Jerry Lewis was an American actor, comedian, singer, film producer, film director, screenwriter, and humanitarian.
Let’s find out some fun facts about him!
1. Joseph or Jerome Levitch, depending on the source, was born March 16, 1926 at Newark Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.
2. His parents were Russian Jewish.
3. His father, Daniel Levitch (1902–1980), was a master of ceremonies and vaudeville entertainer who used the professional name Danny Lewis.
4. His mother, Rachel (“Rae”) Levitch (née Brodsky), was a piano player for a radio station.
5. Lewis started performing at age five and would often perform alongside his parents in the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
6. By 15, he had developed his “Record Act” in which he exaggeratedly mimed the lyrics to songs on a phonograph.
7. He used the professional name Joey Lewis but soon changed it to Jerry Lewis to avoid confusion with comedian Joe E. Lewis and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
8. Lewis then dropped out of Irvington High School in the tenth grade.
9. He was a “character” even in his teenage years, pulling pranks in his neighborhood including sneaking into kitchens to steal fried chicken and pies. During World War II, he was rejected for military service because of a heart murmur.
10. Lewis was born on March 16, 1926, at Newark Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, to Russian Jewish parents.
11. His father, Daniel Levitch (1902–1980), was a master of ceremonies and vaudeville entertainer who used the professional name Danny Lewis.
12. His mother, Rachel (“Rae”) Levitch (née Brodsky), was a piano player for a radio station.
13. Lewis started performing at age five and would often perform alongside his parents in the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
14. By 15, he had developed his “Record Act” in which he exaggeratedly mimed the lyrics to songs on a phonograph.
15. He was known for his slapstick humor in film, television, stage and radio. He and Dean Martin were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of Martin and Lewis.
16. Following that success, he was a solo star in motion pictures, nightclubs, television shows, concerts, album recordings, and musicals.
17. Lewis served as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosted the live Labor Day weekend broadcast of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon for 44 years.
18. He received several awards for lifetime achievement from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
19. Lewis was married twice:
Patti Palmer (née Esther Grace Calonico), a former singer with Ted Fio Rito; married October 3, 1944, divorced September 1980.
SanDee Pitnick; married February 13, 1983; a 32-year-old Las Vegas dancer; married in Key Biscayne, Florida.
20. He had six sons (one adopted) and one daughter (adopted):
With Patti Palmer
Gary Lewis (born July 31, 1946); known for his 1960s pop group Gary Lewis & the Playboys
Ronald Steven “Ronnie” Lewis (born December 1949 [adopted])
Scott Anthony Lewis (born February 22, 1956)
Christopher Lewis (born October 1957)
Anthony Lewis (born October 1959)
Joseph Lewis (January 1964 – October 24, 2009 [from a narcotics overdose])
With SanDee Pitnick
Danielle Sara Lewis (adopted March 1992)
21. Lewis had a number of illnesses and addictions related both to aging and a back injury sustained in a comedic pratfall from a piano while performing at the Sands Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip on March 20, 1965.
22. The accident almost left him paralyzed. In its aftermath, Lewis became addicted to the painkiller Percodan for thirteen years.
23. He said he had been off the drug since 1978.
24. In April 2002, Lewis had a Medtronic “Synergy” neurostimulator implanted in his back, which helped reduce the discomfort. He was one of the company’s leading spokesmen.
25. In the 2011 documentary Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, Lewis said he had his first heart attack while filming Cinderfella in 1960.
26. In December 1982, he had another heart attack. En route to San Diego from New York City on a cross-country commercial airline flight on June 11, 2006, he had another.
27. In 1999, Lewis’ Australian tour was cut short when he had to be hospitalized in Darwin with viral meningitis. He was ill for more than five months.
28. Lewis had had prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and a decades-long history of heart disease.
29. Prednisone treatment in the late 1990s for pulmonary fibrosis resulted in weight gain and a noticeable change in his appearance.
30. In September 2001, Lewis was unable to perform at a planned London charity event at the London Palladium. He was the headlining act, and he was introduced, but did not appear. He had suddenly become unwell, apparently with heart problems.
31. He was subsequently taken to the hospital. Some months thereafter, Lewis began an arduous, months-long therapy that weaned him off prednisone and enabled him to return to work.
32. On June 12, 2012, he was treated and released from a hospital after collapsing from hypoglycemia at a New York Friars’ Club event. This latest health issue forced him to cancel a show in Sydney.
33. In an October 6, 2016, interview with Inside Edition, Lewis acknowledged that he might not star in any more films given his advanced age, while admitting, through tears, that he was afraid of dying, as it would leave his wife and daughter alone.
34. In June 2017, Lewis was hospitalized at a Las Vegas hospital for a urinary tract infection.
35. Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, at 9:15 a.m. (PDT) on August 20, 2017, at the age of 91.