loved him on “Hollywood Squares.”

“Hollywood Squares?” Well, it was a great game show with Peter Marshall as the star. And Paul Lynde was priceless.

Paul Lynde? “Uncle Arthur” on “Bewitched!” Don’t you know “Bewitched?”

It was on right after “Circle the Wagons,” probably.

Maybe it’s time for me to take down the Jerry Lewis photo and put up someone more contemporary. Maybe not.

But I’ve got this much going for me. I can loosely describe what made Jerry Lewis special. In a few decades, “Adrienne” will have to do that with the Kardashians and anyone from the cast of one of the  “Real Housewives” shows.

Somewhere, Osby McGillicutty is chuckling.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope is a former Daily Republic editor. He began his career at the DR in the last millennium. He spent 24 years as a sports editor, associate editor and news editor before leaving the Daily Republic in 2014. Brad lives in Suisun City with his wife, Mrs. Brad, and two sons. He enjoys cheese.
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  • CD BrooksMarch 23, 2014 - 7:33 am

    Jerry Lewis was our Jim Carey. I used to laugh so hard watching that guy! In fact, I was actually escorted to the lobby once. The usher and his flashlight hauled me in for being "disruptive!" :)

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  • Oh Lady ! ... Oh Lady ! ... Be Good.... Mr. Brad U B so BadMarch 23, 2014 - 11:46 am

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKFiDslrSkU

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